Social Outcast or Toxic people?

10/26/2021

It was our daily mid-morning conference call at my online school. This normally consists of announcements, student led presentations, and then a short Q&A session afterwards.

On this day, one of the directors decided to have the students take a moment to just pause or ponder on things. We did a moment of gratitude the week before but on this day, he asked the students to take a moment to reflect on a memorable time or event when you had fun with your friends.

As I sat there looking at the other faces on the zoom call, I was completely blank.

The realization that I do not have any of those kinds of memories because I have never had any true friends was at the forefront instead.

To say that thought bothered me is an understatement.

I have dwelled on it several days now.

The reason that I do not have friends is not due to a lack of trying.

I am friendly; not tremendously outgoing but I can engage in conversations with others and find mutual interests.

I am a caring person; others tend to come to me with their problems or looking for a shoulder to lean on.

I am a good listener; not judging the person and listening intently with full focus on them.

I am honest; when others ask me for the truth, that is what they always get from me.

I am sociable; if the situation or environment requires participation then I give it my best shot, even if it is something I am not good at, I will make an effort.

These are some of the basics of being friendly and engaging. Then what is it? Why is it hard to make, keep, and maintain lasting friendships?

I know over the past several years it was a concern of mine so much so that it became a part of my ongoing therapy sessions. I was concerned that maybe my interpersonal communication was lacking something.

We discussed boundaries and being passive when it came to relationships. The therapist realized that I had already resolved the issues of how to set boundaries with others and how to be upfront at the beginning. She stated that maybe my honesty was too honest and made others feel uncomfortable. My only reply was “Then why ask me to be honest, if that is not what they wanted?”

I do know the difference between having constructive dialogue versus being critical with my words. I make an effort to find the strengths within others and boost them up, if I can. I no longer offer my assistance freely, because people tend to abuse it and expect me to solve their problems without putting in any effort of their own.

It has taken many years post-divorce and retirement to fix those issues. This applied to not only people I meet but also within my own family. I am no longer willing to go above and beyond to please or make others happy just to keep things status quo.

Maybe that’s it.

People meet me and realize that my bullshit meter is now always on. I do not take a lot of crap from people anymore. I refuse to be a pushover ever again. I am probably coming off as harsh, no nonsense and a little too serious.

On the advice from my therapist and my family, I have tried several times to join groups with similar interests to see if I can make friends.

Under that advice, I joined a cake decorating club here in my city. That fell apart about 4 months in.

The founders of the group caused some controversy at a cake event we all attended yearly. Their actions put a bad light on the group, and the main person publicly denied having any prior knowledge of the incident. In other words, she lied.

Yet, we had discussed the very topic at the meeting a few weeks before that event. Most of us did not participate because we were unsure about it or did not agree with them. The group leader was looking for volunteers to participate with her and only got a few takers.

I did not join in and was doing my own thing at this event as I always did before.

After the incident took place, they got called out on it by the director of the event when it happened. They were threatened with being permanently banned from competing. That whole thing just got out of hand.

I personally apologized to the director after the incident for not making her aware of what they were potentially going to do. I was, as were other members, under the impression that the group founder had gotten permission from the director, that was not the truth.

Up until the day before the event they were still discussing it. Even at the last minute, before the event, they had posted on our open Facebook group that they were looking for a few more volunteers.

Later, the rumor was that the director was sent a screen shot of the post by someone in the group. It was proof that the person leading the volunteers had been dishonest about prior knowledge. I had already left the group because of the controversy. It was assumed that I sent it to her, but it was not me. I heard about the screenshot much later. I was staying away from that mess and became an outcast by most of the group.

When you are in a small niche of people that run in the same circle of events, then it is inevitable that you will see one another. We have been at most of the same training or learning events since then. Even after 5 years, they are still unfriendly towards me. It was disheartening at first, my feelings, ego, and self-esteem was hurt, but now I just ignore them and focus on what I am there to do.

11/6/2021 – Continuation

Along that same line of thought, I joined a Women Veterans group, attending the weekly meetings quite regularly for almost 2 years.

Then I started a new position as an administrative assistant for an organization that helped homeless veterans find stable housing and work. I became the work representative to attend the same weekly veterans’ meetings.

I assumed things were going just fine until the day a female volunteer approached me and told me to leave the group. Once again, my ego and feelings got hurt.

I did not know that the woman that I had replaced was friends with some of the other veterans outside of the group. She had attended some of the same meetings and was always friendly towards me.

The volunteer pulled me aside one day and told me that other members in the group did not want me to be there anymore. She stated I had “taken” this person’s job and was talking about her. I had no idea what was going on. I never even got the chance to defend myself against the accusations.

This person had quit her position and it was empty for almost 6 months. I was a client of the same homeless veterans’ program and that was how I initially met her. The organization saw my resume when I came in to receive some additional assistance. The director asked me to interview for the position. That is when I found out she had left the organization.

It wasn’t until later, that the truth came out.

One of the former co-workers had texted her asking how she was doing. I had mentioned that we had not seen her at recent meetings and others had not been able to make contact with her, so he texted to see if she was okay.

He texted because he thought they were still friends.

She got mad and thought I was talking or saying things about her and told her friends in the group. It was not true. That was the first time ever mentioning her attendance at the same meetings.

She filed a complaint with the director of the program, and he made an inquiry about what happened. The co-worker overheard the conversation and told him that he had texted her to see if she was okay.

Once again, it turned into another mess, and I was pushed out.

I think that one hurt the most because we were supposed to be supportive of one another. Sisters of the same very small percentage of military veterans.

Instead, the word of one person was taken over another and judgment was passed unfairly. I still run into them on occasion when it is a Women Veteran’s event. They are unfriendly and ignore me. It has been over 3 years since that incident, and I no longer work for that organization.

Again, joining a group with similar interests did not pan out as expected. I still did not have any close friends.

11/17/2021 – Final

I then decided that I was going to attempt to make friends through work, something I always kept separate because it could lead to disagreement or competition.

I took a 2nd job at a bakery. It was going to be fun, and I would get to decorate on the weekend. I was excited about learning more about a commercial bakery and mass production. I looked forward to working with others that had more skills that I could learn from. As far as I was concerned, they were the professionals, and I was still learning this craft.

I was in the job position for one weekend when the head cake decorator refused to take any other orders and wanted me out of the bakery.

This occurred after the director, over the grocery section, mentioned the cake competitions that I had participated in previously. He stated he was looking forward to the collaboration of ideas we would create as a team. At that time, he was discussing with everyone in the bakery about the upcoming holiday decorated cookie sales goal they were expecting to reach.

The only reason I was working in the bakery was because of the question “tell a time when you had to demonstrate or teach someone a skill”. The director asked this question during my initial job interview as a cashier for the store.

I told the story about one of the cake classes that I used to teach and the competitions I had participated in. That is when he asked me if I would consider switching to the cake decorator position in the bakery instead.

I did not know they had any open positions and believed that I lacked the experience or qualifications to work there. I would not have applied for it on my own. At that point I really considered myself a hobbyist or at the most, at an advanced adult skill level. I certainly was not a professional. I was happy to accept the position doing something that I enjoyed, and the hours fit into my full-time work schedule.

During my first shift, everyone in the bakery was so friendly. The bakery was located near the produce, deli, and Starbucks. My job position required that I work Thursday and Friday evenings cleaning the deli after it closed. Then on Saturday and Sunday, I would work in the bakery learning the cake decorating and working with the baker. The head cake decorator did not come in until later in the morning before lunch on Saturday and Sunday. When we first met, she did not know I was the new cake decorator. That is when the initial issues started.

After the director left, the head cake decorator threw a huge piping bag filled with icing, a huge bucket of icing, and some more piping tips on the counter then pointed to a rack full of cupcakes. She told me to ice them then throw sprinkles and cupcake picks on them.

The cupcakes had to be put into plastic cupcake packages with 12 chocolate and 12 vanilla cupcakes in each. Each container held 24 cupcakes and each cookie sheet held 4 containers. There was a total of 10 cookie sheets on the racks to be iced.

I began working on the task while she and the baker went off to the freezers to determine what they needed for the upcoming week and then they went onto to a department meeting. It took me about a couple of hours in between answering customer questions and taking cake orders before I got every container finished. I thought I was working too slow.

The head cake decorator and baker came back from their meeting with the other department heads, as I was just finishing up. The baker was impressed that I got everything done stating the last cake decorator would take all afternoon to ice the cupcakes.

The head cake decorator was visibly annoyed that it got finished and became very short with me. I asked what she wanted me to do next. She didn’t answer and just walked off. I did not know why she got upset. Just before the director stopped by earlier in the day, she was friendly and had been showing me pictures of her work. She was an amazing cake decorator, and her work was beautiful. I was looking forward to learning more from her.

That was the first and last time that I met her.

The baker was not sure what was going on, so she had me help her package her products and put out the stock items the rest of my shift. The next day, it was more of the same and the baker added these huge cookie cakes to be decorated as well. That was the happiest working weekend I ever had. The head cake decorator had called in sick that Sunday.

The following week, the weeknight deli person told me that the head cake decorator had taken time off and everything was chaotic that week. He stated that he thought it had something to do with her husband having surgery the previous week but he was not sure.

I went to the bakery section to look at any upcoming items or orders to be done for that Saturday and Sunday. That is when I saw a sign hanging up on the cake order clipboard stating, “No further cake orders are to be taken by bakery or cake decorating to be done per the bakery manager”. At that point I had not met the bakery manager because she was on vacation when I got hired and when I started working. I was to meet her that upcoming weekend.

I was disappointed. I did not know what was going on or what I would be doing all weekend. That Saturday morning, I mainly worked with the baker packaging products and putting out stock. Then I helped in the deli putting together food trays. The baker said the bakery manager was in a meeting with the general manager of the store and the director over the grocery section.

Apparently, the bakery manager was upset that I had been hired while she was on vacation and had no say over any of it. She had gotten a phone call from the head cake decorator after she left on that Saturday, saying that I needed to be moved or she would quit. This was per the baker and deli supervisor.

Then to make her point she cancelled all the cake orders for the following weekend. She came to work only twice that week to complete a couple of cake orders. She got her scheduled changed to no longer work the weekends by the general manager and HR. Then took time off for the rest of that week. Once again, it turned into a giant mess.

I still to this day do not fully comprehend how a half day interaction with one person basically shut down that whole section of the store for almost a month. I kept working there and they became so behind on the prep for the upcoming cookie sales. All I was allowed to do was base ice the cookies, decorate cupcakes, and cookie cakes. The baker, bakery manager, and the deli supervisor all stopped talking to me. The weeknight deli person, produce/grocery stockers, and the Starbuck’s baristas were the only ones that talked to me afterwards.

Then one day I checked my weekly schedule and the bakery manager had pulled me completely from the bakery and dropped me to 3 hours in the deli on Thursday and Friday night. I was upset and had my feelings hurt. I was there to make extra money for the holidays and was given the opportunity to do work that I was good at and liked to do. Then it was all taken away from me.

I went to the store, talked to the HR department, and quit. I was told by the HR person that I would never be able to work for them again because I did not give notice. I informed her that they had already given me notice when they cut me from 22 to 6 hours per week. She had no idea that had happened and went to speak with the general manager. He had the bakery manager come to his office and they had a meeting while I was doing my final paperwork on the computer.

The bakery manager came out and tried to find out why I was quitting. They were all standing there when I said, “Isn’t this what your head cake decorator wanted?”  She got so embarrassed and was stammering that was not why she cut my hours stating I had missed a day. I had called 4 days in advance informing a supervisor that I would not be there for a Saturday shift. The bakery manager knew this and so did the general manager.

The general manager apologized for an apparent lack of communication and offered to put me in another section of the store, but I turned it down. I completed the paperwork and left.

It has been over 2 years since that happened. I found out later from the deli guy that they had the worst cookie sales out of all the stores that season and the head cake decorator was let go. She had worked for them for over 5 years.

After those experiences, I have not tried to make any friends. I am polite and helpful when necessary but that is it.

It is not worth the emotional turmoil of living through the experience of false friendships.

Having a misguided belief that others were my friends, only to realize later that it was not true.

I do not know if that part of my life will change. I can always hope it will, but it is not gaining my full focus anymore.

If it happens, it happens.

If it doesn’t, then it doesn’t.

I am always going to be me and that will not change.

Thank you for stopping by.

Have a great week!

Peace, love, happiness, and good vibes, always!

Suzanne

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