My daughter is about to cross the threshold of adolescence, and from my parental observation deck, I reflect on the vicissitudes of her social life. One day she cries; the next day, she is elated. Nostalgia sets in. I don't envy her.
Beginning in junior high, the most demanding subject, undeniably, was drama. Not drama class, but performances between friends: the publicly-humiliating bickerings over a bewildered boyfriend, kids befriending and un-friending the same person within an hour, the bullying, and the back-stabbing.
This menacing cycle, punctuated by unforeseen "sick days" due to emotional breakdowns, will derail even the most dedicated of students from their academic pursuits. Kudos to the student who triumphs amidst the distracting gossip and tumult forever wafting in the background like bad elevator music. (I know, it happened to me in sixth grade. Can you say straight As to barely passing within the same semester?)
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Fortunately, many positive incidents also occurred during this rite of passage. I learned the art of navigating tricky relationship currents, and thankfully my friendships matured after high school. College marked the gateway into stable relationships based on mutual respect, affection and shared interests as the tendrils of drama disappeared almost entirely. My friends were my friends and those cunning, jealous, insecure girls who tried to wreak havoc or stir the pot were out.
Not. In. My. Life. You. Don’t.
Grad school was a test of grit and diligence. Cultivated friendships with classmates and professors were based on mature, courteous and intellectually-gratifying interactions. By this stage of life, mind-games and pettiness had become a remnant of the past.
And after many years of dedication and nurture, home life is pleasantly stable and drama-free. I am lucky. Although my husband and I enjoy spirited discussions and feisty debates every now and again, theatrics don’t encroach on the internal dynamics of our marital intimacy. We both read a lot in the genre of self-growth, and devote ourselves wholeheartedly to self-improvement. The kids witness this and try to emulate, despite their natural inclinations to punch each other’s lights out.
So it befuddles me to see full-fledged grown-ups behaving like self-absorbed, small-minded teenagers, perpetuating childhood pretensions well into adulthood. Always trying to pick a fight. Peeved adults mercilessly belittle one another for cutting in line at the grocery store. (Maybe he’s just oblivious and didn’t notice you standing there?) Irate drivers flick each other off for not giving the right-of-way. (Maybe that driver is from out of town and doesn’t know better?) And on my bi-weekly Publix raids, I watch self-righteous customers stampede over to the store manager to complain about a clerk’s lassiez-faire attitude or incompetence. (Maybe her mom’s in the hospital and she’s distracted?)
Really? Is every incident worth fighting for? And what about the medical repercussions suffered from leading a life fraught with conflict, anger and negativity? I refuse to partake in it and compromise my consistently low blood pressure.
Unless a constitutional right is threatened, noble cause merits advocacy or a loved one is concerned, I will not engage in battle.
And curiously, my friend-count dwindles in direct correlation to my emotional health, bereft of melodrama and resentments. Oh well. Maybe I'm too boring. There’s only time and space for a select few---the grounded, well-intentioned ones; only those who are genuinely happy in their own skin.
Because toxic relationships will not contaminate my peace of mind; I’ve been immunized with decades of booster shots.
My days of drama have long vanished. And I live in peace.