Internalizing The Negative

There’s this little thing about me and my mother that drives my sister up the wall. We cry at everything. Lifetime movies and doctor shows are no-brainers. Of course we cry at those. You know that Sarah MacLaughlin commercial? That was traumatizing. The most recent commercial to send me sobbing was this one after all of, like, 15 seconds.

I think the word they normally use for that is empathy.

A few weeks ago, Mom and I watched The Imitation Game, which is the story of Alan Turing and his compatriots cracking the Germans’ code in WWII. [Mini-spoilers, being real life and all] Near the end of the movie, Turing goes into his room in this lonely haze and, per the movie version of events, commits suicide.

My reaction to end of the movie, starting the with scene of Turing entering his room, actually scared my mother. I didn’t stop crying for probably 30 minutes. Whether it was my personal baggage or Mr. Cumberbatch’s portrayal of utter despair, I felt it through my entire being.

Another trigger for me is events involving aircrafts, especially combined with the death of children.

Something people have a hard time grasping is the fact that this industry is my true “hometown.” I grew up seat 24F on an Airbus 319. I remember 9/11 with far more detail than most kids who were 10 at the time. I can’t forget watching the towers fall, or the look on my language arts teacher’s face. She didn’t own a TV. She didn’t own a car. She was from Newark, and she found out from strangers on the bus as she rode to work.

I recently learned about an accident two years to the day before I was born. 11 children died, 44 survived. It was Children’s Day on United Airlines and each child’s fare was a penny. Each lucky penny I put in my left shoe will mean something more now. My birthday will mean something more now.

I remember being 16 and seeing my friend’s body on the floor of our high school bathroom. I can’t forget her pink polo shirt, or the special assembly we had. My school had 160 students. I held the door to the auditorium for most of them, while her best friend stood beside me. The teachers came in last. I walked into the auditorium while they kept Andrea in the hall. I will never forget the eerie silence that fell when she screamed.

Empathetic people internalize things. That’s how empathizing works. It also makes us extremely aware of any failures we suffer. We’re very good at telling what people are thinking or feeling, but we tend to feel the negative things the most. This is why trying to tell me, in particular, not to take something personally is like asking me to cut off my own head.

Things in my professional life are getting very personal, while things in my personal life are getting oddly professional. I’m not sure how to turn it around when I feel like the whole world’s suddenly rotated backwards and somehow I’m to blame. Someone got angry with me, and I reacted impulsively by yelling, which I don’t think I’ve done since 7th grade. I apologized. Apparently, that wasn’t enough. Now everything I do is wrong, from making jokes to wanting to making decisions. I feel like no matter what I do, I will only fail. And here I am, in one of my 3 favorite cities, trying to pull myself out of this stupor.

Nothing’s working. I have images of US 1549 and UA 232 rolling through my head. I have arguments and stress and unanswered emails and the weighty fear of overstepping my bounds as an employee and as a student.

But that’s just today. The last four days, I’ve been okay. Today I’m not, and my mind keeps going back to the worst things I’ve ever experienced, the argument from last week, and the 3 major failures I may have in the next 6 days. I don’t know why. I really don’t know why.

God, I really just wanted one thing from my dear Charlotte this week. I wanted to be happy.


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