When I was in college I worked at Old Navy. I basically ate, slept, and drank moderately-priced fleece jackets for more Christmas holiday seasons than I can remember. During Christmas I would work insane hours picking the store up off of the floor because $5 pajama bottoms are pretty much all you need for society to crumble. From around Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve every single day was like that. In fact, I might have PTSD from an incident involving a 72 hour shift.
Working at Old Navy solidified my belief that people are basically innately awful. People also used to return the craziest shit. I mean some nasty, foul, probably literal shit, because I know for certain I saw at least one too many period-stained bikini bottoms, questionable scented boxers, and sad remnants of someone’s attempt at upcycling. People are the worst, but at Old Navy they pretty much would accept anything that a customer presented for return.
I went on to have other jobs and eventually a really satisfying career, but accepting shitty returns from other people has never really stopped. You see I’m a pretty generous person. I like to make other people happy. Sometimes that tokens of affection, words of encouragement, or just sharing in being vulnerable. I also have the maturity of a 12 year old, so singing showtunes embarrassingly off key while standing on a bar at Chili’s to make someone smile is not above (below?) me. I would gladly share my snickers bar with you if your boyfriend dumped you or you lost your job because those things involve feelings, and sometimes feelings are delicious.
I have freely gave of myself my whole life in some way or another. Sometimes to my own detriment. Love became a cheap commodity, taking with it a piece of myself that never was returned in better than worse condition. I married a man that loves me for reasons I still don’t understand yet. When we met I was basically depleted, having hardly been reciprocated. I am a little more guarded today with whom I share myself and my life with. I’m a little slower to bring gifts, a little quieter with my words, and little less genuine with my feelings.
Wisdom teaches you to not make the same mistakes twice. Still, sometimes I let myself slip. I have a really amazing group of friends that I have allowed myself to invest in. Encouraging others, friendship, and building other people up are some of my biggest strengths. I just don’t like to use them on just anyone. That feels cheap and inauthentic. So I’m careful with whom I share that with. I failed again in holding to this, obviously, because I’m well, me. Failing is also one of my biggest strengths.
I let myself show vulnerability to someone who I had grown to trust. Trust is a big deal! That’s like being willing to share my last diet coke with you “big”. And my story, the emotion, was smacked away. It stung. For whatever dumb reason I didn’t learn my lesson, and I offered words of encouragement, more vulnerability, more little pieces of myself that never quite lit fire with this person and fizzled out. Plans never materialized. And. it. is. defeating. It’s like offering up a piece of the biggest, richest, most rewarding chocolate cake (food references are my favorite for obvious reasons – they don’t involve actual calories!) and having that person dump it in the trash, and instead returning a dirty broken dish to you. In the future I should just keep the damn cake for myself. (mmmm… cake).
I don’t know why I keep doing it, but I do. I tell myself every single time that it’s the last time. I know this story doesn’t change but I go ahead with the bad transaction every single time. I’m really close to shutting down the generosity shop for good. No more returns, at least.