Sunday, August 23, 2015

I Thought You Were Different

I remember this very well so it must be significant. I was at a college party where there was lots of music, pot and clicks. I can't say I felt entirely comfortable there. I sat down and started talking to some guests at the party and we formed a little circle. I think they felt as uncomfortable as I did at the seemingly entertaining milieu of the place, when really there wasn't anything interesting going on. I just wanted to talk to people who weren't just trying to look cool and for a brief moment, I found them. As the party progressed, I did something quite stupid, as we sometimes do when we are young. Then someone who I barely knew, someone who I just met at that party said to me, "I thought you were different."

It was a passing comment, something someone I can't even remember said in the middle of a very complicated night but I remember that most of all. I never took the time to ask myself why this was so significant until now. I remember feeling quite offended. Who was he to say he thought he knew me? He talked to me for maybe fifteen minutes at the most? I can't even remember what he had talked about, what his name was or what he looked like but I remember him saying that he thought I was different.

So today I'm wondering if a stranger could really "know" a person as he said he did. And who are we to say we are different? We are all special, yes, just like everyone else. Maybe I didn't want to be different or maybe I did. I never understood people who wanted to be like everyone else. I recall a line in a movie where the hero said that he just wanted to be like everyone else and the love interest said, "so you want to be petty and dishonest?"

Or perhaps what really got me was that this man who barely knew me turned out to be wrong. I did something to disappoint him. I wasn't different after all. How horrible is that? I was very embarrassed about what happened at that party but looking back, I doubt anyone really cared, except maybe for a good reason to gossip. Yet here was someone who barely knew me that I managed to disappoint. Could a perfect stranger care in this deep of a level? Maybe I care what people think of me after all. I thought I didn't. I didn't care what people thought because most people just want to judge or gossip but here was someone who thought I was different, who had expectations of me. He wasn't a parent or a teacher or any other authority figure, yet he had expectations. Why? Even now, as I use this subject as a thesis and as a focus of contemplation, I still don't get it.

I was raised to be very independent and growing up, I did everything on my own. I never thought it noble to care what other people thought. I have always had that John Wayne, cowboy, Wolverine mindset. Raw individuality always became me and its only now that I have a family, a business and a career that I see the importance of other people in our lives. Perhaps this is why I'm reflecting on what happened. Maybe its time for me to look back and see how my more mature self views what this young man said so long ago.

Maybe it does matter when someone sees something special in us. Maybe other people's expectations can make a difference. Maybe, looking back, I did get help along the way although I thought myself so independent. While I followed my heart, struck out on my own, payed my way through school and lived the dream, there were some people who encouraged me. There was my high school acting teacher who simply told me I was a genius. My high school English teacher told me I marched to my own drum. My boss who hired me even though most kids who were bum poor, paying their way through school dropped out and moved back home within a few months. When I told him I was having a hard time reaching some merchandise on the top shelf of the stock room, he simply said, "I don't think there's anything you can't do." I didn't care much for my boss, but I'll never forget that he said that. I remember when someone says that I am the person I want to be and I guess it does mean something now, when my clients tell me I've changed them for the better. So, when I disappointed this young stranger at a party, I guess I never forgot that either. Truth is, I disappointed myself. I am different... but we are not our mistakes. We are who ever we want ourselves to be and we have to keep reminding ourselves of this.

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