Welcome to Featured Friend Friday!
I have known Nota for a very long time.
Last week I had a blog post, WHY WHY WHY, that inspired her to write the following post as my Featured Friday Friend!
Thanks a bunch Nota!
Visit her page a.nota.potamus
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“Never assume what someone else is capable of. If someone were to look at you, would they know what you’re capable of?”
Once upon a time, I spent 3 years working on my speed, flexibility and targeting to be able to kick the man that said this in the head. He had a point. I’m a rather unassuming brunette – a little round, a shorty at 5’4”. I’ve been known to turn a head or two, but no one’s ever assumed I’m a model. To look at me, I am certainly NOT the woman you’d assume could kick a 6’2” martial arts instructor in the head. Most of the women in the studio were similar to me – students, professionals, some were moms. Out in the world, we were unassuming – which is a nice way of saying bland. Unpretentious. Uninteresting. Not head-kickers. We were Assumed Safe.
Which isn’t a bad thing.
Assumptions like those make us more approachable. It’s easier to be seen as a good candidate for a job, or a date. In my own experience, people might be attracted to unpredictable thrill-seekers for a minute, but they like safe for the long term. You don’t want unpredictable in a boardroom or thrill-seeking babysitting your kids. It’s also easier to make friends when you’re assumed safe. I’ve never heard anyone go ‘Oooh, I think that dude’s about to go postal! Yippee, a new friend!” Avoiding perceived threats keeps us alive. It’s a safety mechanism and it’s natural.
(To clarify – I’m talking about threats to both person and dignity. Liars, backstabbers, and the occasional murderer = threats. That kind of threat. Perceiving someone as a threat just because their boobs are big, their legs are long, or their Adonis DNA has a neck tattoo is just stupid. That’s not a threat, it’s a stick up your ass. Back to my train of thought…avoiding threats…safety mechanism…good things…yadda, yadda…)
Except when it’s not a good thing.
Once we’ve assumed someone is safe – we’ve made a friend of them – we’ve let them in – we like to keep them in that box. Variations are permitted to update haircuts, change boyfriends, try your salmon a new way. Variations that don’t change the essential definition that we have of a person. Birds of a feather and all that, we define part of who we are by the company we keep. Note, I said we define ourselves this way, not others defining us this way. As long as we know who they are, we know who we are too. We’re open-minded, affluent, granola, democratic, urban, tattooed, whatevah – and so, for the most part, is the company we keep. Naturally grouping according to interests and demographics.
My cousin Marti wrote the other day about the “much negative feedback associated with [her] occasional mentions of what [she] wanted to try doing….It is easy to become discouraged when others close to us have issues with what it is we are doing or want to do. We write our dream off as a bad idea and stay where we are not happy.” This hit home for me, especially in the context of being an unassuming girl who’s lost friends and jobs over people trying to cram her back in the box they made for her. I have listened to a lot of “issues” over the years and found most of them to be more about people striving to keep their own definition in place than letting me expand mine.
When you shake the box you’re in, you are no longer assumed safe.
Once upon a time, I went into a job I’d hated for awhile and quit. I went home that same night to a fiancé I’d hated for awhile and quit him too. Yep – job and fiancé – same day. I shook my box. And a whole lot of people around me went “WTF?!!! WHO ARE YOU?”. Same girl I was yesterday, just a whole lot happier. More broke – but happier. It never dawned on me that some of my friends wouldn’t be able to handle me in a happier box. Some couldn’t. Oh well.
When I signed on for my first half-marathon, being that I was a girl that never particularly enjoyed running, I shook some more friends out of my box. Not by my choice, but theirs. Me being in a running box no longer gel’d with some of their recreational habits. Yes, I changed who I was when I made these choices, but I was still a person that tried to support their choices. Oh well.
That’s just two examples, but let me tell you – when you get a taste of shaking your box on occasion (bad porno-speak anyone? LOL), it’s addictive. Challenges might be scary – sometimes it’s scary outside the box – but they aren’t impossible. Then a strange thing happens – you run out of people trying to cram you in your coffin box. You look up and your husband thinks you can do any damn thing you put your mind too (and if he’s really lucky, the things he puts his mind too. Yowza!). Your best-friend is encouraging your next run and talking strategy about how to beat your last time. Your boss is praising your willingness to take a risk and talking to you about your next step up the ladder. I’ve learned that for the people who really matter – you’re unlimited. You bring them an idea and instead of “[writing] your dream off as a bad idea”, they look you in the eye and ask how they can help. You don’t exist to support their idea of who they are. They’re around because they really love you. They want that dream for you.
All because you once upon a time, you said ‘fuck it’ and shook the box.
I’m not saying that I was never sad to see some of those once good friends say goodbye. Some went quietly. Some didn’t and said hurtful things. Some of them I still miss terribly – but I know they aren’t for me now. I’ve gotten better at spotting people that are for me as friends and bosses. I’ve screwed up a few times. You don’t always get it right your first time out of the box. I’ve had someone else shake my box – and been really pissed off about it right up until I said ‘thank you’. Sometimes I’ve looked up and gone ‘WTF was I thinking?!! NOT doing that again.’
My point in all of this is to say, that should you find yourself in the position of writing off someone’s dream, please consider asking yourself why you’re putting a box over their head. It’s not a turn on. And it stinks like cardboard.
One thing I did do again was kick that guy in the head. Seeing as how he was my kickboxing instructor, he actually encouraged it – because he, for one, didn’t want to make any assumptions about what I was capable of doing – or what size box I could kick myself free of.