“Is this related to the long e?” I asked. The boy shook his head. In my hand, I held a frail sheet of paper where he had scribbled his name in seventeen different styles. On the board, a PowerPoint slide stood frozen, marinating on the screen.
“No? Okay. Do we need it?” He shook his head again. “Answer me!” I barked. “Use your words!”
“N-no,” he stuttered. “No, sir.”
“Can I throw it?” I asked. He looked up. I was standing right in front of him like an animal ready to pounce. He looked back down and nodded, signaling a surrender of sorts.
“Can I tear it up first?” I asked, with a smile on my face. He no longer answered me. The class was quiet and the only thing you could hear apart from the gentle humming of the AC was the sound of a small, innocent piece of paper being ripped to shreds.
I’ve been losing my temper way too much these days. This little incident started over a measly house rule violation. I could’ve solved it by rewarding points to the other teams but instead, I became emotional. I attacked him for not listening to me, for his assumption that my lessons were not important. I traced his behavior to one simple fact: he did not think I was good enough to train him. When he disrupted the class, he grossly disrespected me and for that, he got the bitter end of my words.
I thought that that whole thing was just an isolated incident but then last Thursday, I snapped at another trainee. Fearing a repeat of the paper incident, I asked him to step out instead. He was getting on my nerves. I never saw him again. He didn’t come back from lunch. I think I scared him away.
Mean. That’s the only word I can think of. My friends tell me that there’s something different about me. Truth is, they needn’t even bother. I’ve seen the change for myself. Somehow, along the way, I managed to lose the one thing I swore I would hold on to: myself*. I’ve lost the will to work, the patience it takes to do my job, the perseverance to love or to even be anything. If I could have my way, I would lock myself in my room all day until I’m nicer.
But I can’t do that. I need to work to live. And so I have to make do with what I have.
“Parang ang bait mo kasi noon. Nakakapanibago lang,” a friend from work explained. She felt she needed to step in after rumors of me turning into Hitler started to surface. My first impulse was to retaliate, to be strong in my anger. But then I realized she was right. You can’t argue with someone who’s right.
“Ano ba kasi problema?” she asked. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“Wala naman,” I lied. For days, I had been trying not to think of a lot of things. If I allowed my mind to wander, even for just a tiny little bit, I knew I’d go ballistic. Being mean was my way of coping with the tiny voices in my head that tell me I’m not good enough. Being mean was my way of ignoring the insecurities that were piling up and demanding attention. I looked in the mirror, wondering how that nice little boy two years ago could turn into this miserable old man. How do I get him back?
An external change to inspire an internal one. You see it all the time in movies. I looked at old pictures of myself, when I was proud of who I was and what I was doing. I figured, if I look more like the guy I was two years ago, the niceness would automatically follow.
I had been growing my hair for close to six months. With the exception of the Bieber comparisons, I loved everything about it. One morning, when sleep seemed to avoid me, I marched right on to the nearest salon. Without thinking twice, I told the stylist I wanted most of it out. The shampoo guy who took his time washing my hair, telling me how soft it was and everything looked absolutely stunned. “Sayang,” he muttered under his breath. I didn’t explain it to him. He wouldn’t have understood.
The following day, I got mixed reactions for my new hairdo. Some liked it, some didn’t and a great number of people didn’t even recognize me. None of them mattered to me. There was only one person I needed to hear from, one person I needed to convince. With a smile that could rival most of the great movie villains of our time, I singled out my friend near the copier.
“Well, mukha na ba akong mabait?” I asked her. She stared at me for a good ten seconds. In my heart of hearts, I prayed that it worked.
Photo Credit: papercut