I think it was around middle school when I first started thinking about the fact that I’d only get the chance to experience the world from the perspective of my own brain. When you really think about how much that limits your understanding of the world, and of others, it’s kinda depressing. (At the same time, I would never want to observe myself the way someone else might. My fragile ego appreciates the social norms that force other people to filter their thoughts.) Although I can’t truly understand anyone else, I’ve spent a lot of time observing people and learning from them the best that I could. My perspective and descriptions of other people will never be completely accurate because it’s just the picture from my vantage point. But, learning from others and getting to know the different people that make up the world has really taught me more than anything else. Because so many people have added so much richness to my life, whether they are privy to the knowledge that they enriched my life or not, my plan is to write a series of posts describing different interactions with different people. This post will be the first in the series.
I had a lot of different thoughts about how to start. The girl I landed on is a bit of an odd choice because my memory about her is brief and I don’t remember her name. I guarantee that she doesn’t remember me. Our interaction was short. And yet, profound. For ease of reference, I will refer to this girl as K.
K is the girl who first taught me about happiness, I mean really taught me about happiness. Before K, I knew plenty of people who were happy. And plenty of people who weren’t happy. Generally, I thought the people I knew who were unhappy had earned that right based on their life circumstances. I considered the happy group to be the lucky group. I did not quite understand that happiness is more cause, less effect. A choice you make, rather than a result. K changed all of that.
I met K under extraordinary circumstances. In fact, she was inpatient in a mental hospital when we met. The week before I met K, her brother had been killed in a drive-by shooting. K, barely a teenager, also happened to be pregnant with her stepfather’s baby. Her mother was kicking her out of the house because of it. K had tried to kill herself a few days before we met. But, when I met K she exuded confidence and hope. It seemed that her suicide attempt and stint in the mental hospital had provided her with a sense of clarity, motivation, and identity. She had all she needed to take her horrible situation and create a life that was her own regardless.
“I don’t understand how you’re so strong,” I remember telling her. “I couldn’t handle everything facing you.” “It’s simple,” she explained to me, “Look outside. The sun is out there shining.” “It’s shining just for me, you know,” she said matter-of-factly. “Now, wanna learn how to do the Crip Walk?” And just like that, she seemed to have discovered how to dismiss her current circumstances. “I just decided that I’m special and lucky and I really don’t care about anything else,” she explained. No more waiting for the world to come and save her. She wasn’t taking any chances on the universe. She lit her torch from the inside. I looked at her in awe. And I resolved to do the same.