An Open Letter to People Who I Have Treated Badly (On the Internet and Otherwise)
(Note: I realize this post has been posted a few places out of context, but it refers to behavior that has taken place in my personal life and online primarily during the years of 2007-2010.)
There is often a marked difference between our self-perception and our reality. Who we think we are and who we really are. And who we want to be is often times caught in between the two.
Until recently, if someone asked me to describe myself, I would have included the words sweet, kind, nurturing, sensitive, thoughtful and nice. Though I am quite aware of my razor sharp wit and slick tongue, I would have hesitated to include mean, self-involved, selfish, bullying and cold.
The first list of adjectives describes who I am. The second, things about myself that I like to ignore. The truth? Somewhere in the middle.
While I have received affirmation from loved ones and others about the former, I have always been quick to downplay the latter. “I talk slick when people deserve it,” “I’m not mean, I’m just not a punk,” “I didn’t mean to be so harsh, I’m just stressed out,” “I’m impatient, I don’t suffer fools lightly,” etc, etc, etc.
I have long since made excuses for the fact that I sometimes talk to people in ways that YOU SHOULD NOT TALK TO PEOPLE. This has been an issue since childhood. While it has often been something that I (bizarrely) reserved for the people I love most, since the internet has given me the access to communicate with so many people beyond what I could take in on a face-to-face basis, there have been others who have had the experience of getting an unnecessary tongue lashing from me.
I sat in my therapist’s office the other day sobbing as I recounted the terrible ways in which I spoke to a loved one. I cannot understand how I can became someone who was such a nasty, entitled, self-righteous diva. My therapist is helping me to understand my own behavior and what issues it spoke to and how I can never be that person again.
And while much of my time with her is centering around issues I have had with friends and family and issues I have with myself, that particular conversation made me think about the folks who came across me online during my “Sister Toldja” days and had the unfortunate luck of getting dissed or chided for something as small as asking me to explain something more clearly or for commenting on an article they hadn’t read or for presenting what I deemed to be some sort of small-minded view on something I take seriously.
Who in the hell did I think I was to be mean to strangers without ever considering that someone could be mourning, hurting, suffering outside of our petty internet conversation? What would it have cost me to be more patient? Or to simply ignore someone who wracked my nerves terribly? The world is often a dark and cold place and the only reason I have not succumbed to that is because I have always been surrounded and supported by people who provided warmth and light. I owe it to humanity to radiate the same.
What’s interesting is that after a number of my nasty interactions with people, where I had dressed someone down for something small, is that I would go and CRY. I felt guilty for talking that way. But yet, it took me years to stop.
I’m sure that of the few of you who made it this far in this letter, most of you are confused about what I am talking about. But someone may remember when I had a couple thousand Twitter followers and a notorious attitude. If I ever barked on you, talked to you sideways or anything of the like, I am truly sorry.
For anyone who I was dismissive or flippant towards in high school, college or even in my early New York years, I’m sorry. I’ll maintain that I was typically more nice than nasty in my younger days, but that nasty was something else when it came out. If you ever had to deal with it, I am so, so sorry.
There are people who played a much more significant role in my life and, thus, endured a more significant level of poor treatment. If you are part of that number and happen to be reading this: I love you deeply and I am so, so sorry. Of course, there is more to say to you guys and I will share those words with you when I can.
I want to be a better person, y’all. For me, for those around me, and for the entire world. I will always be “a thorn in the side of the beast,” as my father says. I will continue to rally against sexism, patriarchy, racism and oppression. But I will not hurt people unnecessarily in the process.