I put the title of this article in quotation marks since it is attributed to Thomas Cooley professor of English at Ohio State University (sorry Buckeye supporters but being a Wolverine, I just can’t put The in front of your school name). I don’t know what he meant by it but it is exactly what I was thinking of writing about today. Here’s the story.
Today, I was picking up a few things at the grocery store when a man was approaching me from the opposite direction. I recognized him immediately and I gave him one of those head nods that says “I know who you are and you might know who I am but I don’t think you would want to talk to me so I’ll just move on”. I wasn’t in a hurry or anything. I just figured he wouldn’t want to talk to me so I didn’t want to talk to him.
I play in a musical group and, a few years ago, this man did too. As a matter of fact, he sat in front of me. He played first clarinet and I was a second. He is a musician and teacher by trade whereas I just play for fun. I’m one of those guys who put the horn away for many years and then dragged it out later in life. With that in mind, I formed an opinion of this man (I’m good at forming opinions because I judge everything). He is a better, more talented musician than I am. He can play first part and I can’t. He can sightread better than I can. He makes fewer mistakes than I do. When we rehearse and play concerts, he can probably hear what is coming out of my horn and cringing at the lack of ability and talent. So, because of all of this, I think that he thinks that I shouldn’t play in this group. I think that he thinks that I suck. I think that he thinks that I am just a waste of time. I think that he thinks that the little jokes I make in rehearsal are disruptive and not funny. I think that he has a clear picture of me and that picture is who I really am.
So, when we ran into each other at the store and I tried to keep walking, the funniest thing happened. He slowed his pace and said. “Hey, I know you”. Sure enough, he recognized me. I said “Hello” and we proceeded to have a brief, but nice conversation. We shared a laugh about something and went on our way. If I am the person I think he thinks I am, then he would have probably sneered and walked right by. Or he would have ignored me completely.
This is just the latest example of how I judge someone and then unfairly determine what they think of me. I’ve doing it for as long as I can remember. And it makes me sad to think of how many friendships I never had because I decided that a person would not want to be my friend. I find it interesting how many people, who I was afraid to talk to because I was who I thought they thought I was are now my Facebook friends.
Today, I am working on liking who I am, being proud of who I am, and not deciding who others think I am. It isn’t easy. But I find that I am almost always wrong about who you think I am so why waste all this energy on it? As that noted philosopher Popeye used to say: “I am what I am and that’s all that I am.” And that’s just fine with me.