You're standing in a group of friends, everyone chatting together. Someone remarks to another, "Wow, where'd you get that big bruise?" The person's eyes grow wide with excitement, ready to tell the tale. "Well, I was putting some boxes up into the attic storage and I slipped and banged my arm really hard against the ladder steps. Isn't the color ugly?" Immediately, another friend chimes in: "Oh, that's nothing. Look at this cut I got the other day while trying to fix one of my kitchen drawers..." And before you know it, a full-blown competition has begun, with everyone breaking out their cuts, bruises, scars, and general war wounds.
You know the people I'm talking about. Maybe you're one of them, or maybe you're married to one of them, or maybe you gave birth to one of them. Whatever the case, you know who they are - the ones who will always try to one-up the people around them in terms of, well, suffering really. If you're not one of these people, chances are good that you usually roll your eyes when these people really get started. But really, what's the harm? It's all in good fun.
Can you tell that I'm one of these people? Yeah, I totally am. Of course, with me, it tends to show up less often in physical suffering than in mental or emotional suffering. I am the quintessential "never too busy to tell you how busy I am" person. When you come to me talking about a tough deadline you have, I will talk about how lucky you should count yourself to not have my upcoming four deadlines. When you come talking about the stack of paperwork your boss just handed you, I will respond by listing my three separate piles of ungraded essays. And when you talk about having to work overtime three days in a row, I will tell you how many Saturdays and Sundays I spend in my classroom preparing lessons and classwork.
I don't consider this a positive quality, really, and it's something I'm working on trying to improve. It comes across as insensitive and self-centered, which is pretty accurate. I'm focusing on myself and how much worse I have it than you, instead of listening and empathizing. That said, there is something to the idea of commiseration and the camaraderie that comes along with a group of people all suffering similar plights. So, really, it's a fine line to walk.
Where am I going with all this? Just a warning that you should prepare yourselves for a heap of complaining over this next year as I deal with my first full-time year in the classroom. But I also think you should all know that I LOVE my school so far. I LOVE all my colleagues so far. I LOVE the classes I'm planning so far. I'm excited, in spite of my fear, in spite of the knowledge that this year will be very challenging. So yes, you'll read, "I'm so tired!" or "I work all the time!" But I'll try to remember to balance those with how happy I am to be overtired and overworked.
What do you complain about? Do you complain too much, or just as much as you need to "vent your spleen"? And, most importantly, will you roll your eyes at me when I complain?
That's what I thought.