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The day I told my high school principal to f*** off!

 

My father was diagnosed with terminal cancer right around the start of my senior year of high school. I had also broken up with my "first true love" right around that same time.

As you can imagine, my little 17 year old self didn't quite know how to cope with it all. Sure I put on a good front (childhood s*xual abuse had made me a master at pretending)!

But as I watched my father wither away and at the same time tried to mend my broken heart, I was a swirly whirly mess of thoughts and feelings.

I stopped caring about pretty much everything. I was depressed, overwhelmed, and was at the same time trying to chart a course for my future. I'm the first person in my family to go to college, so that whole applying for college process was daunting for us all.

Side note: I have to give mad props to my mom who was watching the love of her life die, and she still never once dropped the ball with me, stopped encouraging or helping me. #warriorwoman

Given all of this, I started skipping school. Though, I was pretty cunning about it!

I had a doctor who could see I was struggling and so he gave me a bunch of signed doctor's notes so I would get excused absences (now that was a medical professional who was trauma informed way before his time!).

All was going well, until one day about 3 months before the end of my senior year, I just spaced (hello dissociation!) and forgot to turn in one of the notes.

The principal, who was already not my biggest fan (why? that's a story for another day!), pounced on me.

I was called into his office and he gleefully announced that I was going to be expelled for too many absences and truancy.

While everything inside of me wanted to rip his face off, I kept my cool and explained that things were tough right now, my dad was dying, and I was having a hard time keeping up with things.

To which he replied, "I don't want to hear your excuses. You're probably lying anyway."

I was so stunned that I couldn't say anything, which he took as confirmation that he was right.

Luckily, I had a school counselor who advocated on my behalf and got him to agree to let me finish my senior year, but I would have to do so at the Junior High in the detention room! This meant I would have to teach myself all of the remaining material and prep for and take my finals in what I sarcastically began to describe as "exile" (humor has ALWAYS been one way I've survived the tough shit in my life).

Long story short, I passed all of my finals with flying colors.

Graduation Day! I had done it, and my dad was still alive and able to be there to see me walk across the stage to get my diploma.

As I approached the principal, one hand out to take the diploma, one hand out to shake his hand as we'd been instructed to do, I channeled every hurt and angry part of me to grip his hand so he couldn't let go and said, "You see that man over there in the wheelchair, about to breathe his last breath?" He glanced, then feebly nodded. "That's my dad. You can go f*** yourself."

I didn't do the nice thing. I refused to be the "bigger person". I rebelled against all of my country girl training. I found my voice in that moment and let that sad, pathetic man know exactly what I thought!

This was a critical turning point in my healing journey - though I didn't fully appreciate how much until years later.

But it was in this moment that I felt and understood the power of breaking free of people pleasing. I became firmly committed to set as a goal to not care so much about what people thought and to live my own damn life.

Now I certainly haven't been perfect in that - abuse really does a number on us, fills us with shame, makes us question our deservingness so much that it just feels easier to take care of everyone else, play nice - right?

But I want you to know - that if you are struggling to find your voice, if you're stuck in cycles of people pleasing, pushing your needs aside - that doesn't have to remain the case.

Everyday, I work with people who are no longer willing to sacrifice themselves and supporting them in developing their "No! I won't be nice!" attitude. This is one of the most enjoyable parts of my time with them!



Here's to not being nice,

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Comments (3)

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Reading this and your plight is brilliant and so liberating Rachel!

Thanks for writing this and about your heroic action towards this experience!  It speaks on so many levels with all that is happening today too.  This was really freeing for me to read.  You and your article are my gratitude today!

Hear hear! to not being nice to those who are not willing to sacrifice anything for the sake of Equality, Equity, Care, and Protection from Harm!

And today,  that "not nice attitude" I also expressly make a caustic & holding grip of disgust (along with some choice profanity) to the current majority in SCOTUS, and the principles (pun intention) of the Republican Party and it's supporters!

My best to you and heart holding for your loss. 

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