It sounds like an apology, but it’s not. That statement might as well be, “I’m sorry you’re crazy” or “I feel sorry for myself for having to deal with you.” Apologizing is hard. But why is it? It’s a simple concept: you do wrong, you say you’re sorry. Yet most of us have a hard time apologizing properly.
As I write this, it occurs to me the irony of exploring this subject, as I’m rarely wrong and therefore hardly find the need to apologize. Yet there has been the rare occasion where I’ve had to right a wrong. I have to think all the way back to freshman year in college for an example of rectifying an awkward situation.
Freshman year in college in itself is quite awkward. We leave the comfort of being kings and queens as seniors in high school (though if I’m honest, I hated high school), to being a tiny ant in a massive lecture hall not understanding a word the professor is saying. Was that just me?
When I left high school, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grow up. It is laughable to expect someone in her teens, whose brain has not fully developed, to plan the rest of her life by simply choosing a major. (Side note: researchers believe the human brain doesn’t fully develop till at least age 20, so it wasn’t just me whose brain wasn’t fully developed.)
But at the age of 17, I followed my academic advisor’s direction, and chose to take a Psychology class. I liked it quite a bit, so I thought I was well on my way to becoming a psychologist.
My second semester of freshman year, I took a course called “Abnormal Psychology.” I loved learning about personality disorders such as Dissociative Identity, Narcissism, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders.
Of course, I felt I could diagnose people after almost a year of Freshmen Psychology classes. I used to accompany my first year of Psych classes with watching copious amounts of the show “Criminal Minds” in order to freshen up my ability to recognize psychopaths in the street. I finally had to stop watching the show when I determined a guy I shared an elevator with wanted to skin me alive simply by the way he was looking at the elevator buttons.
While I loved my Abnormal Psych class, I hated my professor. He seemed like a miserable almost-albino man who needed therapy himself. I can’t recall exactly why I hated him, but I’m sure he deserved it. One day, my friends and I gathered in the cafeteria between classes.
We were discussing our nazi professor, and to drive my point home, I referred to him as a pig. A severe insult indeed. To my horror, my pig prof was sitting behind me, and I feared he heard me.
Though I was worldly at the age of 18, I hadn’t quite mastered putting my money where my mouth is. At nearly 34, I still haven’t. I was devastated he heard me. I thought he was an awful person, but not enough to hear a beloved student calling him a “pig” of all things.
I lost a few nights’ sleep, and decided I must humble myself and apologize to my professor. I practiced and practiced, and once satisfied enough with my speech, it was time to devour the humble pie awaiting me.
After class, I stood in line nervously to speak to him. When my turn came, I said hello, then began to explain how awkward I felt, that I did not mean to be disrespectful, that I am terribly sorry for calling him a pig in the cafeteria the other day.
My professor looked back at me and dismissively said, “I didn’t hear you call me a pig.”
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