When I was a single, young adult, I had a female dog. She was a beautiful energetic dog with a collie and golden retriever blood and long blond hair. She was sweet and when she’d meet another dog, she’d just fall down on the ground, roll on her bag and prove she meant no harm. She was passive but once they were done sniffing and figuring out social status, she would play and run around and slobber all over the other dog.
I thought I was exactly the same. I don’t want to cause problems. I’m a people pleaser. I thought I would just roll over and let the chips fall. I didn’t care what paint people color their houses, how the water bill is divided between gardeners and non-gardeners, or how many common meals to hold. I thought I’d just be cool and focus on what matters – that the community is committed to being healthy and happy and considerate of each others.
I was so wrong. I had an inkling that I can’t stand by when something is off and may need some intervention. I had no idea that I had certain standards and morals and values until I moved into a cohousing community. I had no idea I was really a warrior inside. That I had the ability to face the crowd and demand action.
Looking back I had other tests in my lifetime. It’s hard for me to stand up for myself but for others it is another story. In high school I had two verbal fights. I think they were both my sophomore year. The first was after listening to one girl, who had bullied me in 8th grade, go on and on criticizing everyone else all year in one class where we had too much free time. I snapped, stood up and yelled at her to stop being so mean to everyone. I think I may have even used the B word. Then, I ran off and cried after being so outspoken.
Later that spring, my friend and her super cute boyfriend broke up. In math class, again where we had too much time to just do our work, one girl was laughing at my friend for the break up. Talking about her behind her back to her friends in the class (they probably were happy the guy as no a free agent). I couldn’t take it. I think I had also heard this girl bad mouth people all year. Again, I stood up, yelled that that as cruel to cut someone down when they were having a sad day. No B word, but I left the room and cried the rest of the day in the bathroom.
Later my friends and I TP – ed her house which I don’t think you can get away with in cohousing. It actually ended up being a fun night where I got a new boyfriend since he had been putting TP around her house for years. Unfortunately, years later when I wanted to live in Sicily and couldn’t find any information, she was the only person on Earth who had lived there. I called her up and she as nice as can be and gave me some book suggestions and advice that really happened. The lack of Internet led to a grown up moment. She doesn’t know about the TP but if she reads this, I”m sorry.
I also have a family history of speaking out. I know it is easier to do nothing, especially when you are unsure. Am I over-reacting? Is it really that bad?
New Yorkers are famous for turning the other way. So when I was in middle school we were on the Long Island rail train after a fun visit to the city. We would go once a year when we visited my grandparents in Long Island. My friend came up for the week too. My mother brought us into town and now on the trip back, some older teenage boys were joking around and locked their friend in between cars. We were in standing room only near by and suddenly Mom yelled “Let him in” The boys did. Then, to the horror of me and my friend, she started yelling at everyone. (Note: She was a native New Yorker – born and raised in Brooklyn) “You New Yorkers! How could you let them do that! It is dangerous!” Something like that but I couldn’t believe she was trying to tell the passive famous New Yorkers to not continue to look forward or read their newspapers.
I miss my Mom but now I’m so proud of her. You tell them! And I must have challenged her when I stood up against the crowd. I know many feel I overreacted or made a mistake and that’s fine. But I couldn’t live with the idea of not doing anything. I couldn’t live with the fact that maybe I was right – this could be wrong, this could cause damage, this could hurt someone who has no voice.
So, listen up train passengers, I won’t roll over!