do not rewind
I can’t remember the last time I went to bed and was afraid to close my eyes because I worried I’d might wake up to the very same day playing all over again. I can’t remember if I have ever felt it before, but I did on Wednesday night.
I am – as you know if you have been here before – doing a journalism course this autumn. Every month I take out three days from work to improve my research and interviewing technique, my writing. And so far I have had fun. And so far I have looked forward to leaving work behind and getting a little bit of breathing space from days which have been more hectic these past months than usually. And I did this time as well.
Wednesday came. I was prepared. We had been put in feedback groups in advance and I wasn’t too enthusiastic about one of the girls in my group, but I tried not to worry too much about it. She’s probably sweet, but she and I have different views on the world and she is the type of person I would bitch (and bitch and bitch) to J about on the way home should I ever run into her at a dinner party. But what could I do?
She came completely unprepared. Where I spent my Tuesday evening reading 5 articles and preparing feedback for them (main focus: good things with a few points where improvement would heighten the quality of the work), she apparently did something else. So while I looked out the window, she read skimmed the articles and felt ready to give feedback on the same level as those of us who came prepared. It pissed me off immensely that she sat there pretending to be able to give accurate and adequate feedback as if I was the silly one spending all that time preparing something that – at least in her world – only takes a couple of minutes to do.
I had barely gotten into my feedback on another girl’s article before she literally shouted “NO! I don’t agree with you” across the table. And instead of letting me finish my sentence and explain, she interrupted and took over. I heard myself protesting and I bit my tongue and it didn’t work and I heard myself protesting a little more and then I closed my eyes and shut out her voice and told myself “let it be” over and over again.
In the end, we got to my article and she skimmed it as she has skimmed all the others. And I know it was crap, but from beginning to end she said nothing but negative things. She didn’t have as much as one positive thing to say. And I couldn’t help but think that had she prepared she would have taken the time to look for good things. Her writing was crap as well and it took me over half an hour to find something positive to say. It took me 30 minutes to shut out the voice in my head that was repeating over and over again: “Come on. I know you’re trying to write like they write in glossy magazines, but I don’t care what colour sweater she’s wearing and I don’t care if she’s married or where she lives when your main focus is her thoughts on your company’s communication”. But I found something I could praise. I did. I looked for it, it took time, but I found it and much of my criticism I left out when I wrote notes on what to say.
Later in class that day we were given a couple of paragraphs from each other’s articles which we had to rewrite. And as if she hadn’t said enough about my work already, she was chosen to rewrite the paragraphs from my article. And in all seriousness she told everyone in class that she thought we (as in my company) should rewrite our communication strategy so that it contained the word “cosy”. I did not know how to react. But as if her suggestion alone wasn’t enough she, when I told her that “cosy” would never be one of the words to characterise our communication, told me how my company might be missing out when we couldn’t see that “cosy” was very important. How is it that people who live in the smallest of worlds are always those who will tell you that you are wrong period? Let’s at least discuss!
Eventually I closed my eyes last night. I told J about my day and he whispered sweet and cheerful things in my ear and told me to forget about her. And I want to, I really, really want to. (But I also want to call her a bitch from now on and forward.) But I also want someone to assure me that this day was one in a lifetime and I will not be put through that again.
Please do not rewind!