Generally speaking, as I move about in my every day regular life, I don't think or worry much about people who don't like me or don't wish me well.  Generally, as I move about in my every day regular life, I don't consider that I might have haters.  I've never subscribed to the "haters are my motivators" line of thinking; I've never, personally, seen the logic in it.

But over the last couple of months, I'm starting to feel... hated on.

It started back when I found out I'd be teaching another class at my alma mater.  The first class I co-taught with 2 other professors in the fall and this class I'm teaching solo.  It's a big deal, but then to me it's not.  I appreciate the opportunity, it's certainly a resume builder and I'm always happy to mentor and provide support for folks looking to enter my field of work.  But when all is said and done, I don't do this to look good to anybody.  I do it because I'm genuinely interested in being a help to the students and the faculty who invested so much in me and the start of my career.

Last semester, one of my colleagues, and a person I consider a friend, who also teaches this same course, called me up and asked if I'd be willing to speak to his class on short notice about a certain topic.  He pitched it as an opportunity for me to meet some of the students I'd have the following semester -- I didn't need the opportunity as I had all of them in the class I was teaching at the time -- but it did provide an opportunity for me to talk to them more about myself as a professional, since the class I had them in was a bit more about the theory.

He met me at the door to the building (I was running a bit late) and walked me back to the class.  On the way he re-emphasized the opportunity to meet the students and he added a note - "some of them asked me how it is you're able to teach this class when you've only been out of school for a year."

He went on to discuss how he assured them that I had a lot to offer and they could learn from me, but none of that did much to assuage the feeling I had that everything wasn't on the up and up.  It felt like maybe HE was the one who'd wondered how I got this opportunity when he'd been in the field for 7 years before he was approached.  I was confused.  Did he see me as competition?  He wasn't going to teach any fewer classes or make any less money because I was helping out, so why the comment?  And even if he didn't wonder that, why did he offer it up to me?  How was it a helpful comment?  I tried to shake the feeling that he was throwing shade, but I couldn't.

Earlier this month I was at a staff meeting, and sat next to a teacher I feel I have a pretty good working relationship with.  We've hung out, in a group, outside of school and, generally, get along while at work.  She and I are both native Tennesseans, but we hail from different cities.  She asked me what high school I went to and when I told her the name of my private high school she replied, "oh!  No wonder!"  Intrigued, I asked her to explain what she meant.  She said, "I mean, it explains a lot about you.  You're not really black."

I'm not new to this whole line of thinking, so I knew exactly what she meant when she said it, but for some reason I was particularly offended.  Maybe because she tries to present herself as someone with a background other than the one she has.  Which is fine -- "started from the bottom" and all that.  Maybe that made me think she wouldn't be the type to think of someone as "less black" because of (enter stupid stereotype here).  When I told her "what do you mean, 'not really black.'?" she responded, "I mean of course you're black, but you're not ghetto, hood, from the projects black."

The more I thought about that exchange, the more I couldn't let it go.  Aside from the stereotyping, which is par for the course, there was something about her "no wonder!" that didn't sit right with me.  No wonder what?  It was as if she'd always thought something was wrong with me and knowing I attended a private school explained it -- but what could "it" be?  I think more than feeling stereotyped, I was wondering how long she'd been pondering how I got to be the way I am and further, for what reason?

And then last Saturday I had drinks with a couple of friends where it came up that I'll be going back to school this fall to get a degree with an emphasis in administration and instructional leadership so that I can be an administrator.  One of my friends laughed at me and seemed shocked that I wanted to be an administrator.  Last night, she, myself, and several different friends had dinner where she brought this tidbit up in conversation (though it wasn't relevant).  She said it in a "wait till y'all hear this shit..." kind of way and it set me on edge immediately.

Everyone was very supportive of me, one of them even said she'd love to work for me.  It seemed that their support wasn't what she was going for and so the friend who brought it up added, "well, you really should spend some time teaching.  I mean, summer school or something.  As a counselor, but even when I was a teacher, I listened to and respected admins more if they had a teaching background."

I'd been so caught off guard by the whole thing, I just said something about taking it all one thing at a time -- but I couldn't shake the feeling that she does not wish me well on this journey.  And why not?

If we're honest, we've all been jealous of another person's accomplishments.  Whatever they may be.  Marriage, kids, family, jobs, cars, houses, degrees, acclaim -- somewhere in there falls something each of us want out of life and when someone else has it before we do, sometimes we feel jealous, EVEN when that person is a friend of ours or someone we care a lot about.  Sometimes, those are the very people.

So I get how it can be hard to feel happy for someone and I don't judge anyone for feeling that way, but do you have to tear someone down?  Do you have to be negative?

My mom always tells me to be careful who I let in my circle, and I feel I have been.  It seems to always be the people I don't expect.  The folks I find so far away from me in terms of what they have or what they want that I just can't fathom myself as any sort of competition for any of them.  And if I'm not competition, then what is there to be jealous or petty over?  Or so goes my line of thinking.

Turns out, I need a new line of thinking.


I Can't Make It Be What It Ain't

One of my friends has THE most country sayings and I love all of them.  "I can't make it be what it ain't" is one.  It's another way to say "it is what it is" which is to say, in a sense, no use in being upset about a thing being a thing.

But what about when a thing isn't a thing?  Or it is a thing, just not the thing you want?

There are a lot of posts floating on the interwebs today concerning comments Chuck Smith made on last night's Real Housewives of Atlanta episode.  After inviting Nene Leakes and Phaedra Parks back to their hometown of Athens, GA to speak with some of the kids at the Boys' and Girls' Club of Athens, Chuck decided to confront Phaedra about comments she made on a trip that his wife was apart of.

Chuck's dating history came up during the trip and it was revealed to his wife that not only had Kandi dated Chuck, but so had Phaedra.  Phaedra dismissed it, mostly, citing it as something that happened when they were kids (read: not a big deal) and then again in college (again, seemingly, not that big of a deal).  Chuck, however, wanted to clear the air and clarify with Phaedra that they never dated.  When provided with examples of how Phaedra came to the conclusion that they dated, Chuck asserted that she, like Kandi, was just "part of the team."  In other words, he was lying to and manipulating several women into thinking he was dating them exclusively, when really he was doing everything but being exclusive.

I think Chuck's an asshole for several reasons.  Primarily, this whole conversation was unnecessary unless he was trying to stunt for the cameras and for his wife.  Of course, I don't understand why he and his wife just couldn't have that conversation privately where he explained that and added that regardless of previous relationships, she's the one he married and so forth and so on.

But what about what it means when you say one thing and do another?  Chuck tried to make Phaedra seem desperate for claiming him as an ex, all the while wholly admitting that he set things up so that she would think that.  I'm always baffled when people do that. They go out of their way to make a thing a thing, and then get upset when you call it a thing.

Let's take this outside of a romantic relationship.  I was just pondering the other day a personal situation where I feel compelled to keep a secret for some friends.  The secret itself isn't exactly a bad secret -- meaning it's not something that would or presently is hurting anyone.  In fact, it's really not anyone's business but that of those involved -- however, because of my proximity to the situation and people's tendency to want all the juicy gossip and all the tea on all the people all of the time, I'm frequently approached for information.  I don't mind keeping the secret, but I'm frustrated that it seems while my friends don't want anyone to know, they're not exactly doing their part in terms of discretion.

I've broached this topic, vaguely, with them before and I was basically told - "no one asked you to keep it a secret..."

Sure.  Fine.  Neither of them said, "Ashley, here's this information and now that you know it, please don't tell anyone."  But they didn't have to because their actions said it for them.  But I'm stuck holding the bag because they made a thing a thing and now don't want me to call it a thing.

Ultimately this is about having your cake and eating it too.  Wanting to have something, but not wanting to pay for it.  Wanting to have a girlfriend, but not wanting to spend the time necessary -- so you remind her frequently that "you're not my girlfriend" even though you take her everywhere with you, you've introduced her to friends and family and you spend a lot of your free time with her.  In fact, it would seem that she is your girlfriend -- except when you don't want to be held responsible for how your actions affect her.

Alls I'm saying is, folks gotsta be mo' careful.  We know when we're manipulating a situation in our favor.  So don't get mad when you get called out on that.  Own it.  Step into it.  Or just quit trying to get people to do things without their explicit permission.

You can't make it be what it ain't, even if you never said what it is.


Mississippi Damned

I'm not sure how I stumbled on this film, but I know it was over a year ago that I did so.  Maybe even 2.  I finally bought the DVD and watched it.  This movie is a film everyone should see.  The writer/director Tina Mabry does an excellent job, as do the actors.

This movie follows the story of a family in rural Mississippi beginning in 1986 and then continuing in 1998.  At the center of the film is the Peterson family.  Junior, Delores, Leigh and Kari are all members of a larger extended family who all live within a few miles of each other.  Junior has a gambling problem while his wife Delores is a hard woman from years of dealing with her husband's lying about where their money is going.  Their oldest daughter Leigh is gay and struggles with what that means to her family, but also to her own identity and the youngest child Kari has a talent for music that might be her ticket out of hell.

We also closely follow the stories of Delores's two sisters, Anna and Charlie.  Anna has an emotionally abusive husband, Tyrone.  Anna struggles with potential sterility in the early part of the film.  In combination with her husband being unable to find work, their marriage suffers exponentially.  Meanwhile, Charlie is an alcoholic who lives with a cheating boyfriend.  Her only son Sammy is an excellent ball player, but his mother's alcoholism and tendency to focus more on her boyfriends than her son, puts him in some unfortunate situations.  Eventually Charlie finds herself in her own life or death situation.

I've always been interested in family dynamics and this movie gives me all the functional dysfunction I can handle.  I see my own family in this family and I see some of the societal ills that I wonder how we'll ever get around, play out in this film.

For example, there's a theme of power through sex that runs through this film and in some very uncomfortable ways.  We see one character who feels powerless attempt to exert power on another character, using sex.  Their relationship, unsurprisingly, never recovers -- and the ways they relate to one another after the fact provides insight into just how much sex is often not at all about sex.

There's also the theme of sacrifice.  What do we give up for our family -- even though we may not like them very much.  One character sacrifices her way out of the misfortune and dysfunction, only to have another character sacrifice absolutely everything to give it back to her.

One thing is certain: this movie is HEAVY.  I took several breaks during the almost 2 hour film.  There were moments where I thought "Jesus Christ -- is there any light at the end of this tunnel?"  And there is -- but it is most certainly at the very very end.  Even with all that, though, I would watch this movie again and again -- it's that good.

The only place I've found this film is at the film's website -- but it is 2014 and this is the internet.  If you can find it somewhere, anywhere, please watch it.  Even if you don't purchase the film, I bet after seeing it, you'll want to.

One more clip.  In this scene, the women's mother (who lives with Anna) is confronted by Charlie over things that happened when she was a child.  It is very well acted and so true to the experience many survivors of abuse experience when they try to bring up what happened to them.  But you don't really experience Charlie's pain as much as you experience the mother's.  She's denying any responsibility, but you can sense that her words and her true feelings don't really match up.  It doesn't hurt that their mother is portrayed by one of my favorite "little-known actresses" Dr. Tonea Stewart.