When I was in college I was a real piece of work. I had just gotten out of my first long term relationship and I was broken. I was hurt, angry and ready to take it out on everyone I met. I was so scared of getting hurt again that I pushed people away as a preventative measure. I didn't know who I was and I lost many friendships in the wake of destruction I left while I was trying to find my new self.
I'm embarrassed to say that this horrible attitude continued for about 3 years. I prided myself on being a no nonsense bitch. I wasn't afraid of confrontation, in fact I sought it out. I took leadership roles that allowed me to assert my authority over people because I just wanted to feel something again. Remember that first paragraph where I said I was broken? That wasn't hyperbole. I was a shell of woman, desperately trying to claw myself out of a deep depression, but I ended up dragging people down with me.
I'm so sorry for all of that.
But everything changed when I moved to Los Angeles. I started my career in the television industry as a Production Assistant and I quickly learned my place. My shitty attitude wouldn't fly in this business if I had any plans of moving up or making a name for myself. I was used to bossing people around and talking back to them if they rubbed me the wrong way, but I couldn't do that in my new role as a PA. If you think getting people coffee and making copies is the most demeaning thing you can do for work, then you should really try working for 12 hours as a set PA. I cleaned bathrooms, picked up dog poop and spilled hot garbage juice all over my favorite pair of running shoes. I ate Chef Boyardee canned ravioli for a month straight because it was the only thing I could afford on my day rate of $125 after spending all my income on rent and utilities.
I was yelled at for things I had nothing to do with, like that one time a producer berated me because she spilled grapes on herself. I was forced to do some incredibly demeaning things, like that other time that a B-list celebrity made me follow her around with a bottle of Fireball whiskey and demanded that I refill her glass anytime it was less than half full. I was talked down to by every single person who worked above me and forced to sit on the floor and eat my lunch because the tables were for higher ups.
I learned my place in this industry fast. I learned that I was unimportant and easily replaceable, because if I wasn't willing to put up with it, some other person trying hard to break into the business would eagerly take my job. I learned that if I didn't take all the mistreatment with a smile on my face that nobody would take me seriously. So I started staying later and working harder. I took on responsibilities that were way above my pay grade and I started to prove myself.
And I loved it.
I loved every damn minute of my life that first year in Los Angeles. I got a chance to travel to some amazing places and meet wonderful people. I lost my horrible attitude and gained some perspective. It was the worst I've ever been treated, but I was actually happy again. I was finally working in an industry I'd been dreaming about being a part of since I was 7 years old.
But now that I've moved up, and been able to take jobs that pay better and give me more responsibility I've still kept my new attitude. I don't talk down to the PA's on set, and I make an effort to fight the negativity that surrounds many production crews who are forced to work long hours. I try to be compassionate and positive towards the people I work with, and I know it's made me better at my job. I've learned the importance of humility and respect. How imperative it is to make the people you work with and spend time with feel safe, comfortable and appreciated. How good it feels to work a long day and have someone ask you how you're doing and if you're really okay. I learned how to be nice to people after too many people were mean to me.
I've also carried it into my personal life and I'm so much happier because of it. I might have learned my lesson because of my career, but I practice the same behavior in my personal friendships and relationships. However, recently I've started hearing the same phrase over and over again.
"You don't need to do that, you're too nice."
People say it because they're embarrassed, or because they don't know what to do when someone genuinely does something out of the kindness of their heart. They say it because they feel guilty or maybe because they really believe it. That's fine, and it's not my place to judge.
I might be young, but I've learned my lesson. I treat others the way I want to be treated because I can't sleep at night if I don't. Friends and coworkers love to insist that this is some deep character flaw of mine, but I don't think they understand why I'm "nice". I know how to stand up for myself, I'm not a pushover, and I'm also not an asshole (anymore). I'm happy. I'm caring. And I'm proud of it.
But I'm not too nice.
I'm not too anything. I'm just someone who knows what it feels like to be broken, and now I'm someone who knows what it feels like to be whole again.