This job does indeed have its benefits. Aside from experiencing our communities from the front line, it also places us in the company of some really special individuals.
While as an extrovert, I do love the human connection, the how have you beens and how are the kids, this column space somehow continues to feed my soul.
It’s a funny thing quite honestly, a simple little sliver of space in the paper, where I’m given free rein to ponder what might come to me on that week.
This past week was a reminder of my good fortune by way of this gift. One of my most favorite things to column writing (or writing in general) is hearing back from the community. We don’t always get it right, but when we do, it’s nice to hear that too.
So last week as I fumbled through my thoughts of sentiment reflecting on the magic of pint size trick or treaters, it quite honestly felt like gibberish. Yet deadline was looming and I have committed to have some profound thought, so gibberish it would have to be.
As I sent it off, I anticipated the “texts of clarity” which come every now and again after hammering out a quick couple thousand characters.
Happily I may report, no such texts arrived. What did however were a few emails and a text acknowledging my words and thanking me for sharing. What I love most about this, is not to boast on receiving kind words (although appreciate them) but rather the senders who took the time to pen them.
One came from a young mom, struggling with a defiant and determined toddler while two others came from community members whose toddler days are long behind them. I love that. The cross section of our readers, taking the time to share some reflections and a takeaway for each of them.
So as I sat to pen this week’s column I couldn’t help but reflect on how these words might be received. I mean after all isn’t it a bit conceited to boast about receiving kudos for our work? To some perhaps and that’s okay.
I’ve struggled with some harsh criticisms over the past few months; soul crushing stuff if being completely honest. However at this point in my life, I like to think I know myself pretty well and while I respect what I’m about to share this is how some may view me, I know better.
In the name of transparency which I’ve tried to continue through the past two decades I’m going to share the harsh words given to me most recently.
Apparently I’m self-centered and live with an “all about me” attitude.
I pause as I type this, as I truly am still at a loss for words pondering this.
As a side note, I feel it’s also important to share the past three-plus years of my life I’ve been coached, criticized and reprimanded by those closest to me and who love me to focus on myself and put myself first as I walked my battle with cancer.
Truth be told, as a single mom and a friend to many that was hard to do. Shifting to being the one helped versus the one helping was truly a hard transition, which I failed at on many fronts.
Yet here I was hearing from not one, but two of those very same “support” people how selfish I was. It’s laughable honestly and reminds me most of the saying, “Be careful what you wish for.”
The point however and main reason I share this truly hurtful proclamation, is not to have my in box blow up with others telling me not to listen or to gain sympathy. For me, this was a true teaching moment, hence my sharing.
Yes there were tears as I heard these words, just weeks following a major surgery, wrapping up the last three-and-a-half years. Yes, there was reflection as I wondered had that actually happened. Had I become so focused on getting well that I’d become a self-centered monster? And yes there was conversation with others closest to me to dissect where this was coming from and was it indeed accurate.
What I recognized once the dust settled is all pretty simple. It all boils down to personal opinion.
No different than the column I wrote about trick or treaters and if that resonated with others or how I navigate my life as I quite frankly do all I can to fight to stay above ground. For some that may look self-centered and well … that’s okay.
As for me and how I walk the path put before, I don’t rest my laurels on someone else’s targeted anger. Instead, I prefer to reflect, regroup and reconnect with who I know myself to be.
Completely imperfect, lacking a filter at times, yet loyal and supportive to a fault.
That’s my hope for each of you. As you find yourself walking untraveled ground, perhaps at the hands of another’s unkind words, don’t let it ruminate. Reconnect to who you know yourself to be and grab a much-needed call with a trusted loved one.
We’ll never make everyone happy, yet at the end of the day live a life which makes you proud.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 209-847-3021.