After I wrote about Tim Tebow chastizing the University of Alabama students for leaving football games before the end, I experienced my first encounter with hate mail. But it didn't seem all that personal, because I didn't know Tim Tebow or the people who responded. And, my life wasn't negatively impacted by Tim Tebow.
Fast forward to the present. I received my first personal hate mail. But this time, it was personal. Someone I know who had a very different experience with the teacher I previously wrote about, sent me a message calling my article "shallow and unnecessary." The message went on to say that I should, "move on with my life. [The teacher] may not have done much for you but she most definitely did so much for me personally and school wise."
The messenger went on to say that she had lost all respect for me and thinks what I wrote was horrible and immature. The message ended with, "You're disgusting. I am all for freedom of speech but she didn't deserve any of that. Grow up."
Wow, this completely caught me off guard for so many reasons.
First, I know my articles are out there on the world wide web, but I don't know who is reading them or even if ANYONE is reading them. Second, I haven't heard from or seen this person in two years. We were never friends, but we were cordial with each other. We were "friends" on social media, but I can't remember that last time I saw a post or picture of this person, so to receive a strongly worded message so early on a Sunday morning caught me off guard. Third, I've never been "attacked" like this. Seriously. I guess I've lived a pretty charmed life because, from what I am told, these types of confrontational messages start as early as elementary school.
So, as I sit plunking away at the keys on my laptop, a hurricane of thoughts and emotions are swirling around my head. I only hope I can get them down clearly and thoroughly. The first thought that jumped into my head was the old adage, "The pen is mightier than the sword." I have always been careful of what I put down on paper, and to be perfectly honest, I am equally as careful about what I say. I was raised by parents who instilled in me responsibility for my words and actions. If I am going to say it or do it, I better be prepared to own it. If I am going to say something behind someone's back, I better be prepared to say it to her face. And I am proud to say that I've lived up to this standard with only a few minor slips.
I stand by the article I wrote about a teacher who hurt me.
By no means do I think she planned on hurting me, but nonetheless, she did. I survived. And if she read the article, it wasn't meant to hurt her, or anyone else. I'm sorry if feelings were hurt, but I stand by what I wrote. That was my experience, and my perception is my reality, just like your perception is your reality. Everyone has their fans and their critics. It's just a fact of life.
Now, I'd like to address people's need to say what's on their minds. I know it may appear hypocritical because I am writing about what's on my mind, but it's actually different because of the form and the forum. I've got to come up with a new article each week, so my life is going to be my inspiration more often than not. So many people go to Rate My Teacher or Rate My Professor and anonymously berate an instructor they don't like or with whom they've had a disagreement. I didn't do that. People will go onto social media and call people out by name. I didn't do that either. People will send harsh messages and even threaten others (yep, as things escalated, I got one of those too from the former schoolmate who didn't appreciate the article. It said, "You deserve everything you are going to get.")
What purpose does this serve? I really want to understand.
Hey, I totally understand wanting to stand up for a teacher who changed your life for the better. To point out that other people have had a different experience, but maybe you should wait until the anger subsides to put pen to paper. Trust me. If I had written that same article a year ago, it would have read much differently. I wouldn't have tried to understand the teacher's actions or even acknowledge that she was once a "champion of students and an impeccable role model." But that's another lesson my parents taught me, and it's a tough one to follow. As a society, have we succumb to our knee jerk reactions or do we just believe that we have a right and a duty to say and do whatever we feel regardless of how reckless or thoughtless it is?
Life is made up of lessons, and this experience is proving to be an interesting one.
My most recent critic wants to be a social worker. In the heat of our messages, I Googled the description of a social worker and Wikipedia's popped up: "Social work is a profession concerned with helping individuals, families, groups, and communities to enhance their individual and collective well-being. It aims to help people develop their skills and their ability to use their own resources and those of the community to resolve problems." Clearly, my critic has the passion necessary for this profession. It is a noble career choice and compassion is listed as an important characteristic necessary to be a social worker.
Clearly, my critic is compassionate. To be compelled to reach out to me and express the anger toward me and my article is a testament to this individual's compassion for a teacher that made a lasting impact on a student. A student who felt this teacher needed someone to defend her and point out that she is still a champion and role model to some, if not to me. I am happy to publicly state this fact, and I hope it somehow reaches the teacher to let her know how positively she impacted your life.
I applaud your devotion, your compassion, and your drive, but may I offer a bit of advice. Keep in mind how mighty a weapon a pen is, and before you take up your weapon, take a moment. Take a breath. Take a day before you write and send a message filled with fury. Your thoughts and feelings would have been more meaningful if they were written with less anger and more compassion. You know, compassion: sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others — all others. Not just the ones you like. Not just the ones who don't make you mad or disagree with you... all others. Now, try reading my article a second time with fresh eyes. Read it from my perspective this time, and not from your perspective or the teachers. Pretend you didn't know me or the teacher. Can you see things from my perspective now?
Life is about learning. My parents always say it's not a mistake if you learn from it. I learned from this. I hope you did too. I sincerely wish you great success in your life and future endeavors, however, I won't be following you on social media anytime soon.