127. Reputations

What you have already done and been usually contributes to what you do and who you are now. You may do all you can to wipe the slate as clean as you can get it. You may turn over a new leaf, and really keep to your new ways, but your past doesn’t go away. Bygones, unfortunately, are rarely just bygones.
Part of the reason starts out internally. To some degree, you are who you are, and the cleanest slate in the world won’t change that. I’ve heard it said that no matter where you go, when you get off the plane, there you are. Part of the reason has to do with the way other people see you. Some of them, at least, cling to their view of you, and the way they see you defines you, to some degree. And of course, you may end up internalizing the way you’re seen. So you become and do what your reputation tells you to become and do.
The child who got in trouble last year may resolve, “This year I’ll be good. I’ll do everything the
way I’m supposed to. I’ll make my parents and teachers proud of me.” I remember starting school years that way as a child. I was going to take notes, do all my homework and remember to hand it in, and not talk when I wasn’t supposed to. I sometimes wanted to tell teachers about such resolutions, but for all I knew, they didn’t know about my problems. And why should I tell them? The parents also have reputations: “Oh, you have Sidney this year? He’s a joy, but his parents!” Over coffee in the teachers’ room, your ideosyncrasies are described to the teacher who will soon be teaching your child. It isn’t fair. You may seem overprotective, scattered, neglectful, or whatever, but that’s not what you are. Or at least it’s not all you are. They have no right to talk about you that way. And then there’s the teacher’s reputation. “Make sure your child is in Ms. McNortlehelm’s class. She really has her act together. Ms. Repirtinjek means well, but she just can’t seem to tune in to the children’s needs. Ms. McNortlehelm has a gentle but structured style; Ms. Repirtinjek tries to, but doesn’t, and never has, and the children know it from day one.” Of course, part of the reason they know – maybe a major part – is the reputation produced by the rumor mill. There is a good reason for these rumors. It’s good to be prepared for what may happen. It’s good to have a way to avoid destructive situations. Sometimes rumors are all you have. But rumors may be all they are.

Comments are closed.