Five years ago, after class ended, a student stood in front of me yelling that I ruined her life. Because of something I said in class, she went home, couldn’t sleep, was late to work the next day, got in a fight with her boss, and quit her job. This was all my fault, because I was a terrible, insensitive teacher.
And then I did something I have only done once in the classroom in my 13 years of teaching: I burst into tears.
You know what? I will never do that again.
Why? Because I was so overwhelmed and blindsided by her anger, I didn’t realize that what she was saying was not about me. It wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t fair.
What I should have said was, “That’s enough.”
THAT’S ENOUGH FROM YOU. THAT IS ENOUGH.
What I should have said was, “Clearly, you’re upset. Let’s talk another time, because for now, that’s enough.”
THAT’S ENOUGH FROM YOU.
I’ve had enough.
I’ve heard enough.
I’ve done enough.
I am not obligated to support you when you’re yelling. I am not obligated to be nice to you when you are disrespectful. I am not obligated to make you feel better when you dump your shit on me.
THAT’S ENOUGH FROM YOU.
Hindsight is 20/20, right?
I didn’t say that. I left the classroom and got in my car and sobbed. I racked my brain for anything I could have done better. I beat myself up for days.
Last week, I attended a ceremony where I was given two teaching awards: one decided by students, and the other decided by the deans in my school. I tried not to think of that angry student and all the other students that might disagree, although they loomed like ghosts in my mind.
Today, I know that, although prizes are nice, the real rewards are my people: the people who love me and show up for me, love to laugh with me, and cherish my friendship and companionship.
That angry student was not one of my people. Instead, she was one of my greatest teachers.
She was me talking to me. The voice was so familiar:
You’re horrible. You’re not good enough. You say insensitive things. You’re selfish. You’re awkward and ridiculous. Why, for such a tall and lean person, is YOUR BUTT SO BIG?
I wasn’t on my own side.
She’s right, I thought, You’re horrible. You’re a mess, Georgi. Give it up.
It’s a sobering experience when, in times of excruciating sadness, you cannot comfort yourself. That is the loneliest place to be.
IT IS ALSO THE BEST TIME TO SAY THIS:
THAT. IS. ENOUGH.
I deserve my own love. I deserve my own support. I deserve to stand up for myself. I don’t have to believe what people say about me. I can soothe myself. I can be on my own side.
THAT’S ENOUGH FROM ME.
Beautiful, courageous reader: People will not always treat you the way you want to be treated. That’s ok. That’s about them. On the other hand, you can always treat yourself the way you deserve to be treated. You can always tell yourself that it’s ok. You can ALWAYS be on your own side.
Hey, boo: You are doing the best you can every day. You have an incredible body and a fascinating mind. You are important.
Stop that crazy voice inside your head. It’s not ok. Shut it down. Now.
No more yelling at ourselves.