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The world has a short term memory.
If you have ever been in a situation where you just can't shuck a perception or you are guilty of doing something memorable, for all the wrong reasons, and you just can't change their opinion of you? Just wait. The world has a short term memory and an incredible case of ADD.
No matter how hard we try in life to do the right thing, be the best person and try not to screw up-it happens. Like a bad nickname that attaches itself to you in college or the time you accidentally farted in a room full of people, louder than you thought it was going to come out, you get attached to a negative. My whole career, I've been too young to do this and too young to do that, only to find myself, time and time again, to be the oldest person in the room or presumed to be out of touch by a younger generation. The time it takes to be in the target demographic to then be out of the target demographic seems to go by in what seems like hours. You're a kid one day and then you're too old. There will never be an in between or a sweet spot; life deals in extremes.
Need examples of how forgiving and forgetful we are? Look no further than the tabloids. Paris Hilton and her boyfriend had sex on camera and soon after she was hosting the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards. Hue Grant got caught with a hooker and later became the object of affection for tons of women just a movie or two later. Alec Baldwin calls his daughter a pig and continues to receive awards for being a humanitarian. Kim Kardashian turned her adult film into a multimillion dollar company and we buy anything and everything she is attached to. Our own (former) President had an affair and yet 10s of thousands of people would pay to hear him speak in public. Iron Man used to be a coke addict. I can keep going! We forgive and forget. Maybe not forget as much as some of us would like to have things forgotten, but these things are forgotten enough to allow these people to grow and move on. The good news is that you are nowhere near as famous as these people. You can be relieved that your grandmother won't have to explain as much during her bridge club-it's not like to you shaved your head and beat up a car with an umbrella right? Right?!
Make a scene at the company Christmas party and smack too many people on the ass? Don't worry! All you have to do is wait it out! As employees and bosses cycle out of your office, you could eventually find yourself head of the HR department for the entire company and not one person will have been employed at the time you did it. Your story might live on in the minds of your former co-workers, but nobody will be the wise to the legend of the Christmas part of 2009 because they weren’t even there.
Take solace in the fact that the majority of the people who out rank you in your career have done some truly despicable things prior to becoming your employer. I am no saying that all managers are bad or have a sketchy past, but I am saying that I have done this long enough and in enough places to watch people, who I know to have done some jaw dropping things, climb the ladder of success.
Know that the guy that used to hook up with every girl in college and spent every night drinking himself silly; not to mention cheated off the girl next to him in class, is now successfully working in politics and might one day hold a major office. Maybe I know him? Maybe I’ll get some hush money when he runs for President? Haha!
Know that the girl that was a complete mess in college and basically hooked up with every member of the football, basketball and baseball team, is now a high school guidance counselor and is married to the local preacher. Maybe I dated her? Haha!
All you need is time. Time heals all things. Time helps to kill nicknames, perceptions and mistakes. Time allows you the room for growth, to learn from those mistakes and gives you the necessary space to move on. Sometimes you just have to outlast the people who hold those perceptions or know where the skeletons are buried.
Knowing this about time does not give you the green light to do terrible things. Understand that these things you have possibly done or things you are perceived to be can live on like an STD. Yet, like most of those diseases, people don't know that you have them. You do though and that means that perception is like herpes. Sometimes you deserve herpes and sometimes you got it on accident. (I can’t believe I wrote that paragraph either. Haha!)
#Tryharder not to use time as your scapegoat for being a horrible person, but rest your head at night knowing that whatever moment you are dealing with will eventfully pass. Most will forget whatever it is and you will come out of it stronger and possibly wiser because even "pee pee pants" from 3rd grade can marry the prom queen.