Nov 26, 2014

Lessons I Had to Learn Twice

You know how they say, "Sometimes you have to learn things the hard way"?  Well, that saying doesn't apply to me.  Because I like to take a different route.  Not the easy way, not the hard way, but the even harder way.

What is the harder way?  I'm sure you're just dying to know.

It's when you learn it the hard way once, but it doesn't quite sink in.  So you learn it again, the harder way.

Here's some examples (mostly about boys, but the last one involves something I'm super excited about).

Lessons I Learned the Second Time

1. Don't Work With Your Partner

So... plenty of people do this.  But it doesn't work for me.

Scenario 1: My significant other had lost his job.  Repeatedly.  He was struggling to stay employed and I, attributing this to fate, chance, or anything but his actual work performance, happily got him a job at the restaurant I worked for.

Result 1: Nothing traumatic happened.  Not an excess of fighting.  Buuut... he just wasn't very good at the job.  And that reflected poorly on me.  And was painful to watch.

Scenario 2: My significant other had lost his job.  He was having trouble finding another, but who wasn't, in this tough economy?  Surely getting him hired at my workplace would be much smoother since this relationship was sooo much different than the one in the past.

Result 2: He wasn't incompetent, but he didn't respect me enough to let me show him how to do things.  He completely disregarded the whole seniority thing, because in his mind I was his girlfriend, not a coworker who had been there longer and who knew the ropes.  So much clashing, and battling, and nastiness.

Never again will I work with the person I'm dating.  For the same company?  Possibly.  But same department?  Hell no!  Even a healthy relationship needs some room to breathe and grow and have independent experiences to share with each other over the dinner table.  Or at least, it does for me.

2. Go for the Clean Break

I'm not good at letting go.  I suppose I can't honestly say I've put this into practice and I hope I never have to, but at least I understand the concept.

Scenario 1: My first long-term relationship finally decided to call it quits.  After a couple attempts, we've mutually decided to end it.  We wanted different things.  But we would totally stay friends.  After all, he was my best friend and I was his.  Why would that change?

Result 1: Long, lingering pain as we struggled with jealousy, and feelings of abandonment because the other person was dating and moving on.  Then jumping into a new relationship as soon as possible to feel better about the old one, and, to this day, receiving the occasional call or Facebook friend request, from a person that I now know has no place in my life.

Scenario 2: My 2nd long-term relationship (and also the one resulting from the 1st) finally decided to call it quits.  After a year or more (I'm not sure exactly when the fighting started, only that it was a daily occurrence) of misery, we should have given up.  But instead we decided to "go on a break."  Because surely the glaring issues that had caused us to fight over the last year could be solved by dating other people.

Result 2: The "break" kind of naturally progressed into a break up by virtue of the sheer misery we put each other into.  But it took 4 months.  4 months of prolonged unhappiness.  We delayed so long, hoping to salvage something that, in hindsight, really wasn't that great to begin with.  And, for me, the process of "getting over it" really didn't start until we finally stopped speaking.

3. It's OK to Scope Out Your Dating Prospect

Last one about boys, I promise!

Scenario 1: I was starting college and feeling rebellious and open minded, and, intentionally, had no standards whatsoever!  Whoever wanted to date me, I would date.  Freedom and fun for everyone!  No information on the person needed before I plunged happily into love, commitment, and long-term relationships!

Result 1: Relationship 1.  2 years of a terrible influences, reckless mistakes, and financially supporting another human being on my waitress salary.  1 year in I discovered he had a host of mental disorders.  But not until after breaking up did I find out he was gay (I still think bisexual would be more accurate, since he's dated several women, but "gay" was the term he used so...).  Seems to me that's the kind of information you should probably get beforehand.

Scenario 2: Miserable from the end of my last (and more than a little confused), I plunge into another relationship thinking, "This guy seems so much more normal!"  Normal is a relative term and I won't get into that, but basically I was going for mentally stable enough to hold a job.

Result 2: While that was (occasionally) the case, it did in no way prepare me for the fact that this boy (I won't say "man" because neither of us was very grown up at that point) had strong religious beliefs, while I did not.  Say things had worked out and we hadn't made each other completely and utterly miserable... what would we tell our children?  "God exists, but Mommy is going to hell for not believing."???  And it wasn't until afterwards that I found out he was entirely racist.  Again, seeing as that is a deal breaker, would be good information to have up front.

4. You Can't Make Drama Better By Getting Involved

This stems from overconfidence in my own charm and diplomatic ability.

Scenario 1: Having experienced very little drama with my high school friends, I was totally unprepared for the cattiness and gossip that permeated my new college friends.  When X and Y were feuding, I thought, "Oh, I'll just step in and share my wisdom with them and it will all be better."

Result 1: I became the enemy and the group was split into people who hated me and those who would still hang out with me.  Also everyone dropped out of school, but that was probably coincidence.

Scenario 2: My significant other was fighting with his friend over how much time that friend was spending with his new girlfriend.  He said some unpleasant things about her, the friend told her, and she sent my partner angry messages on Facebook.  All very mature.  I thought, "I'm so very diplomatic, surely I can smooth this over and get her to be less angry."

Result 2: More angry messages, now directed at me, and lambasting my past behaviors that were in no way related to this situation.  Anger on all sides, and a huge rift created between friends.  (Though, to be fair, that probably would have happened anyway.)

5. Nothing Replaces Passion for Your Work

I tend to try to make logical decisions, which often means ignoring the path I really want to take.  I'm always surprised when this ends up making me unhappy.

Scenario 1: I was graduating high school.  Art was not a feasible career option (according to everyone), so I picked something that seemed like a good financial move.  Engineering.

Result 1: I dropped out before the end of the first semester and struggled with a vague sense of unhappiness and dread of the future until I finally decided to try graphic design, where I made a dramatic shift from a student who rarely completed a class to someone averaging A's and B's with a full course load.  Magic.

Scenario 2: After jumping around a bit in the somewhat tumultuous graphic design field, I was offered a steady job!  My current job.  I gladly took it, and not so gladly was persuaded that the grad school web design classes I was signed up for were an unnecessary expense and would take my focus away from my job.  I really should drop them.

Result 2: Regret for the last year and a half about the missed opportunity.  Happily, I can say, as of 2 weeks ago, my application has been reactivated and I will be a student in the spring semester!  It's a compromise.  Practical job, with the creative stuff I need on the side.  I am so excited!

What lessons were hard for you to learn?  Have you made the same mistakes over and over again?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design