Perception – It’s a Funny Thing.
It’s interesting how our image of who we are often doesn’t agree with other’s perceptions of who we are.
I generally think of myself as an average person, at least when I’m not really thinking about myself. To me, my life seems normal because, well, it’s my life and in living it, it’s normal for me. Living in your own shoes you get comfortable with all the little things that make up your life. Sometimes even big things seem like just another day-in-the-life for you. But then something happens that makes you question if you really are as ‘normal’ as you think you are.
I have had a number of experiences in my life that I don’t really see as major now, even though I know intellectually that they aren’t experiences the average American has. Since I’ve just started a couple of new jobs recently I’m now getting to know a lot of new people. This always opens up questions about backgrounds, experiences, things people enjoy, etc. It is in these moments when I start opening up to someone new that I realize my life has not been and is not now a “normal, average American life”.
Taken separately, some of my experiences have happened in “average American’s” lives. Together – well, not many novelists or screenwriters could come up with someone like me.
Just to give an idea of the things people find out about me: When I was 21 I had two kids and was living on base in Panama during “Operation Just Cause” and got the thrill of waking to mortar shells hitting outside the housing area. My middle daughter woke up one morning when she was 15 months old and couldn’t move her legs – two days later she had to be put on a ventilator. She was the youngest person they’d seen with Guillian-Barre Syndrome. (Thankfully she’s fine now.) Bad year (2001) mom diagnosed with Lou Gherig’s, me with fibroid tumors *yay* surgery! and a major move. Year(s) from Hell (2004-2005) lost my mom and both of my grandmothers, & one child hospitalized 6 times. Then comes the real fun – just 9 months after getting married my husband and I go to immigration so I can be his sponsor – and he’s deported! So, I packed & moved what I could and sold/donated the rest and moved to Mexico. Once there I took classes to teach English, started teaching, opened a Café with my husband and learned Spanish.
So, when I look at those things I realize that my experiences are really different. That said, I still think of myself as a normal person. However, when I mention even a few of these things (such as my recent move & why) people start looking at me differently. Before all this I’m just another pharmacy technician/co-worker/smiling face/whatever. After I mention some of these things (or most of these things) people are suddenly impressed with me – they think I’m some sort of amazing person. (Not sure if it’s because I’m still smiling and pleasant or that they think I’m still sane or what.) I haven’t actually changed at all, but the way they look at me is different.
What about any of you? Are there things in your life you’ve become so familiar with that they seem ordinary to you, but when you explain them to someone else they are amazed?
This really should remind us that who we think we see is often very different than who that person really is on the inside.