I love watching or just listening to a good TedTalk. There is just something amazing about sharing ideas and listening to someone making the potentially impossible elegantly simple. I certainly was not disappointed by the talk that Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs gave on our resistance to recognizing and preforming the ‘hard work’ that makes the ‘brilliant’ ideas possible. He also talks about two concepts that have stuck with me after watching this talk for the second time.
Anagnorisis – Basically a sudden awareness of who you are.
Peripeteia – Essentially a discovery that things have changed from what you thought to basically the opposite.
It’s funny – no ironic – that after listening to this talk and understanding those concepts I suddenly see these two things everywhere.
I used to joke about being neurotic but the reality the definition of neurosis fits me pretty much to a T. Neurosis is a functional mental illness, marked with anxiety, depression, low self worth among a laundry list of other things. The more I read, the more I agreed, the more I realized that we are raised to feel think this way.
Recently I took one of those silly survey things that asks you to pick between two statements. You have to pick one, which ever one you agree with more. The choices came down to thinks like ‘I think I am better than other people but I would never say it’ or ‘It’s okay to be really nice to people I don’t like when I need something from them’. Basically you have to choose between being crazy full of yourself almost to a point of narcissism or you have to manipulate others … neither one feels acceptable.
I also sat through a lecture recently that touched on race. My professor was throwing out the words Whites, Blacks, Asians like it was no big deal and every time she did I cringed just a little. I was raised to pretend that I don’t see differences. In school we constantly talked about not treating people differently based on their abilities, their color, their language, you name it – the name of the game became pretending it doesn’t actually exist. This has been something that has bothered me for a long time. I feel uncomfortable making eye contact with someone in a wheelchair because I don’t want them to think I am staring or I would hate to offer the help them reach something and have them think I am offering help out of pity.
Seriously, that was an example in customer service training in my first retail job. If they need help let them ask … but if you were 5′ and trying to reach something an inch out of reach as a 5’5″ person I would offer to help … how is this different.
But being raised in the good ol’ Minnesota nice kinda way I go back to thinking about how wrong I must be.
I have actually been driving myself crazy about this for the past day.
Here is the thing – I am not perfect, you are not perfect and I challenge anyone to show me a living person who is perfect. Just because I am a fairly privileged white 20 something doesn’t mean I haven’t had life experience. It doesn’t mean I can’t empathize, and it sure doesn’t mean I walk around with a superiority complex. Our push for treating everyone the same has actually ensured that all I walk around with is a little guilt for being born as I was … something I have zero control over.
Now I sound like a whiney pity me because being privileged in the ways I have been is so hard kind of girl.
I am not.
I mention these things because these thoughts, feelings, and early lessons on tolerance and diversity have actually hindered my ability to make friends outside of my cultural and socio-economic peers. I am afraid to make an effort to get to know someone different from myself because I am interested in learning the differences in our cultures and the nuances that come with living in a ‘free culture’ when your heritage dictates arranged marriage. I am afraid to talk about my families Christmas traditions for fear I will offend someone. Heck, I had a conversation with a co-worker the other day about cats. She has cats – I don’t like them. I mentioned my husband sometimes mentions getting one but cats kind of creep me out. And as it was coming out of my mouth all I could think was shut up, shut up, shut up you are about to offend. Good thing the ladies are work with are a little less sensitive than the rest of us and are smart self-confident women who know not everyone likes the same things.
If we could all be just a little more aware of the things we get wrong and a little more gracious about everyone being different and if we could wrap our arms lovingly around one another when one of us needs help through a hard time what would we be capable of?