After a year-and-a-half at Harmonix, I finally had my first real tiff with a co-worker today — worse, one I actually like quite a bit. Well, even the fairly mild “tiff” may be too strong a word; basically, I unknowingly acted kind of like a schmuck, and my friend/co-worker took the “unknowingly” part of that situation away from me.
I don’t like ever feeling like anyone’s upset with me ever. It’s one of my least favorite things in the world. I know it happens, of course: I’m human, I fuck up, I piss people off or hurt their feelings or what have you. But I try very very hard to make sure that happens as infrequently as I can, both because I genuinely don’t want others to feel upset because of something I’ve done and because it makes me feel all icky inside, like my guts have been coated in a spicy self-recrimination salsa and heavily breaded with angst crumbs.
I have to say, though, that I feel like I handled today’s not-quite-a-tiff like an actual, honest-to-Jebus adult. You might think to yourself: “Well, Allen, you’re 38 years old, so you totally should be handling these sorts of things like an adult.” And you’d be right to think I should, yet incredibly wrong to think that I do.
Today, however, I listened to what my friend had to say, and I apologized (even as he said an apology wasn’t necessary — to me, it was: I’d acted like a douche and should, therefore, apologize). I told him I’d try to be better about this sort of thing in the future and asked him to call me on it if I do it again.
Then I made him hug it out with me, because that’s what secure, adult men do after spats.
Now I have to figure out how to apply that same level of calm, coherent listening-and-discussing-without-letting-it-destroy-my-fragile-self-esteem thing to my more personal interactions. Even after twelve years of spending every day together, I still let the tiniest argument with Terry (or most anyone close to me) send me into a flaming spiral of depression and self-flagellation. When Terry’s upset with me — which doesn’t happen incredibly often, but still more often that I’d like, as I seem to be a fairly infuriating person to live with (sorry, Terry!) — I take it as if my entire being is at fault. When I piss her off, it’s as if I’m the universe’s lowest form of bottom-of-sneaker scum. I have exactly one feeling which even remotely compares to that awfulness, and that’s the feeling that I’ve disappointed my daughters. I’m honestly not sure which is worse.
Maybe now that I have more proof that I can handle the disapproval of others and know that it won’t kill me, that I can look it in the face and not shrink from it (at least to some limited degree with people I like and respect), I can put that same be-a-damn-grownup principle to work the next time I make Terry want to chuck a shoe at my head.
I have a feeling I won’t have to wait long to give it a try.
 OK, I like 95%+ of my co-workers, so that’s not a surprise.