If there's any one lesson I've learned recently, it's that you're never too old to learn lessons. There's not a magic age at which that learning stops.
The recent events and the comments that have been made about me by various individuals gave me cause to sit and evaluate my role in the vocal backlash against me. Not necessarily regarding Mr. Dunn's actions, because, there is nothing defensible or justifiable about his actions or words, now, or in the past.
No... it gave me pause to evaluate my role in breeding an intense hatred in individuals in this community regarding me, over things I've written about or write about.
"Bully" is a term that's been flowing more freely than the Niagra Falls here in the Conejo Valley recently. Am I a bully? Was I a bully? I'd like to think I would be able to say with confidence, "no."
But, it's important to do self reflecting from time to time. I'm a big fan of personal responsibility. I just think it's important. It's important to strive for the kind of self awareness that allows you to answer for your actions and take responsibility for them.
I certainly don't consider myself to be someone free of error or free of bad judgment. And I'm certainly not someone who is immune from criticism.
I've written about this previously, in great length, but I think it warrants revisiting because the lesson within it is one I hope to keep learning from.
For those who have followed my page since its inception, undoubtedly, you've experienced a change in the content and tone of the page. When I started my page, I did it with the full awareness that I had supporters who would find what I wrote about as funny. So, I allowed a bit of safety net — and a pack mentality — to give me the "balls" to move forward with a page that was controversial. I made fun of posts in mom groups. The concept was that simple. Ridiculous posts happened. I made fun of them anonymously — well mostly anonymously. At the beginning, a handful of people knew who I was. Being 100% anonymous doesn't bode well for accountability and I never wanted to be so far removed that I didn't make an effort to be responsible about posts.
And, I convinced myself that it wasn't mean because I never mentioned names, or where the posts originated, and because people laughed and told me I was funny. And, who doesn't like to be told they're funny? And if everyone is laughing, it's not mean, right? Eh. And the more I knew that people loved the posts, the further I went. For a while even, I'd say I lost control of the page, or at the very least, control of the person I am, as I went for the laugh, often ignoring if it was harmful to someone or someones.
Eventually, I was able to step back and really evaluate what I was writing about and who it was affecting and I realized that I didn't have the heart to be that person. That writer. I wanted to make people laugh, but not at the expense of others. My page at that time had been rapidly growing. Easily 100 new likes a day... and it really skewed my perspective, and for a while, I wasn't taking responsibility.
It wasn't until I gave a platform to a new group who had emerged, and witnessed that group turn into an environment that celebrates and fosters true bullying mentality and behavior, that I felt a sting of shame for being associated in any way with its origins. The ripple effect, perhaps... even if you set off only one little ripple, it's responsible for setting all the ripples that follow.
And so yes, in hindsight I certainly have said mean things. I have made posts I now regret. And, I will not pretend that these things didn't happen. They did, and many of you witnessed them along the way, because I did it all publicly — not in secret groups.
But what sprang from that, and the harsh reality of accepting that just because my intent wasn't malicious, doesn't mean I'm absolved from the responsibility of how I made others feel, was a clarity to slowly transform my page... to channel my self therapy of writing into writing about issues and causes that actually affect people and affect quality of life... in a more positive, productive way.
And oddly, this shift is what made people angry.
It's interesting... the reaction people have to those with whom they disagree politically. My most vocal critics now, were once my largest fans by far, offering multiple comments daily until I revealed my political opinions. Only then, was I described a "bully," by the same people who were egging me on the day before. Only then, when fans felt "betrayed" by my politics, did they and do they feign moral outrage and crafted disdain.
And that too, has been a valuable lesson. Echo chambers can make you feel good, but you must have access to an outside lens and be able to put those echo chambers in perspective. My page very much became its own echo chamber... everyone laughing and agreeing; no one challenging me. I had intimidated people, and not for the reasons I would want to be found intimidating, if that was even a goal.
I learned that it's important to not be blinded by who you are surrounding yourself with simply because they agree with you. I learned that you learn the most about people by how they disagree with you.
Like me, my page is a work in progress. It ebbs and flows with my mood. Sometimes I'm impulsive, and that's reflected in my posts. Sometimes I can be dramatic or petty. There are even times where I have been catty. These are not my proudest moments, but they humble me and remind me that it's important to always be working on yourself to be the person you want to be.
And, I'm proud of my page and blog now. It took a lot of work, a lot of public embarrassment, and lot of flubs in front of everyone to create a page (and what I view as a "community") where people can discuss a variety of topics, and do so (mostly) respectfully, even when we disagree. That's not easy. It's not easy when people disagree with you, but it's important. And it's important to me that I create a safe environment on my page for people, including myself, to have those conversations, which is why I don't enable hate speech, or racist, sexist or xenophobic comments. Some things simply aren't acceptable on my page.
I can't promise I'm a perfect person. All I can promise is that I try to be a good one.