It’s difficult when you recognize your weaknesses, and gut-wrenching to hear others describe them to you. But even more difficult than that is figuring out how to make the changes you know you need to make.
As I wrote in my previous blog post, it’s been a year of significant changes in my life. Lots of new freedoms, new opportunities, new friends… but that also has come with a pile of new challenges and obstacles. And while in some ways I hesitate to address these things publicly, I’m hoping that maybe it’s the first step in overcoming them.
Recently I participated in a Zombie Apocalypse hosted by The Human Path, and in that blog post I documented, more or less, the events as they unfolded from my perspective. What I didn’t document, in part because it didn’t really fit with the narrative, and in part because it was painful, was how the ZA event affected me. More than a week later, it’s still banging around in my head, causing some painful reflections and difficult conversations.
The reality is: I failed.
I started the day with great excitement and trepidation, bringing a very strong, positive attitude. Soon after the event began, when everything went against expectations and fell apart, my attitude changed dramatically. Losing our team leader (who is also my best friend, and I had looked forward to participating in this with him) and then losing all of our gear and clothing, were two giant blows to my mood. In hindsight, I should have seen both coming, but truthfully, I was taken completely by surprise. The whole ZA, in fact, played out a lot differently than I had envisioned – where I thought it would be more about fun and strategy, it turned more into a human drama featuring two starring players: Stress and Discomfort.
The scenario also started awkwardly with some hiccups, and while many people took it in stride and were even amused by the way things began, I felt frustrated and a bit defeated from the start, and I foolishly let it show.
A few hours in, when we had our first confrontation with “El Sal”, a few things happened that brought all of my anger, stress, frustration and disappointment to the surface, and I just lost it in front of everyone. It was ugly, and I regret how I acted.
After that, I had lost all credibility with the fellow participants, and from that point forward, I had no voice within my team, and had earned none of the respect that could have allowed me to step up to the plate when I had something to contribute. At a couple junctures, I believe I could have led my team (or the remnants of it), out of impending disaster and gotten us back on track. But I could read the writing on the wall, and I didn’t even speak up.
None of that is anyone else’s fault. It’s mine. I screwed up and paid the price…. maybe my whole team paid for it, because I had essentially given up. While I continued to run with the team, tried my best to keep my game face, and busted my ass to not get caught by zombies and meet our objectives, no longer was I really a part of a team. I was just zombie bait.
And the worst, in some ways, was yet to come. When I found myself sitting in a dry creek bed, already feeling defeated and embarrassed, it became impossible to muster up the strength to fight the combination of exhaustion, dehydration, hunger and near-freezing temperatures.
So I quit.
Given the situation I was in, I still stand by my decision. It was the logical and appropriate decision for where I was mentally and physically at that time.
Still, I failed. Even though it was a struggle for everyone who was there with me, I was the only one who couldn’t last through the night.
What I learned is that attitude is everything.
As the days go on, I’m trying to understand why I failed, and how I can do better the next time. It didn’t take the ZA for me to recognize that under stress or when my anxiety buttons get pushed, I tend to overreact in a dramatic fashion, which in turn strains my personal relationships. What the event did accomplish was demonstrate in a pretty harsh but eye-opening way how much my attitude and actions impacts how others perceive me, and how damaging it can be.
My response to stress is not intentional, nor is it how I want to react. I’m guessing that, like all behaviors, it stems from when I was a child. When someone got angry at me, or when things got out of control, it would cause me to panic. All I wanted was to make everything better and get reassurance that it would all be okay. As an adult, I haven’t ‘unlearned’ those behaviors. What I need to do now is find a way to short-circuit that cycle, and learn not to panic, or at least channel it into less destructive responses.
What’s funny is that I’ve learned how not to panic in situations that don’t involve other people, such as when I locked myself out of my house while in my underwear. Somehow I need to figure out a way to apply those tricks to all situations…. and while I don’t really know how to do that yet, I’m determined, in that dig-my-heels-in kind of way, to make it happen.
In the end, the zombie apocalypse was stressful, miserable, and I don’t have tons of great things to say about it. But if somehow I can figure out how to become a better person and keep the relationships I’ve built over the past year, maybe I will be able to look back on my participating and won’t think it was a total failure.
Thanks to SCG and RTS for helping me get to the point where this blog post could happen.