Growing pains

Dear President Trump,

It’s something we teach our patients all the time and it’s been useful to me countless times before, but last night it felt like something of a revelation once I put words to exactly what was bothering me. I told you yesterday that I was feeling sour and frustrated despite the lovely seasonal firsts, but I didn’t tell you why. Basically, it boils down to having spent way too much time in my head going over and over how shitty it feels to have gotten feedback from an authority figure at work that he thinks I take potshots and that another key authority figure wouldn’t be willing to work with me if I were to try for a position I thought I might want. I was already clear that I patently don’t take potshots at anyone except perhaps you, so I knew that assessment wasn’t fair but I couldn’t move past the idea that someone was unwilling to work with me. What helped me get unstuck was saying out loud that I have a very hard time getting along with arrogant men and that I now have explicit confirmation that at least some of them have a hard time getting along with me. I don’t think this bodes well for our relationship, does it? Probably a good thing it’s a one-sided pen-pal deal.

Anyway, part of what I was twisting about all afternoon yesterday was whether I should feel bad about having elicited the potshot comment and whether I should feel bad that certain men don’t like me. I was thinking that maybe I am too blunt, too pushy, too shrill (as Marian Wright Edelman worried about herself in a WP interview that ran today), too insistent on engaging as an equal. However, once I landed on what feels like an accurate characterization of the problem – arrogant men and I don’t get along, I decided I’m pretty ok. Yes, my style probably means I’m not going to work my way up in the system, but I can live with that. I get to do work that feels useful and rewarding and I can be myself.

Then, a “universe thing” happened today at church that helped me feel even more solid. During her sermon, our pastor was talking about how we all have a tendency to pat ourselves on the back when we’ve stretched our inclusivity quotient a little bit. She looked right at me and said something to the effect of “we all need people who will push on this, like Tracy pushes me.” There were probably about 250 people in the room and most of them know me so for a minute or so all eyes were on me and it was very weird, not bad, but definitely strange. When we talked in the receiving line after the service, she thanked me for being willing to speak up on behalf of those she sometimes doesn’t think to include. I’m really not sure what specific comments she was referring to, but it was validating and helped me put together that most of the time when I get crossed up with arrogant men it’s when I’m pointing out that someone (women vets, people with substance use disorders, junior faculty who are women or people of color, etc.) is being left out, ignored, disrespected. Indeed. The other thing that Marian Wright Edelman said in that interview is that she really doesn’t care what other people think of her (the concerns about shrillness apparently aside)– she’s going to focus on speaking out about whatever people’s needs are. Sound good to me.

May we be safe to engage as equals and may we do so even when it’s not perfectly safe.
May we be happy to keep speaking out for those in need, including ourselves.
May we hold onto the possibility of a healthy culture predicated on true equality.
May we make peace with the discomfort of growing pains.

Tracy Simpson

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