Last week’s post on Serendipity has generated a lot of interesting comments I would like to explore further. But I will leave that for another day as today I want to write about a personal insight I gathered as a result of something that happened this weekend.
A friend who came into my life recently, has said to me several times that I am very different to people he had known previously. The first few times he said that I took it very lightly; taking it to mean that I am a single mother of a child with special needs or someone who has once had a high flying career and is now no longer defined by that said career or even the fact that I am going through this journey of self discovery. Yesterday we talked about it a bit more and the grey cells finally clicked in my brain; what he meant was that all his close friends previously had been of the same ethnic background as him. And his worry was what family and friends would think of him suddenly deciding to be friends with someone like me.
I completely understand why my friend would have such a concern. I have a wide circle of friends from around the world. Among them are those that like me because of my different appearance, those that like me despite my appearance and finally those that do not care one bit about what I look like because when they look at me, they see the person inside. This particular friend fell into this last category.
However, this had not always been the case for him. We had very different childhoods. I was born in a city of 2 . 4 million people, 7 degrees north of the equator and he was born a continent away in a tiny town in southern New Zealand of only a few hundred people, more than 45 degrees south of the equator. And the 52 degrees of latitude that separated the worlds we grew up in meant, we might as well have been brought up on different planets. Despite our very different upbringings, somehow our paths crossed and we discovered we actually have very similar personalities. A friendship was possible because life experience and travel had broadened our outlooks and we had learned to look past the outward appearance to the person inside. But the people in the worlds we had grown up in haven’t shared those same life experiences, and are therefore still very much prone to judging people by their outward appearance. And this was my friend’s worry.
I think my friend’s concerns are valid and have to be worked through so as not to alienate his friends and family. But this series of events actually saddened me and when I explored this further, it brought to surface something of more personal significance for me. I had the sudden realisation this morning that somewhere along the line, I had forgotten any hesitations and insecurities I had about my outward appearance including the colour of my “wrapping paper”. I had started looking at people through a different lens; one that looked to see if I could resonate with them or not. And that had served to free something inside of me enabling me to soar high above the clouds, exploring places I had never been to before. What I had not realised was; I was still attached to the ground with a long piece of elastic. Yesterday, the piece of elastic had finally been stretched too far and had snapped back to earth, bringing me down with it. My mind might have learned to liberate itself, but I am still wrapped in the same old wrapping paper I was born in and there are some people in this world who will only ever see the colour of that paper and not the gift hiding inside. The sadness was a result of the understanding that I can only change myself. How others perceive me is completely outside of my control.