The Hardest Entry I’ve Ever Had To Write

I get embarrassed SUPER-easily. And that embarrassment haunts me for DECADES. I was trying to impress a guy in high school once with my smoking and lit the cigarette wrong looking like a dumbass and IT STILL BOTHERS ME. I honest-to-god DO NOT even remember the guy’s name, but I remember the moment and the shame and I wanted to die 1000 deaths.

So, please know, if I am openly drawing attention to something embarrassing I’ve done then I am REALLY STRUGGLING WITH IT.

But today I’m motivated by a few things.

1) Maybe other people can be brave and be open about similar hard lessons and
2) Maybe my embarrassment can save someone else from making the same mistake

I was very politely and kindly corrected about my post yesterday that using “illegal” immigrant instead of “undocumented” was problematic to the people to which I was referring.

The funny thing is that I considered the phrase “undocumented worker” which I had heard before but since I was not writing about these people in my community in their “worker” capacity, I wrote it off. And it’s not that the term “illegal immigrant” is wrong – but when I really sat down and thought about it – it is a harsh phrasing in reference to another human. “Undocumented” is much kinder if I really sit back and think about it. And in a post trying to write about kindness to humans? DUDE. I SHOULD HAVE USED THE KINDER PHRASING. DUH.

But damn, y’all. I’ll be honest. I cried. I’m so grateful that I was corrected BUT IT IS STILL VERY DIFFICULT. I was so embarrassed and worried I might have upset or offended someone that I spontaneously started sobbing in shame.

I will say this – the fact that I only had a flicker of defensiveness means I’ve really grown as a human. 10+ years ago when someone politely called me out for casually using the word “retarded” I got A LOT DEFENSIVE. It was not pretty. Eventually I sat with that and corrected my behavior but I WAS SUPER DEFENSIVE AT FIRST. And last night? When I read that very kind comment? I only had one teeny tiny flicker of defensiveness. The rest was shame and embarrassment and concern that I might have upset someone.

So, I’m learning. Still. Forgive me for any missteps along the way.

11 thoughts on “The Hardest Entry I’ve Ever Had To Write

  1. Jaime willis says:

    That was super helpful – I hadn’t consciously thought about the difference between undocumented and illegal before you wrote about them, and it totally makes sense.

    I’m sorry that you feel bad about this, but it was an honest mistake and I don’t think anyone faults a person open to constructive criticism. You are very brace for writing on these topics publicly and being involved. I appreciate it very much! Have a great Friday.

  2. The other night, I was awake thinking about something super-embarrassing that I did or said many years ago (mercifully, I can’t remember at the moment what it was), and wondering if I could get in touch with the person involved to apologize for it. It was years ago! The person has long forgotten! But in that moment, I was writhing all over again. It’s an awful feeling.
    But we’re all human, we all make mistakes, and learning from them is a good thing to do with them, since unfortunately we don’t seem to stop doing them, do we? (I remember the moment as a young adult when my mother broke something and was upset about it, and my feeling of, Wait, I’m not going to grow out of doing things like that?)

  3. Beth says:

    Thank you for the clarification. for me. Right now we are being inundated with the word illegal, both in reference to the undocumented residents and and to the acts of the inept people in government(not referring to them all- just the inept ones) You were the first person to point out to me that oriental was offensive and that Asian was the word to use. If I know the country of origin, I prefer to use that.
    Give yourself a break- Take the correction in the spirit that is forgiven. You are a great role model and teacher when it comes to things socially and politically polite (not going to use correct- I find that to be telling me what to do, polite seems to tell me to aware and caring.

  4. LC says:

    Uuhhh….I’m a little dumb because I didn’t know there was a preferred term.

    And I almost ran away from a guy in a dead sprint the other day at work when I realized I called him the wrong name. I HATE when I do that ( and I tend to do it frequently).

  5. heidi says:

    You are always teaching me. I think using your mistakes (and corrections) more than makes up for the original mistakes and I’m sure others agree with me.

  6. Emily says:

    A little piece of unsolicited advice. You are too hard on yourself. If you stress out every time you might offend someone, you will never have a moment of peace. People find new things to be offended about every day. You will never keep up. Just keep being the good person that you are and don’t sweat it so much.

  7. Deb says:

    I completely know this embarrassment/shame feeling. You are exemplary in your handling of this situation – you acknowledge your mis-take and made adjustments – in public. You have shared your learning and bared your soul to all of us, allowing us to choose how we wish to behave with this new understanding –which in my book corrects for the original error and adds more love and generosity in the world at the same time. One more thing needs to happen here, we have all forgiven you and we send you love. You can forgive yourself, that will complete the circle and you will have blessed the world.

  8. FUCK. I just did the same – I wrote a story about my dad who passed away five years ago, and used that term, instead of ‘undocumented’ immigrants (or is it just undocumented’?). Anyway, I’m glad you’re speaking up because it lets people like me learn along the way. I think most of us are learning, especially in this chaotic time (at least, I like to think we are – *sighs*).

    As for those feelings of shame, even those from years ago? I totally get you.

  9. Grace says:

    Your thoughts about poor people in dangerous situations’ inability to legally enter is sensitive and affecting. And yet. As you also noted, the terminology “illegal” is not incorrect. That terminology isn’t going away. Maybe being overly sensitive to terminology allows us to soothe our consciences about the realities these folks face. “Undocumented” is at least in part incorrect terminology. Folks who enter the US without US-Legal/Approved paperwork *are* documented in many cases. Witness the folks living (SHAMEFULLY) in detention centers. They’re certainly documented. But not legal.

  10. Angie says:

    I’ve come back to this post several times since you published it, not because of the semantics involved with undocumented/illegal aliens, but because of the emotions knotted up with what was originally meant to be a helpful clarification made by a reader. I think what strikes me so much is what I perceive to be a real sense of failure on your part for not using “correct” terminology–in other words, you’re beating yourself up for something you simply weren’t aware of, and that’s the true problem, not your verbiage.

    That being said, I have to ask WHY? Why do you feel that it’s okay to be so hard on yourself? Would you ever shame another person the way you shame yourself? We all know the answer to that–you would never talk to someone the way you talk to yourself, and that’s heartbreaking on so many levels.

    I hope you know that I’m coming from a place of kindness when I point this out. You are an amazing woman who has a heart that’s bigger than anyone could imagine, and yet you leave yourself so little room in it. I have been reading you from the beginning, and though I realize we only “see” a small part of you on this blog, what we do see is a wonderful, beautiful, inspiring woman. I wish you could see that, too.

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