Real Life Villains

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Photo credit: JD Hancock via Foter.com / CC BY

You really don’t know what you don’t know until you know it. Wrap your mind around that sentence.

I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster ride. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the past five months have been the most challenging work situation I’ve ever had. I’m not going to go into specifics, nor would anyone really care to hear them. Let’s just keep it simple and say that I found myself in a job that is ill-suited to my skill set and personality. On top of that, I have an antagonist mixed into the situation. I can’t just quit (financial reasons) and finding another job has also been a challenge.

I’ve been trying to take a step back and look at things from a different perspective. Turns out, trying to see things my adversary’s way was helpful, but not nearly as helpful as an outsider’s fresh look on things.

There’s a nice piece of advice for fiction writers that has always helped me with my stories. It is this: Everyone is the hero of their own story. For writers, this means that your villain should not be evil for the sake of being evil. He or she won’t see themselves as the villain, even while committing evil acts. In fact, he or she may feel justified by what they do.

Everyone is the hero of their own story. This phrase can also be used in the real world. Think of your biggest adversary. From your perspective, they are bad people who only wish to make your life more difficult or to stand as an obstacle to your goals and dreams. It’s easy to paint them as awful human beings.

My adversary’s actions often made me an emotional mess. I was angry, frustrated, sad, and hopeless. And then suddenly, I saw the circumstances beyond us both. I saw what this adversary was going through. This wasn’t a walk in the park for either of us. And when I have better focus on the whole of it, I realize that my adversary has it worse.

Now, I’m full of pity instead of anger. It was like a switch went off and my anger was replaced with compassion.

It’s so hard to see beyond ourselves in the heat of emotion. When you’re caught up in the storm, it’s hard to know whether you’re in a hurricane or a tornado. So zoom out. And you might find that your tornado is nothing compared to that giant hurricane along someone else’s shore. This is all easier said than done. I was cemented in place by my own negativity. It took me five months to finally see beyond myself in this storm.

A friend let me in on some information that changed my perspective entirely. It doesn’t fix my immediate problems. But I feel strong. Less weathered. I feel like the lucky one in this.

When emotions spin out of control, it’s easy to burn the bridge without considering the real consequences. So don’t use your adversary as an excuse to act out. Don’t let yourself become the villain. Take a step back. Realize that you can be the hero. But just because you’re the hero doesn’t mean that they are the villain. Even when they might act it out well.

All of us have been the villain at some point or another. Once you realize that, you can move beyond it. You can have better perspective. And perhaps you can be merciful to those who have wronged you. Even if they don’t deserve it.

In the end, it’s a wonderful twist of fate that we don’t get exactly what we deserve. Grace is a mysterious gift. And we could all use more of it in our lives.

Now that I know what I know, I find myself more merciful than vengeful. Life is a crazy ride indeed.

 

The Fire of Failure

Fire. Fire destroys and burns all that it touches. Everything is changed by its caress. There is nothing more than ash when it’s finished. It is the destroyer of all things. Yet it can leave you with a great sense of renewal. It clears the junk away so something new can take root or rest there.

Some trees, like giant redwoods (or sequoia trees), need fire to spread their seeds. Their cones are tightly closed by resin. Fire melts the resin so the cones can open to release the seeds. They need fire to multiply.

I’m in a period of raging fire. It’s burning much of the good with the bad. I’m hoping for something better to come from it, but even my hope seems burned away. I’m not sure where my life is headed or what exactly is happening. But there’s smoke. I’m covered in it. Will fire renew me as well? I’d like to burn away and start fresh. Somehow, I ended up on a heap of trash instead of a hill.

The hardest part about failure is that no one wants to acknowledge it. Every single person has or will fail. Yet failure is considered taboo. And that’s too bad. Through disaster we become improved versions of what we had been before.

So let’s talk about this. I’ll start by taking my own advice. I confess. I failed. In fact, I’m still living in this failure every day, five days a week. I accepted the wrong job. I was given misleading information about the job duties for this position. That was my boss’ fault. But it was also mine.

I let myself hear what he wanted me to hear. I didn’t listen to my intuition or read between the lines to get what he was really saying. I didn’t follow through with my original “no.” Subconsciously (and maybe on a quiet conscious level), I knew this was not the right job. But I ignored it. Although I still refuse to take one hundred percent of the blame, I’m not the hapless victim either.

Just typing that hurts. I hate to admit that luck didn’t put me here. I am to blame. Admitting that to myself is hard. But there it is for the world to see.

I failed.

And I did a good job of it.

Everyone always says that each mistake is a lesson and I feel like I’ve learned from this. I need to trust myself. I’m stronger than I give myself credit for. And I need to stand up for my beliefs and opinions, because no one else will.

No one else is as invested in my future as I am. That’s just human nature. We’re all looking out for ourselves since many people don’t have a communal attitude towards us, especially in the workplace.

Still, the stubborn side of me cries out that I’ve learned all that I can from this mistake. Can we just end this now? I’ve had enough already. But there must be something more for me to learn. Or maybe my stubborn nature is hindering me from truly grasping the lesson. There’s got to be a reason I’m still fighting this.

When I head out into the world every day, I imagine fire raging inside me and destroying everything so I can start fresh. I just have to decide what to fill myself up with. That’s actually a scary thought.

Anger still festers and it never seems to go away permanently. Frustration and sadness linger. So I try to focus on the good. When contentment and hope get together, there’s no room for the rest of that junk.

So here I am. Still standing. Burning it all away.

From the smoke and ash, I will rise fresh and new.

But not until this fire is finished raging.

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