I’m managing people formally for the first time and it was bound to happen at some point. I knew there were parts of this that were going to be a stretch for me. I like when everyone is happy and I can be helpful and when I’m making peoples lives better and not worse. And, also, I cry just far too easily.
There’s this wonderful guy, J, who teaches our cleaning course. He’s South Sudanese and has been doing this job for a long time. He’s enthusiastic and tells me at least once a week that he loves me so much. Because there were two days off for holidays last week, our cleaning course would have lost about 20% of the course material unless he made up a day for them. So he very graciously agreed to come in an extra day.
But he was a bit tired and I could tell. And I had to ask him about moving around some things for this week. And before I could finish he interrupted (which is kind of a norm in these parts, not getting to finish what you’re saying before someone tells you why they disagree) saying why it wouldn’t work. As I was trying to explain he was trying to be heard about why it was a bad idea. He got pulled away for a few minutes, and when he came back Mama (an amazing older South Sudanese lady on my team) pulled him over and started talking with him about it. Earlier I’d run the idea past her, she liked it, and was very graciously trying to explain to him about it. I sat with them and he was agitated and I listened to them go for awhile and then asked if I could speak. As I was trying to explain my intention, and that I was first asking for his opinion and not telling him it was what we had to do, I burst into tears. And there I was, their new, young khawajja (white foreigner) supervisor warbling on in Arabic and crying like an idiot.
In the end we were able to get it sorted and found a compromise that made everyone happy. Later I approached both of them separately and apologized. I told them that I’m overly sensitive and cry to easily and don’t handle it well when I feel like I’ve hurt someone. They were very sweet and J told me I’m his sister. Mama told me I’m her daughter.
I felt like an idiot. Why is it so hard to accept grace? They were unfrazzled by my outburst and I was still beating myself up about it into the next day. I don’t do well when a person is upset with me. And especially if I feel like I haven’t been given a chance to explain myself or my motives. But it’s over now and I don’t know if that was that but apparently I’m family now.