I once sat at a dinner table with a group of friends – old and new. It was a huge group, and as huge groups go, the conversations would split in different ways. The quieter guys will have a quiet conversation on serious business, like work and the news. The more flamboyant group will make loud jokes and laugh, and occasionally attract the attention of the rest of the table. Then there are the observers, the ones that do not join the conversation, but contributes laughs and applause. At this busy table I looked around and overheard an old friend telling a new friend a description of me. I listened to this. And then I realize that less than half of the description is actually true facts about me. The rest of them are, well, ideas about me.
This brought me think about how I convey my message to others. I immediately recognize that I do the same exact thing. If I wanted to describe a person to someone else, instead of telling the facts about that person, I end up telling my impression about that person. For example, a guy who plays video games is now 'the guy who doesn't leave his room ever and lives in the dark with zero social skills', and a girl with a specific taste would be 'the girl who is a downright diva, has no adaptable qualities and a hassle to travel with'. This would eventually explain why secondary information is never correct. Instead of getting facts, we get the impression on how the person looks like to another. Which isn’t right. Everybody deserves a chance to portray themselves to another person all on their own.
It’s toxic, this thing we’re doing. We talk about people based on how we feel about them, and not only is it demeaning, it’s downright unfair. As a person who’s on the listening side of things, we too are obligated to understand that there are a few sides to every story, and to only mostly believe it when we see it. But like everything else in life, lessons are best learned when the joke’s on you. I suppose listening to that conversation about me was sort of a wake up call to what I might’ve done to others, and how affected people would feel if these people had heard it themselves. I might try not to do that too much now.
I’ve always found myself attracted to people and things that I feel understood me. I like certain kinds of music and certain kinds of books, and I like talking to certain people who sees the world in a certain kind of way. I guess I am doing what everyone else is doing too – we strive to be understood.
Essentially this is what everybody wants for themselves. A black sheep of a family is called a black sheep because nobody else understands what it is like to be him or her. You find soul mates because you have ‘chemistry’, and ‘chemistry’ is for me, just a fancy word for two people who get each other despite the differences. We value friends who we feel have the ‘same wavelength’ with us. Musicians write music and thinkers write books, all for this very same reason.
The older I get, the harder it is for me to feel like I am understood. In school we all wear the same uniform, in college we all want to graduate. But once real life begins, everybody disperses in a million different directions, with our own goals and outlooks in life. Some of us want to achieve a certain career goal and off they go, with their weekend work ethics and million-dollar aim. Some of us just want to get married as quickly possible and off they go, having ten kids before they’re thirty five. Some of us just want to leave home and travel the world, and off they go with their postcard-perfect pictures. Some of us find the life questions a bit too baffling and we take our own sweet time to figure them out, until we’re ready to get to the next phase, whenever that may be.
Unfortunately we live in a community where instead of being understood, we are forced to understand and comply with a set of rules, set by the common community. If you dream too big your feet won’t touch the ground. If you’re bad at maths, you’re probably stupid as a whole. If you don’t have it all figured out by a certain age, then you’re wasting your life away. If you see the world and life differently, then you’re wrong. We keep listening to these sentiments all the time, and yet it never occurred to us that if we’re all meant to think and feel and want the same, wouldn’t we be made as robots instead of people with independent thoughts?
I used to panic whenever I find myself not quite on everyone else’s timeline, or not really understanding things that other people seem to have already figured out. I felt like in my position, predicament and troubles, nobody understood me. Then I realized that if I wanted a solution, I would have to be a part of it. So instead of demanding people to understand me, I tried to understand other people first (it’s not easy though. People are complicated, I’ve come to realize). Their problems. Their life goals. They way they look at life. If I understood people, maybe, I’ll get the favor returned.