The things that people feel the need to call others is mind-blowing. I’m not talking about nicknames or names that your friends call you – both of which are typically good natured or an inside joke, showing that you’re familiar with the other person and comfortable with them. I’m talking about the names that are said to aggravate you – not directly negative but that cut at your soul.
I’ve been called a “teacher’s pet” for as long as I can remember. I was always a good student – straight As – I knew the answer in every class, except Science, but even then, I studied hard and made an A still. I grew up knowing that studying was my one way to get a better life for myself. My parents didn’t graduate college, my dad dropped out and my mom never attended. Their parents didn’t either. My dad and I had talked about me going to college since before I could remember. My education was very important and he wanted to make sure I got to where I wanted to go. I was setting an example for my younger brothers. Some subjects came easy to me, others not so much. But I studied. And my dad helped me study. And I participated in class and my teachers knew they could count on me. Did that make me a pet? Debatable. I always saw it as being a good student. I wanted to succeed in life. I wanted a better life for myself. I wanted to get away from all the bad things that had happened. My education was the key to that and I wasn’t about to let that go – even when people called me a pet.
In college I was too busy with work and school – I barely made it by because I never had enough time. No one can consider you a pet when you’re average like the rest of the class. It was a refreshing change, but one I struggled with. Although I enjoyed no longer being referred to as a pet, and I liked being able to blend in with the crowd in college, I knew by slacking in my studies that I was not living up with my full potential. I walked the line between needing my full time job and needing more time to succeed in school. I passed college, barely at times, but I passed and I made plans to go back for my Masters degree when the time is right – ideally the next two years.
Entering the workforce as an adult proved difficult at times. Although I had been working since I was seventeen, I wasn’t prepared to deal with some of the attitudes the bigger city had to offer. People once again saw me doing my job as being a pet. I’ve never understood that notion and I don’t think I want to. If you do your job and get along with your coworkers, your boss will get along with you. If you prove that you can be trusted and relied upon, your boss will in turn trust and rely on you. If you go the extra mile, it will pay off.
When I switched jobs and started working in a different department for a company, I found myself lost in a sea of individuals who had at least a decade of experience on me. I felt intimidated – I was the youngest one in the department and I felt I always had to prove my worth. I had been the youngest person at my first job for five years, but that was a small town restaurant, this was a big city company and I had a lot to prove. I threw myself into learning everything I could about my job and the company and I threw myself into helping to fix problems. I knew I had good ideas, but as the new and youngest person, I knew I had to take the time to build trust and respect. I did those things. I put in the time. I came up with the ideas and implemented them. I went the extra mile. When someone asked me to help with something, I always did whatever I could to solve the problem. I asked questions because I genuinely wanted to know the answer and how to fix my own problems. I spoke up and let my voice be heard, but I also learned to pick my battles and I learned when to back down and abandon a project. I also learned when to keep pushing a project until someone heard me.
I did everything I knew I had to do to set myself up for success. Where did it land me?
“You’re the teacher’s pet.”
“You’re the Golden Child.”
“You’re the Chosen one.”
I’m sorry – but what world have I just been transported into. These people have children my age and feel the need to say that. How would they feel if someone said that about their children?
In the next sentence they would tell me that I had earned whatever good things happened to me and they knew I would succeed and do well. It was confusing. When someone calls you a pet, it makes you feel like you’re being handed something – that you didn’t earn it on your own. When that same person tells you that they know you’ve earned something, it contridicts itself. It’s complicated.
Are they upset about something not related to me at all?
Are they frustrated because they feel like their hard work hasn’t paid off?
Are they discouraged because they feel my voice was heard and theirs was not?
People are always going to have opinions about everything. It’s not always easy to listen to them – especially when someone you view as a friend has an opinion about you that seems harsh. You can’t control how others feel about things and trying to fix it won’t get you anything if they aren’t willing to let you in.
It’s at that point that you’re left with two options. You can either let their words eat at your soul or you can shrug it off and realize that as long as you’re doing what you need to do and not hurting anyone in the process, you’re going to be just fine.
It’s not always easy to shrug it off. Words can cut at a person’s soul. But it’s important to not let those words ruin your life. You have to keep being true to yourself. Everything else will work out.