Pause before you Punish

I have to admit, I’m guilty of being an ass online. It’s easy when you’re alone at the keyboard, fuming about the latest whatever the problem of the day happens to be. You can hide behind the screen and chew someone  a new one without having to deal with the consequences of flaming a stranger. I’ve done it, and I’ve even complained about others doing it, but I still find myself being a dick. I know I shouldn’t overreact like that, because more often than not, there is a perfectly logical explanation for the problem at hand… I just don’t have the patience to wait to find out what it is.

What  brought this to mind is the recent review I read about the restaurant I manage. Mindless drivel from someone who didn’t have the patience to relax and enjoy the evening but rather chose to judge the scene from a singular moment in time, ignoring the fact that such an evening must be looked at from the whole. This genius’ biggest complaint was that our live music only lasted an hour. They were disappointed and needed to blame someone for disappointing them. I don’t know what they were expecting, but what this person didn’t realize was that after the first hour of music, the band took a break and then came back 15 minutes later and played for another hour after they returned. This person deprived herself of a potentially fun night because she was impatient and neglected to gather more information. Judgement based on incomplete facts is not only ignorant, but is a great beginning for additional boneheaded assumptions further down the road. It’s almost like looking at a blue sky and assuming it never rains.

This kind of impatience upsets me. Probably because I’m guilty of it myself. We tend to be irritated by traits we see in others that we don’t like about ourselves. That’s me.

It reminded me of my first year on the road for my Vanishing America Project. I was constantly online marketing the project and checking the social media and bulletin boards for mention of my work. Every report, every article, every mention I could find was 100% positive. Save for one. I forget the address of the online travel forum, but I remember the comment very well. You see, I was traveling the country in a very nice motorhome, towing a kick-ass Land Rover Defender behind me. I was sponsored by a friend who helped me get outfitted with top of the line gear. The comment came from a guy who apparently never saw my work or read my stories and had no idea what The Vanishing America Project was all about. His comment was based solely on the “cover of my book”, so to speak, that he assumed I must be a Trust Fund Kid and was spoiled to be able to travel in such luxury and “vacation” all the time while everyone else had to work. If this guy knew half the difficulty I had keeping the project going, or looked at all the information and imagery I’d been gathering, maybe he’d have had a different perspective. It takes a LOT of work to make something like this look easy. And I worked my ass off. It was a classic example of judging a book by its cover without ever reading the inside. Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to respond to his comment (though it would have been fun to rip him a new one.) His comment was attacked by a handful of other people on the forum defending me and the project — people who had never met me, but who had taken the time to learn about my work — so I just sat back and let them ream him for me.

But, therein lies the problem. This person has no idea what I was doing and because of the other readers coming to my defense, he probably never will. I’m glad I have fans and I’m glad the fans stood up for the project, but at the same time I can’t help but think that’s one potential fan lost to oblivion. Not a big deal on the surface, but I have a conflict within myself as to whether one loss is going to affect me or not. I keep thinking, “Could this guy have a key to greater exposure?” Of course I’ll never know, but those are the thoughts that keep me up at night. Thoughts… no, doubts… that keep me awake with anxiety second-guessing every decision I make.

It’s difficult to give up control and let things run the way they want to run, but sometimes you have to. Sometimes it’s best to just sit back and let things work themselves out. There is a reason that Patience is a virtue.

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