As I near my the end of my internship *cue choir of angels*, I find myself in the unique position of needing a teaching job in January. Normally an August to June gig, trying to find a job for the spring is equal parts luck and well-timed maternity leave.
Trying to stay hopeful, I recalled a conversation with the principal of the middle school where I spent my first placement. When last we spoke, she insinuated that there may be an opening earlier than expected, though stopped short of making any promises. I figured that it couldn’t hurt to follow-up and drafted an email to that effect. When perusing for typos, I couldn’t help but notice how passive I sounded. Phrases such as “just checking” and “just wondering” littered the short composition.
I was appalled. When did I start ‘just’ing? It isn’t only me, either. We’ve developed a culture of passivity in which seeking information or *gasp* asking someone to do their job is tantamount to bothering someone. How many times have I apologized to a customer service representative for asking a question, knowing full well that answering questions is the very nature of their profession?
I’m reminded of a spoken word poem I encountered years ago by Lily Myers. The poet, a college student, describes the tradition in her family for men to grow larger as the women shrink in both stature and personality. These silent victims have learned to accommodate, believing themselves unworthy to occupy too much space. Her chilling words describe how this habit has followed her into adulthood:
“I asked five questions in genetics today, and all of them started with the word, ‘Sorry…'”
It’s horrifying to consider that I, a historically confident human being, would devalue my worth to a point that I negate my own words. I rewrote the email, professionally but in no uncertain terms asking for the status on the tentative job offer she extended. I vowed to never again shrink behind a passive voice.
I also got the job.