When I was in high school, my mom read an article. It was about women and communication and I don’t know what else. What I know is that she was compelled to share something from that article with Smitty and me.

Or maybe it was just me, and then I told Smitty. I’m not sure. It’s been a while, so I don’t really remember. I just know that Smitty and I have never forgotten this little lesson.

The article – and my mom – said that when expressing sympathy, we should not say, “I’m sorry,” because that implies that we are somehow at fault. And when you’re talking to someone whose grandma died or who lost her job or who just had a bad day, do you really want to take responsibility for that situation?

No, of course not. So the article – and my mom – encourages women (who are the worst offenders of over-using the sorry phrase) to say instead: “I’m sorry to hear that.”

Warning: You must practice this before using it in real life. Because if you just say it offhand, you’re going to sound rude. Uncaring. Flippant. It takes work to use that statement and actually sound sincere.

On the other hand, sometimes apologizing is the right thing to do.

Last week, Annalyn was whining on our ride home from the babysitter. I’m pretty sure nothing was actually wrong. And I say that because I had offered everything from toys to music to silence to kisses to cheerful voices to a threat to pull the car over Right. Now.

Surprisingly, that last one was not what she was looking for.

No matter what was wrong, I couldn’t handle the whining. Not again. Not that night. And so I snapped. I hollered at my baby girl, “Stop! Whining! Now!”

Well, it worked. She did quiet down. And for a split second, I was satisfied, thinking I’d done the right thing by being consistent and all discipline-y. But in the very next second, I felt terrible. I had completely overreacted, and a few moments of silence isn’t worth treating my little girl poorly.

And so I apologized. I said, “Annalyn, I’m sorry. Mommy is sorry for yelling at you. I love you.”

Sometimes apologizing is the right thing to do.

The time I learned, five years later, that I had inadvertently hurt a dear friend? I apologized.

The time I misspelled the name of a prestigious award my company won – in dozens of news releases? I apologized.

Every time I realize that I was impatient with Mark or steered him wrong with (probably unsolicited) advice? I apologize.

Despite the reminder to not apologize for things that are not my fault, I’m not one of those people who refuses to apologize for anything. No. If When I hurt you, when I let you down, when I accidentally hit your car door with mine in the parking lot – I will say that I’m sorry. And I will mean it.

But some things I will not apologize for. I will take responsibility for them, but I will not apologize for them and therefore imply that they are wrong.

Values. Morals. Beliefs. Dreams.

Hmmm . . . one of these things is not like the other, right?

I think most of us have some values, morals and beliefs strong enough that we would not apologize for them, would not back down when challenged. Faith. Patriotism. Work hard. Tell the truth at all cost. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They might take different shapes and colors, but we all have something.

For me, though, having a dream, a desire for more, a drive to be better, do more, get there faster is one of those things. I will not apologize for dreaming.

What are you talking about, Mary?

Well, thanks for asking. Now I don’t feel quite so bad unleashing a little rant on you. (Why did it take me so long to get here? I don’t know. That may be a deeper question. Or not. Maybe I just like to talk a lot.)

I have had seven jobs since I graduated from college. Eight years ago. Yeah, I can do the math, and yeah, that sure is a lot of jobs.

Has my career path been frustrating? Absolutely. Have I cried gallons of tears over my desperation to leave a certain job, to get a certain job, to just learn to love a job, any job? Oh yeah. Do I have to fight a tendency toward bitterness and despair (and possibly a little bit of melodrama) when I look at my resume or consider my uncertain future? Yep.

But you know what? I won’t let it win. I won’t give up. I won’t stop trying. I won’t stop looking for the right fit, the right job, the place for me, the thing I’m called to do. I won’t stop dreaming.

So if you are feeling the urge to tell me, “Just be happy you have a job,” or “There are a lot worse companies out there,” or my personal favorite, “You don’t like this job either? Have you ever thought that maybe the problem is you?” – don’t bother.

I won’t listen anyway.

What do you dream about?

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