Voting For The Wrong Options

You know how embarrassing moments in your life like to randomly replay in your subconscious and make you feel terrible for existing? I don’t know why that happens to humans. Maybe there are people with really high self-esteem who replay cool moments in their life and feel really proud. If you are that person, good for you. And nobody likes you.

I have a tendency to embarrass myself in moments when I think I am absolutely 100% correct and there is no way I am wrong and also everyone should obviously agree with me and then there is this moment where I publicly state how correct I am, and it turns out, in fact, I was wrong. And after that initial embarrassment, years later I have to relive that moment whenever my brain feels like it. Here are some of those moments.

In some cases, it’s good to assume you are not always 100% right. These moments and realizations give you humility and also remind you that the anger or frustration you’re feeling about the wrongness of other people isn’t justified! So your negative feelings just dissipate, and all of that annoyance leaves. Then you have to face the people whom you were just accusing of being wrong and feel ashamed. Fun!

My being wrong is an important lesson that I must relearn every now and then. For example, I mistook an end date for a class to be earlier when I was told that it actually ended two weeks later than I had thought, I was so upset. I was working four jobs at once (I will write about this eventually of how this is a bad idea) and the idea of teaching two more weeks of this class just set me over the edge. I felt used. I felt betrayed. I also had planned for a specific number of lessons for this course and the thought of having two more weeks to plan and execute lessons left me mentally exhausted.

So, I outpour all my feelings to the resident social worker at this job and she listens and then shows me that in fact, I was given the correct end date at the beginning of the course, and I had written the wrong date as the end date. My mind was blown. It never occurred to me that I had made the mistake. All the annoyance and stress I was holding on about last-minute planning two weeks’ worth of lessons went away.

So, sometimes it’s nice to be wrong. Sure, I was embarrassed that I was wrong, but it’s easy to get over that because humans aren’t always perfect. I also happily didn’t blame anyone for the bad planning; instead I used I-feel statements (thanks, therapy!) where I just expressed how this felt to me.

I bring this up because in one of the Facebook groups I’m in there is this lady that, like me, assumed she was correct, and wrote angry emails blaming co-workers about how could they make mistakes. Then, it turned out that her co-workers had not made mistakes and it was all her fault and she felt really bad. Like, image you’re just this guy George in accounting and some random co-worker emails you and says “What the fuck George!! Way to drop the ball!! You totally suck!!” and then you speak to your manager Gary and Gary also got this angry email and you’re both like, what is this co-worker of ours so angry about? And then it turns out that it was Michelle herself all along who had put the kiwis in the cupboard, not the fridge, and that’s why the office smells like B.O.

Boy, all I can say is, I’m glad I’m not Michelle!

One of these embarrassing moments I relive is kind of cute. I think it was mostly embarrassing because I was in elementary school when it happened. You know how mean kids can be. For example, some kids thought it would be funny to say my last name as “shorts”. So mean, right?

OK, I know some people actually got bullied. Luckily the worst torture I had in elementary school was all in my head, and how I viewed myself. I was my own bully all along! Thanks, undiagnosed anxiety.

Anyway, so I’m in 5th grade or whatever and we have a meeting with a fireman come to school to talk to us about fire safety. You know, like telling small children not to play with matches and that firecrackers are dangerous and don’t set your pets on fire. Fine. Cool.

So the fireman asks us, “What do you think will happen when there is a fire in your house and there is smoke filling in your room? Will you wake up?”

My automatic thought was, Duh. I was a light sleeper. I complained (and tortured) my little sister because she would be breathing too loudly at night. Of course a room full of smoke would wake me up!

I put up my hand with confidence.

Then I had that sinking feeling when I looked around and nobody else had raised their hand.

I was sitting in the front row.

“Ok, so you think you’ll wake up?” the fireman asked, gesturing for me to talk about my obviously wrong answer.

If I knew the word fuck back then, I would’ve said it.

I did answer that yes, if there were smoke filling my room, it would make sense to wake up.

Then the fireman agreed with me that yes, you would think so, but actually, smoke makes you sleepy and doesn’t alert you if there’s a fire and that’s why you need smoke detectors!

What an important fact to remember forever, right? Lucky me it was burned into my memory.

I remember thinking that I was the only one who didn’t know that fact. But I guess looking back there were kids who agreed with me and juts didn’t raise their hands. So I’m glad I raised my hand, because I learned something.

So there.

Sweet story, right?

Here’s one that’s not so sweet. It takes place when I was in college, which is actually the dumbest time of (most) people’s lives. Because at least in elementary school, I knew I didn’t know anything and admitted it. In college, I felt like an adult who had life figured out and was having a blast.

I am kind to my past-college self. I had fun and made friends and attended lots of social events that I never had growing up. One of my roommates thought I was cool. That’s never happened to me.

Part of college life for me was being in Jewish social groups like Chabad and Hillel. The Chabad in Stony Brook when I was there (2007–2011) was not at its best. For example, after a Shabbaton (weekend away) at UPenn, every participant had to come to a seminar about the dangers of excessive drinking, especially when you are of not legal age. Because students were reported to just go wild and drink a ton with their cool new UPenn friends. The best part of the seminar was that if you didn’t attend, you would be expelled.

Guess who didn’t drink and actually just spent Shabbat with the Chabad family and her friends? Guess who didn’t want to ever risk getting expelled from college?

So, understandably, I liked Hillel more. I was on the student board even! One year I was treasurer which was hilarious because I was so bad at math. (I was an English Lit major for a reason!) Anyway, while being busy on the board of Hillel, we had to pick speakers for our Shabbatons. We had this awesome Hillel director named Joy who definitely embodied her name. She was cool and older (she was probably in her late 20’s, which is ancient to a 19-year-old) and was so organized. One particular Shabbaton she gave two options for speakers who would receive an award for community service on campus.

“One option for a speaker is this lady who is an alumni and she does Jewish things and fundraising. You’ve never met her.” Joy told us.

Strong start, I think.

“The other option is my loving husband, who immigrated from the Ukraine to the US to escape anti-Semitism and has built a beautiful life here in New York. You see him every week and he always helps out with anything we need.”

Everyone (except me) on the board smiles and exchange meaningful looks of their love and approval of Joy’s husband.

“So, by majority vote,” Joy continues, “which speaker do you want to come for Friday night dinner?”

Who do you think I voted for?

I immediately felt terrible. I vaguely recall Joy asking me why I chose the lady speaker, and I muttered something about giving to the community or some bullshit. I couldn’t meet her eyes.

I still think about that moment, choosing the “wrong” option. I didn’t consider Joy’s feelings, nor think the issue through. Maybe I was drawn to the idea of a female speaker. Whatever the reason was, I still feel bad for that moment. I learned to think before voting. Especially of everyone’s feelings.

The whole point of the fireman story and not voting for Joy’s husband is to remind you that it’s important to take a breath and think: I may be wrong. And to consider how people would react to your choices. And hey, when I make mistakes, it’s human. It’s okay. And it’s forever embarrassing.

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Alana Schwartz

Alana Schwartz

English teacher by trade, story writer for fun