Owning Up: Taking Accountability For Being A Bully

Owning Up: Taking Accountability For Being A Bully

04.08.21
Artwork created by Pedro Vega Jr.
04.08.21

Adult ISH Season 5 starts with co-hosts Merk Nguyen and Nyge Turner reflecting on regrets! First, Nyge tells the story of Merk’s secret past as the leader of The PPC, her clique inspired by “The Clique” book series. Then, they bring on Merk’s former elementary school counselor, Mrs. Denise Mullins, to teach them how to properly apologize and take accountability for their actions. Listen and follow our socials @yrAdultISH to stay connected.


Episode Transcript

(music plays)

Nyge: Welcome back y’all, it’s season 5 of Adult ISH produced by YR Media, a show where it’s been a while since we talked to the homies. Homies meaning y’all. I’m Nyge Turner.

Merk: And I’m aging Merk Nguyen because Nyge and I are both turning 25 this year and the quarter life crisis feels are so real. Ahhh!

Nyge: (laughs)

Merk: Yeah, it’s been several months since season four, so why don’t we just tell everyone what we’ve been up to.

Nyge: I don’t feel old to add to your previous statement. I feel like I’m in my prime.

Merk: Okay.

Nyge: I’ve been uhh … I’ve been on my, you know, I’ve been building like Bob out here. Just doing my thing on me and Brandi’s new place and then planning a wedding in a pandemic. Super easy, stress free, highly recommend it.

Merk: I bet.

Nyge: And just trying to survive on these streets, you know?

Merk: Yeah, I think every time we’ve had a work meeting, you mentioned the wedding at least one time. 

Nyge: I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it before. I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Merk: Yeah you’re so right. Didn’t even know you were getting married. 

Nyge: Breaking news I’m getting married. What?!

Merk: (siren sounds)

Nyge: What about you? What have you been up to?

Merk: I’ve been celebrating my one year anniversary of living in L.A. I love it out here. I mean, you know, with the COVID stuff all aside, I’ve got to explore some parks nearby my place. I’ve gotten to cook a lot more. I’m also looking into more voiceover gigs, you know, to fulfill my Hollywood fantasy of being a cartoon voice actress, so that’s been nice. Oh, yeah, and I’m just discovering more parts of my identity that I knew existed, but just have been, you know, keeping it under the surface. But we got the rest of the season to explore that. 

Nyge: Yeah, that was a very layered statement that you just dropped on our head tops, but I guess we’ll get into that more later on in the season. But today’s focus is “Owning Up To My ISH,” or your ISH, or all of our ISH.

Merk: Yeah, all of our ISH.

Nyge: Who I am personally today is heavily based off of the experiences that I’ve gone through in my life. And that’s because I’ve been able to go back and take from these different mistakes and failures and then learn from them and act differently as time goes on. And so I think that’s one of the biggest things about being an adult that people didn’t really warn me about when I was younger. Well, they actually did. That’s a total lie. But I should’ve listened, and so we’re trying to get you guys to listen now. 

Merk: Yeah, honestly, I don’t think I learned of the word accountability until much later on in my life. I’d say maybe my late teens or early 20s. And this season we want to get more vulnerable with you all about our failures specifically, so that way you can learn from our mistakes because that’s what we do as the social experiment test rats. You’re welcome.

Nyge: (laughs) I like that.

Merk: Well actually, you know, because we were both born in 1996, we are year of the rat.

Nyge: Oh wow, I didn’t even see how deep you were getting. Alright, so first up today, we have a story about one of these mistakes coming back to haunt you. We’re taking it way back, way, way back to a playground a long, long time ago. 

Merk: Okay, okay James Earl Jones trying to come for my voice acting dream! It’s alright, we can share the same dream.

Nyge: You see me getting in there. You weren’t expecting that. 

Merk: Yeah, that was good. That was good. Later, after that wonderful story, we’re going to be chatting with my elementary school counselor, Mrs. Mullins, to talk more about dealing with your mistakes, but not letting them consume you because you’ve got a life to live. Why let that stop you? So with that, let’s roll the tape. 

[Music Break]

Nyge: Everyone knows little kids can be mean to each other. The fifth graders of Beverly Elementary School in Lynnwood, Washington were no exception. It all started when a handful of them read a gossipy preteen book series called “The Clique,” and decided they wanted to form a clique of their own. It was called the PPC, short for the Perfectly Pretty Committee. And it was ruled by one particular fifth grader who could’ve given Regina George a run for her money. 

She told you what colors to wear to school that week. She’d hold meetings to go over her weekly IN and OUT list. She orchestrated manipulative, elaborately staged fights. And if you didn’t play by her rules, you could easily find yourself on the OUT list. 

(ominous music)

Nyge: So who was this alpha of the PPC? The 9-year-old queen bee of Lynnwood herself: Merk Nguyen. 

(record scratch)

Nyge: I know, I know – Merk?! Your co-host?! Really?! How? Well, today, we’re gonna take it back to the mid 2000s for a little investigation. 

(audio clip plays)

Nyge: What made you decide to start a clique? You were just inspired by the book or… what led you to be like we have to do this? 

Merk: I think it all started when Alyssa introduced me to the book series and she was like, hey, read this. And the reason why Alyssa and I became best friends in the first place is like we had a lot of commonalities, like the both two little dark brown girls in the class who are from Southeast Asia who liked reading books and our names both started with A.

(audio clip ends)

Nyge: Right. Because long time listeners know, Merk went by her OG name, Angela, back in the day. Anyway, Merk and Alyssa are still BFFs to this day, which means they don’t sugarcoat the truth with each other. 

(audio clip plays)

Merk: Give me an honest read on who I was back then.

Alyssa: Yeah, you were very mean in elementary school. You’re classic “I’m a princess, and I’m an angel and pink and frilly and girly. And you’re not pretty. I’m pretty.” I think you had the alpha mentality. 

(audio clip ends)

Nyge: Now, that alpha mentality was a big theme in “The Clique” series. Merk became obsessed with the books in the fifth grade, and here’s what she loved about them.

(audio clip plays)

Merk: They are referencing specific lip glosses. They’re referencing like brand name stuff that I don’t know, but this seems cool, and I think the books just kind of took power over us.  

(audio clip ends)

Nyge: At least they took power over her. But even before reading the books, Merk liked speaking for other people. In class, she’d often volunteer herself to take the lead in group projects. On the playground, she was vocal and confident. This explains her love for one particular character in the books: Massie Block, the infamous leader of the Pretty Committee. Massie called the shots. Massie wrote glorified HOT or NOT lists. And Massie set the rules. Sounds familiar?

(audio clip plays)

Merk: We had to make sure we matched whether that was all stripes, all polka dots, all of the same color. That was like a mandatory thing to represent group unity. Well, another one of the rules that wasn’t like explicitly a rule was you have to read “The Clique” book series. Otherwise, like, why are you even in the club?

(audio clip ends)

Nyge: According to these rules, only two people qualified for the PPC membership, Merk and Alyssa. But there was another girl in their friend group, Theresa. Problem was, Theresa didn’t read the books. And that was very, shall I say, NOT HOT. Good thing for Merk and Alyssa, they discovered a new girl who read the books too. The three book-readers started hanging out together after school, but Theresa was not invited. It was during one of these exclusive hangouts that the PPC came up with a plan. They were going to unfriend Theresa, for good.

(audio clip plays)

Merk: It was a rainy day recess, and we were all bound to the confines of our classroom. And we knew we could get Alyssa to ask Theresa questions to make it seem like Theresa didn’t like the new girl. So they’re talking. They’re talking. I was within earshot, but just not standing close because I didn’t want to look like I had a role in it, so once Theresa said whatever about the new girl, Alyssa gave me a look. I see the new girl. I give her a look. And that’s when the new girl went up to Theresa, got up in her face and goes, “How dare you say that about me? How dare you say you don’t like me?” Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. 

(audio clip ends)

Nyge: Here’s how Theresa remembers it. 

(audio clip plays)

Theresa: “You said this and this and this about me behind my back and you were so mean.” And I was really like what? Like, I don’t know what was going on. And I got really, like, when I get frustrated, I cry. Like, that wasn’t my fault. I don’t remember saying anything like that. And I was like, “What do you mean?”

(audio clip ends)

Nyge: Shortly after that, Theresa went to the back of the classroom and continued to cry. 

(audio clip plays)

Merk: That’s when I do remember being like, “Oh, well, we just did that.” Like this plan that we thought of finally has been executed.

(audio clip ends)

Nyge: When their teacher came back after recess and asked what happened, Theresa didn’t answer. She was still in shock and didn’t want to start crying again. The others acted completely clueless. 

(audio clip plays)

Theresa: I mean, I was obviously frustrated and I was just like, “Okay, well, I guess they don’t want me to be a part of, like, be friends with them anymore.” So I did feel kind of excluded. I don’t think we really talked after that. 

(audio clip ends)

Nyge: In fact, it’d be years before any of them talked to Theresa again. In Merk’s case, it was toward the end of middle school, at church, in the form of an apology. Here’s what Theresa remembers.

(church bells ringing)

(audio clip plays)

Theresa: I think it was after Mass and we were there getting donuts. You came up to me and was like, “Hey, Theresa, do you know what happened in like fifth grade?” And I was like, this is like, we’re in eighth grade now, this happened like a while ago. And you were like, I don’t remember exactly what you said, but you did apologize for it. And you were like, “I understand that if you’re, if you are still angry with it, you don’t have to accept my apology.” And I was like, “Oh okay,” but still, at that point, I didn’t really know what exactly happened. 

(audio clip plays)

Nyge: Even though the two became friends after that, Theresa still didn’t know that Merk was the mastermind. She didn’t know about the books or the PPC – until Merk told Theresa the whole truth, nearly a decade later in 2020. The two of them talked about the importance of trust in a friendship, which is something Theresa still has a hard time with. 

(audio clip plays)

Merk: Was this group breakup one of the major, if not the most prominent thing, about why you feel this way about trust in friendships? 

Theresa: I do have some trust issues, like I would say it would play like maybe 70 percent, the other 30 percent, other things. 

Merk: I mean, 70 percent is … that’s more than 50. That’s definitely a majority.

Theresa: (laughs) … that is true. 

(audio clip ends)

Nyge: But none of this answers the question: how did Merk become a mean girl in the first place? 

(audio clip plays)

Merk: My older siblings were growing up together whereas for me I was the baby. I was locked in as that as my title. So I didn’t feel like I could speak up about things that I wanted or things that I thought. Because they weren’t taken seriously ‘cause it was like, “You’re the baby! Go hang out with Mom and Dad.” I just didn’t really have power in my household. I felt powerless. I don’t know. People didn’t really ask me how I was doing at home. They just assumed, “Oh, you’re good. You’re fine. You have everything.” That’s what my friends assumed too.

(audio clip ends)

Nyge: So to Merk, the PPC wasn’t about being mean for the sake of being mean. It was about being able to express her own thoughts and feelings, reclaiming her power, her voice, even what she looked like. 

(audio clip plays)

Merk: Growing up, I was more of the quote unquote tomboy. Like I didn’t like putting on makeup. I loved wearing T-shirts. Dresses? I’m like, “Why? Ew.” These books, I felt like I gave myself permission to explore that more feminine side of myself. The thing is, though, with my mom and my sister as being my female role models like they oh, gosh, they’re so beautiful, to this day. They are the most beautiful women I know. And I think that was another part of my insecurity is that I didn’t feel beautiful in my household because I had the darkest complexion of everyone. When I would go out to events in the Viet community with my parents because they were big socialites and my mom would be like put on this white makeup, it didn’t match my complexion, like I don’t want to wear it. That’s part of the reason why I didn’t like makeup, but also because, like my sister, yes, she had six years on me. But the standard in her house was like Kristy is the perfect child. She’s smart, she’s funny, she’s pretty. People like her and I was really insecure because I didn’t look like her and I wasn’t her and I wanted to be her so bad. And I guess the book was a chance for me to, like, recreate the perfect person I could be.

(audio clip ends)

Nyge: None of this self-reflection really solves the problem of regret, though. To this day, Merk feels SO much shame about her actions, about her contribution to Theresa’s trust issues. 

(audio clip plays)

Merk: All of that has me questioning like every single thing I do, especially as it relates to my interactions with people, whether it’s on social media or in real life. I’m constantly asking myself, “Am I genuinely a nice person?” Because I like to believe I was a nice person and, you know, there is good in me, but because I was able to make someone hurt so bad for so many years and have it affect them into their adulthood. I’m like I’m wondering if I’m overcompensating of my actions now to make up for my past and like even when I’m just like being myself and being like nice, you know, I’m like, “Is that real, though? Do I really mean that?” And so when you think of yourself as a mean person all the time, it’s like then I become a bully to myself, and yeah, it makes me wonder what’s real. 

(audio clip ends)

Nyge: Here’s the thing. Merk has changed a lot since the fifth grade. She has become one of my best friends who has been there for me at some of my lowest moments. I have no question about how much Merk cares about me as a person. But Merk can’t change the past. So instead, I asked her about the future. 

(audio clip plays)

Nyge: Would you let your kids read books like these or watch movies like that?

Merk: I’m not going to be able to control what my kids do. I just hope that even if they are exposed to “The Clique” series or whatever it’s going to be in 2040, whatever, that hopefully I’ve taught them enough lessons as a parent and I’ve made them feel secure in their home life to where they don’t have to act out in a certain way. And that’s not to say my parents didn’t do a good job of raising me because they did, but I think everybody has their blind spots. And the blind spots of my parents were like, “Oh, we assumed what she wanted.” But that’s not just all of my parents, too, because even though I was young, like, I still did those things. They weren’t telling me to do those things. I want to blame society for just like how they tell young people, but particularly like little girls how to be. 

(audio clip ends)

Nyge: But what if Merk’s kid DID do something mean to someone else? How would Merk advise her to deal with the situation? To not repeat Merk’s own mistakes? 

(audio clip plays)

Merk: I would lead her toward professional help, if I’m like, in the financial place to do so. (pause) But I want to remind her that, like this one mistake doesn’t define everything else that she does because it’s not everything. One event is not everything for anyone, whether it’s good or bad. It’s like who you are daily and those small parts of your character that make up who you are. And so I’d just remind her that she is a good person. And yeah, I’d be like, “If you hurt someone’s feelings, you have to say sorry, but if they’re not ready to hear it, then you have to accept that they’re not going to accept that and you have to be okay with that.” But I just want to remind her that, like, you can constantly continue to improve yourself, just try your best not to break yourself down for the worse in order to get there and don’t try to tear other people down while you’re getting there. 

(audio clip ends)

Nyge: At this point, we turned off our mics. The interview was over. While wrapping up, we started chatting with our producer Georgia. But things didn’t feel resolved. Despite  that advice she gave, I could sense Merk hadn’t gotten the regret out of her system, and the look on her face just seemed defeated. I felt like I had to say one last thing before we signed off. And I didn’t realize our Zoom call was still recording, but this last impromptu moment ended up being maybe the most important part of this whole story. 

(audio clip plays)

Nyge: And also Merk, unrelated to how I feel about the interview, you were nine, like, I hope you really can lean into the fact that you were nine years old, and that doesn’t define you and who you are because we both know you. We know you’re a good person and just because you question whether you do good things for whatever reason, like you want to be good and that’s all that matters. That’s all we can all try to do.

Merk: (cries)

Georgia: Why are you crying? 

Merk: Because it’s nice to be reminded from someone else who’s not yourself that you are a good person, even if you’ve messed up. Because most of the time I can get myself out of it and tell myself, like, “You’re fine, it’s it’s okay.” But sometimes there’s like that voice in your head that still holds onto the negative stuff, and it’s like, “Yeah, but you still did that.” (pause) Yeah.

Nyge: That’s good, though, because you have experience knowing that you were wrong, knowing that you did something that hurt somebody and everything like that, that plays into how you treat people to this day. And if you were just some adult walking around with no experiences and no experience ever being wrong, like you would lack a ton of accountability, which I think a lot of adults do. 

(music plays) 

Nyge: And so I think that’s a really important thing to learn. And you learned at a really young age, which is really good. And I mean in terms of bad things to be done with people, like I don’t wanna, you know, I don’t want to make it like smaller than it was or anything like that. But good people have done worse. 

Georgia: There is no person on this earth who hasn’t inadvertently or intentionally hurt another person. No one, that’s just not, you know, it’s not how humans work. But you’re growing. I mean, just the fact that we’re talking about this. 

Merk: Yeah.

Georgia: This is all growth.

Nyge: And also, I mean, like, obviously you don’t think you just faked cried right now. So if you had a question on your authenticity, then there’s your answer.

Merk: Yeah, that’s true. (sniffles) I’m going to start crying because I love you both so much. 

Nyge: I love you, too, Merk. 

Georgia: We love you, Merk.

Merk: Love you.

(audio clip ends)

Nyge: When we come back, we talk to Mrs. Denise Mullins, Merk’s elementary school guidance counselor, about the art of the apology. 

[Episode Break]

Merk: Welcome back everyone. Thank you for listening to my story and to you, Nyge, for helping me tell it. It’s definitely been a work in progress, just unpacking all the feelings of guilt and even shame that come up when dealing with something like this. So I really wanted to further unpack that and I thought that the best way to do that would be to talk to someone who actually knew me back then and gave me some advice that, if I actually listened to it, could have prevented me from causing that damage to Theresa. So in a second, we’re going to hear from my elementary school counselor, Mrs. Denise Mullins. I met her as a kindergartener at Beverly. She’s still a counselor with the Edmonds School District. Also, a proud mama of three, and we go to the same Catholic Church when I’m back home in Lynnwood. 

Nyge: LYNNWOOD!

Merk: (laughs) Yes, good ol’ Lynnwood. So, here we go.

[Music Break]

Merk: What’s up Mrs. Mullins? Or should I call you Denise?

Nyge: Oh, you’re an adult now. You can call me Denise. 

Merk: (laughs) Oh, that’s so weird.

Denise: No, this is great. Thanks for the opportunity to come on the show. We’ve all been kind of more alone with our thoughts in the past year or so.

Merk: Oh, yeah.

Denise: And perhaps some of this stuff has kind of come up. 

Merk: Yeah.

Nyge: (laughs) Wait, I’m curious. What was Merk like as a little kid? Like what’s her personality like?

Denise: Oh, let’s see … She was sweet. She was this cute little thing. See, the dimple’s still there. I still see that dimple.

Merk: Just the one.

Nyge: (laughs)

Denise: And just I don’t remember her being a troublemaker at all. I mean, she seemed like a really, really sweet, kind kid. Outgoing. Yeah. Not shy and always one that would greet me when I walked into the room. So that was always nice.

Merk: Awww.

Nyge: Very cool.

Merk: I wanted to get more into the empathy and the resolving conflicts that you deal with. So how do you describe empathy to children? 

Denise: Every kindergarten class, I start teaching with a book about a bear who, interesting enough, his fur turns colors when he feels different emotions. But then he has a big sneezing attack and his fur doesn’t change colors anymore. So then he has to learn that he has to verbalize his feelings to his friends because they can’t exactly see what he’s feeling by his different colors. 

Nyge: I mean, I’ve had counselors kind of like you, but I’m sure not on your level, in the past. But it’s interesting because like when you’re first hearing all these things and you’re being taught all these things about how to like talk to other people and how to treat other people, it sounds like so simple, right? And then when you actually do mess up, it’s like a shock to your system, especially as a little kid. And you’re like, “Oh, I thought I would never be the bad person. I always thought I would never do anything wrong.” And then, boom, you did it. And so how do you navigate conversations with students who are aggressors in a situation without making them feel like deeply ashamed? Because you also have to get them to own up to their actions also? 

Denise: Right, right. No, that is super important. Teaching kids to own their actions and to take responsibility for that is huge. One choice that I talk about, and as I talk to kids, I said this is the hardest one to do and that is to apologize. And why is this so hard? This is so hard because the in-between step is yeah, you got to figure out that you were the one that did something wrong.

Nyge: Yeah.

Denise: So that self realization of, “Okay, I’m the one that did something wrong” and then just kind of teaching them to apologize, to own that, with the “I’m sorry,” but there’s usually a lot more than that, too.

Nyge: Yeah, there’s so many adults who don’t know how to apologize to this day. It’s like it’s pulling teeth, trying to get an apology out of certain people because they’ll admit that they were wrong, but then not apologize for it. Like, yes, you’re right, I was in the wrong, but it’s like, okay. So do you think that this all plays a role in people’s development? Like they didn’t learn how to say sorry at that age and then that just stuck with them? 

Denise: I guess honestly, I think I’ve seen some of the opposite, Nyge. I’ve seen kind of the, “Oh, I’m sorry.” And they give the apology, but not really mean it. I mean we all have conflicts. I think that’s the thing, too, is that helping kids to realize that these conflicts, these social problems and interaction problems do happen. It’s part of development. It’s part of life. It’s part of who we are. But it’s the owning up to it, the realizing that you have done something wrong, or the realizing how to stand up for yourself when someone else has done something wrong. I have worked with some teachers who will kind of force kids to say the “I’m sorry.” 

Nyge: Yeah.

Denise: But I’m kind of one of those people who I’d rather teach them if they’re not ready to work it out, then maybe it’s not time to work it out. The flip side as well, the person who was harmed or hurt, maybe they’re not ready for it to be worked out yet.

Merk: Yeah.

Denise: Maybe they’re just still stewing on it, right? So you got to, you need to sometimes ask permission. You know, “I’m ready to apologize. Are you ready for me to apologize or can we work this out now?”

Merk: With all of the techniques that you’ve learned and teaching young people about it, do you feel like that’s helped you in your life as an adult in just like imparting your wisdom to your friends or whoever, when you run into a situation like this, you’re better equipped to apologize? Or is it still hard for you? 

Denise: Oh, it’s still hard, certainly. I mean, I’m thinking about marriage, right? I do this with my spouse. And, you know, we just did this little bit last week.

Merk: After 23 years?

Denise: That’s right, after 23 years.

Nyge: So how do you do it in your marriage? I want to … I’m trying to pick up some game. 

All: (laughs)

Denise: Not perfectly, tell you that. It’s about communication, right? It’s that open communication, letting someone know that your feelings have been hurt. A tube of toothpaste. Have you guys heard this analogy? 

Merk: No.

Nyge: I haven’t, not at all.

Denise: Alright, so you got to be careful what you say. So it’s about thinking about things before you say something, because our words are like toothpaste, right? Once they come out of the tube, it’s pretty hard to get it back in.

Merk: Ohhh.

Denise: Right, so you got to be careful what you got to think about what you’re saying before it comes out.

Merk: Wow. 

Nyge: (laughs) 

Merk: I don’t, I will never look at toothpaste the same again.

Nyge: Now, I’m gonna be in my bathroom trying to stuff toothpaste back in. (laughs)

Merk: (laughs) “No, now you’ve said the words!”

Nyge: “Mrs. Mullins was right!”

Denise: There you go.

Nyge and Merk: (laughs)

Denise: Well, and then you got to figure out, Nyge, whether your spouse wants the cap on or off.

Nyge: Oh, yeah.

Merk: Ohhh.

Nyge: Yeah, no, this is like, this is a serious thing. I’ve actually been, like trying to be more mindful because I hate to say it, but I squeeze from the middle of the tube. I kind of just do it. And she’s a roller. 

Merk: (laughs)

Denise: Me too.

Nyge: Y’all are laughing, but this is real.

Denise: One thing I was going to say is it’s not just the “I’m sorry,” but I’ve taught my own kids to say, “Will you please forgive me?” So that’s another piece there. Then ask, “What can I do to make it better?” Okay, so that’s another step, so you’re not just — it’s a bunch of things, right? It’s owning the part that you did wrong. It’s saying the “I’m sorry.” It’s asking for forgiveness. And now what can I do to make it better?  

Nyge: I like that.

Merk: It’s like taking, making an actionable change.

Denise: Absolutely, right. 

Nyge: So taking accountability is such a huge part of growing and moving forward and just developing into an adult, quote unquote. But also for me personally, I’m someone who has struggled with beating themselves up, or being like overly critical of myself on mistakes that I’ve made, because sometimes, like, you really hurt somebody, even in Merk’s story, like for me, I’ve done the same in certain situations. So what is that step Merk and I kind of have been missing back in round out our apology process?

Denise: So kind of coming back to that, going back to sort of that self-love or self forgiveness in a sense. In Merk’s case, I believe.

Merk: I did apologize to Theresa. 

Denise: Okay, so if you’re still in contact with the person and you feel like you can do that, you know, that can help with that self acceptance as well. I was also thinking it’s interesting that Merk brought up our Catholic background, right? I mean, if you have a therapist, a spiritual adviser or someone that you can talk to about it, just kind of coming to that realization of, you know, you did something wrong and you’re feeling guilty about it, right? You’re feeling … yeah, so talking to someone about that.

Merk: Or Mrs. Mullins, everyone.

Nyge: (laughs) Right.

Denise: But then it’s also you do need to let it go. Letting it go in the sense of, I guess, how can you move forward. 

Merk: So for me this having been 15 years, I guess, this year would be like my 15th anniversary. It’s just, I’m glad to know that Theresa and I are on good terms because I remember it weighing heavily on my heart. There was kind of like a moment where I apologized to her in middle school, but then I hadn’t truly forgiven myself for it at that point, which is why it came up in our twenties. And this is how the story resurfaced. And I have been on the other end of, you know, someone hurting me and me just not wanting to accept their apology. And I’m like, really gracious that Theresa did, but it’s like kind of incredible and I don’t mean that in a positive or negative way, just kind of a neutral way, how the smallest things can make the biggest difference. 

Denise: And I think the other piece moving forward is, even if you can’t be in contact with that person, I think just taking the knowledge and the realization that you have and passing it forward, you know, so Nyge, if marriage leads to children, you know, then you’re going to teach them this as a dad, right? You’re going to teach them. Obviously, we all learn from our experiences and our mistakes, so if your learning is that you’ve had this situation that you now are better equipped to deal with, you know, be purposeful in teaching your kids that. I suppose even in as adult friends, right? If you see some of your peers with the situation and they are not owning up to it or not apologizing, put your neck out there and let them know that they should. 

Nyge: Thank you so much. Yeah, this is amazing.

Merk: I just want to thank you so much for being here, Mrs. Mullins, because I really do think a lot of what you’ve said is just going to help me, Nyge and just everyone listening move forward in our lives and hopefully yourself, like, you know … I wonder, I don’t know if you give yourself like Denise Mullins pep talks in the mirror, but like, this is really good for the heart. 

Denise: Social conflict is real, and so owning up to it and moving forward and getting past the bad stuff is good.

[Music Break]

Nyge: So top takeaways for today. One, know that your words, and actions, are like toothpaste. You can’t take them back once they’re out there. I tried, trust me, with the toothpaste, not with my words, but you can follow through with a genuine apology,  make space for the other person, and ask how to make things right. To my fiance Brandi, I’ll try my best to keep the toilet seat down…

Merk: Big yikes, but you got it, Nyge. I believe in you. Top takeaway number two, when you know what you’ve done wrong and why you shouldn’t do it again, do your best to forgive yourself about it. Just remember that it’s cooler to be a nice person in the first place instead of a big stinkin’ meanie! Okay?

Nyge: Yeah, that’s why it smells bomb over here? Anyway, we wanna thank y’all for listening to Adult ISH, produced by YR Media, a national network of young artists and journalists creating content for this generation.

Merk: Big thank you’s to our generous producer Georgia Wright for helping produce the story of my PPC past, our Executive Producer Rebecca Martin who often reminds us to be kind to ourselves, as well as the fresh folx at YR who made the music and art for this episode. To access our transcript for this and all pre-season five episodes, come to our site adultishpodcast.com. Or follow us on FB, TW, and IG @YRadultISH. 

Nyge: We’re also proud to be members of Radiotopia by PRX, an independent listener-supported collective of some of the most creative shows in all of podcasting. Find them at radiotopia.fm. And now for an out of context clip for next week’s episode.

(audio clip plays)

Nyge: A little jokey joke for people. A little jokey joke.

(audio clip ends)

Nyge: All I’m gonna say is come hungry.

Merk: Like Nyge who’s always hungry. Hey.

Nyge: Big facts.

Merk: Okay, bye, go eat something! 

Nyge: Peace.