I sat here the other morning looking at pictures of my 20 year high school reunion. I didn’t go. Why not? A few reasons. One, I live kinda far away, yes? Like 1,700 miles. So it’s not exactly a quick commute. There are only a handful of folks that I would have wanted to see, and I can email or text them when I like. But really? I was pretty insecure in high school. Did I really want to relive that? Um, no. Pass. I struggle enough with this in my current life. I didn’t need to heap it on voluntarily.
So I was looking at the pictures of these folks–some of whom I remember clearly and some of whom I definitely do NOT–and I started thinking, “Wow. She looks exactly the same.” Or, “Whoa. He hasn’t changed at ALL.” I actually sat down to write something about how people don’t really change. But then, upon further thought, I realized how fantastically wrong I am.
On the outside, everyone (that I remember) DOES pretty much look the same. Fashion choices, hairstyles, facial expressions. Of course folks are updated by 20 years–a few more wrinkles, a little less hair–but seriously, these people don’t appear to have changed all that much. Even the antics and gestures and smiles are the same as I remember. And I determined in five minutes through some pictures that people don’t really change.
What if I HAD gone to this reunion? What if my image was there, alongside the others? Would people think the same thing about me? Would they determine that I haven’t changed in 20 years? College, a cross-country move, homes, kids, career. Adventure, love, disappointment, curve balls, and the status-quo. Twenty years’ worth of life experiences. I am offended just supposing that someone would think I have remained unchanged.
And let’s be honest: This is the real reason I didn’t want to go, isn’t it? I didn’t want to be judged–and
possibly probably incorrectly–by a bunch of people from my past. No one wants to be judged, right? We want to be seen for what and who we really are. Of course we do.
But I sat here and did it to everyone else. From my kitchen table, in my pajamas, with my morning coffee. I did it.
This is dangerous, friends. And we do it every day. We look at people through Facebook or Instagram or even just on the street and we think we know them. We think we can see inside them from a 10-second snapshot. It happens intimately, with friends and family. It happens with strangers we interact with. And it even happens globally, with different races and economic statuses and religions and values. It must be human nature, to want to sort and classify and think we KNOW things. It makes us feel powerful, in a way, and comforted. It’s TIDY. But if we flip it–if we imagine it being done to ourselves–then we realize just how misguided it is. Hurtful.
I bet if I had gone into that reunion and actually listened to people, talked to them, really HEARD them, I would find people have changed a whole damn lot. No one can experience 20 years of living and NOT change. The key? That listening part.
You guys, we can’t judge by pictures or updates or by looking out our car windows. We have to listen. We need to hear the stories and insights and perspectives of others in order to understand them. This takes time, of course. It’s not tidy. It is hard. But it’s necessary. Otherwise we will just keep judging, deciding we KNOW people, and living the exact same way we always have.
So today, I am going to work on NOT judging. I will try to listen, to see others’ perspectives, and to give people time and space. This is the way we break down barriers and get to know each other. I’m thankful that I got to see the pictures of these classmates of mine, and I think they were brave to have gone to that reunion. Good for you, you guys.
You all look great.