My entry into adulthood was nothing short of a grand stage entrance high on RedBull!. I was charged-up, driven and determined. I had set out to do something that no one in my family had ever done before. I was going to learn to fly and become a pilot with absolutely no idea how I would do it!
I had my heart set and worked diligently towards achieving it. Like they say, luck favors the brave! Well, brave I was which soon made me destiny’s favorite child. I was an early bloomer. The single-minded focus and concerted effort helped me reach many targets and hit many milestones ahead of time, both personal and professional.
However, a confident, competent and disciplined girl was not the norm, compliance was the expectation most of the time. I was not intimidated easily and was determined to speak my mind. A desired quality in co-pilots, unfortunately only on paper. Even though I tried, I was unable to ignore comments on my hair, size, clothes and relationships which earned me quite a reputation.
I could not wait to get my Command. (I cut my hair real short as a expression of freedom!) I looked forward to having some autonomy to do my job to the best of my ability without worrying about fragile egos. Like many co-pilots, I had been in some pretty uncomfortable cockpits and was mindfully certain to never let that happen in mine.
I was oblivious to how I was seen by others, though. I lived in this fantastical universe with my own alternate reality which left me disconnected from the rest of the world. (That was my coping mechanism I referred to in PART-I). I was good at what I did and I imagined that should be the only thing that mattered. Well, as I discovered, I imagined wrong.
After several years of command experience, during the assessment process for an upgrade, I was openly warned and threatened to be failed more than once by more than one person. This came as a shock as I had no idea what was brewing. An opportune moment was found to “fix” me. I was being judged on my “attitude” and not evaluated on my performance. The entire experience lasted a few weeks. It felt hostile and belittling as it was made ugly and personal.
(I was never actually failed as they would be answerable and it would raise eyebrows but they managed to break my spirit. It was abuse of power and they got away with it. I was blindsided by people I trusted and respected. That is textbook bullying but I didn’t know that then.)
The incident shattered my imagined world and left me in a dark haze. I felt debilitated, confused, angry, violated and helpless, all at once. It shook me to the core and made me question my ability and my life’s work. At the time I was unable to understand that bullies react from envy, insecurity and threat which says more about them than me. It was the lowest point in my life.
The thing about lowest point is that it is also a staring point. As Malcolm Gladwell would say, “The Tipping Point”. It was the starting point of my inner growth. My growth as an individual, a woman, Captain, trainer, mother, daughter, sister, wife and friend. I started to take a deeper look within.
I may have been an early bloomer but I only started to truly blossom well into my thirties. I would love to share my growth journey in PART-III Coming of Age!
Until next time…@thethinkingcaptain
In case any of you identify with what I said, read the following article. You are not alone. https://www.thefemalelead.com/post/how-to-deal-with-workplace-bullying