Three years ago (I was 17), I was a shy, emotionally cold person who simply disliked people and tried to avoid them at all costs. Although, maybe 'disliked' not the most accurate description. Afraid is the word here. I was afraid of people, afraid of being in contact with anyone except for my parents. Afraid to talk, help anyone, stand up for myself, hell even look at them. Almost never trusted a soul, always knowing and expecting that someone would always back stab me for personal entertainment. Yet I kept coming back, because the desire for affection in me was very strong (I could say I was somewhat spoiled by my parents), and I knew that I would have to go back, and the people that hurt me knew that too. Sometimes I've wished I could've lived alone, without the need for affection or any emotion whatsoever, just so that wouldn't have to go back to those same people that hurt me over and over. In fact, back then I've begun to develop a plan on how to achieve that state of emotional coldness, by watching filmed execution, murder, medical autopsy, (hell, I even resorted to watching necrophilia at one point) and various other bloody, violent and gory material to kill off any signs of kindness and compassion in me or 'weaknesses', as I called them. Heck, I would sometimes pause the video, cry like a little girl and then continue watching those videos over and over while crying my eyes out. Sometimes I would just be unable to hold back my tears and start crying in the middle of the day, just thinking back to those videos and the fact that I would have to go back home and watch them over again. Which, of course, resulted in more insults and bullying on my part. Goddamn, I probably have no idea just how lucky I am to have never crossed into that threshold, cause I'm not sure I'd be able to go back afterwards.
Now mind you, I was not suicidal. Never crossed my thoughts even once. I merely wished all those people were to disappear, although violent thoughts did take their place in my head, where I would imagine just how to show those people just how much they hurt me by hurting them. I never did make any attempts to hurt anyone, I was simply too scared for that.
So basically all of that was happening in my life until my parents decided that I should get a job. I hated that idea, because it would mean that I would have to back to working with people, especially angered by the fact that my parents have decided that it was time for me to get a job NOW, now that I was very close to achieving that cold, emotional state I desired so much. Nonetheless, I knew that going against my parents was a bad idea so I reluctantly began to look for a job. In two weeks, I've landed a position as a cashier in a Russian store (I'm Russian too, by the way). Now you can probably guess how that made me feel, not to be just surrounded by co-workers, but customers as well. And lots of customers too, those of you that work or have worked in a grocery store probably know how bad customers can be when they're in a bad mood. So, day one. I am introduced to a nice manager who showed me around the store, taught me about PLU and UPC codes, introduced me to some of the store personnel, basically she showed all the basics. She was really nice and helpful, always asked me if I understood everything properly, in other words for once I wasn't afraid or shy to be around a person. (Before anyone asks, no, this is not going to be a lengthy romance novel with a happy ending, I never found her attractive in that way and she was ~15 years older than me as I found out later). After that I was paired up with one of the cashiers (who was also a girl), who taught me how to handle the register and pretty much let me watch her work. Now, here's where it got interesting for me: I got to watch, no wait, SPECTATE the aspect of social interaction between her and the customers. No matter who the customer was, no matter what colour, religion, race or mood, they never said a cross word to her, or even try to bring her mood down. They simply laid their groceries on the slide, watched them get weighted/scanned, packed their stuff, paid and left. Not only that, she was actually smiling if one of the newer customers greeted her, or if she met an old customer, etc. What I thought was going to be a hell-hole for me actually turned out to be a pleasant surprise. So I watched that for some time until the girl offered me to try my hand at this. Of course, I was a bit nervous about me being unexperienced and all, but she said she'd watch me and help me out. When the first customer approached, I became so scared that I had drops of sweat going down my face in a matter of seconds and my hands began to shake. I couldn't even look at them even after the girl greeted them, and they greeted her back while placing the groceries on the slide. I just quickly grabbed whatever the first item I could reach. Bad idea. The first item were some apples, which need a PLU code in order to weigh them properly, which I did not know, which means I would have to look them up in a PLU list, which would take forever and probably piss off the customers. In other words, I was panicking. Still, I grabbed that PLU list and began to pretend to look for the code, which I now realized had no idea where to look. I didn't even know what the apples were called, so I had no idea what to do. The customers were now giving me an odd look, and the girl noticed that I was panicking, so she decided to help me out by giving me the code (I have never more quickly relieved in my life), and then explained to the customers that I was new and still in training. Now here's the part that SHOCKED me: they began to cheer me on. I was so taken aback by the fact that I've never met these people before in my life, they've never met me and yet here they were, cheering me on, and not turning around to leave me for some other cashier who would do the whole process much faster. After I was done, they thanked me and smiled at me. Right at that moment, my manager told me my training was done for the day and that I could leave. I left, while still trying to figure out what just happened, to get it all to fit in my head.
Now fast-forward to three days later, it was my first day of working by myself, and I've made my first mistake. I charged some customer $40 extra without knowing, obviously pissed and demanding compensation. Cue the red face, the sweat, the shak hands. So I now approach my manager with the receipt, expecting to be fired on the spot for my mistake. To my surprise, I was told to get back to work. Still, I pondered "Am I gonna get fired?" until I found a spare minute and asked my manager about it. She laughed when she realized that I was serious, and told me "No, but be more careful in the future." I thanked her embarrassingly, and rushed back. Throughout the day, I just kept replaying the event over in my head. At that point, it hit me that maybe people aren't as bad as I thought them to be. Still, I decided to work some more and see if that was the case for sure. And you know, I was right. Over the weeks of working there, dealing with hundreds of people per shift, some good, others not so much, and watching how other cashiers deal with them only confirmed my suspicions further and further. I no longer tried to rid myself of emotions and actually tried smiling at a customer, and guess what? He smiled back. After that, I (you may have no idea just how) gladly deleted all of those brutal videos off my laptop, and never thought of going back to that since.