A few days ago while attending an event, I was walking back to my living quarters with a group of older adults. I missed part of the conversation, and when I tried inquiring, I got the dismissive response, “Nothing, when you’re older.” I felt my cheeks warm, and going by the tension in my jaw and the churning in my stomach, I knew it was definitely not the heat of the blazing summer sun. Yes, I was angry.
I was angry, because the person who uttered this otherwise trivial comment was judging me based on the preconceived assumption that as a younger person, I don’t understand things, that I am immature. I wanted so badly to trigger my Puerto Rican sass that takes over when something gets me fired up. I wanted to defend myself by saying that I am a grown nineteen-year-old woman with a head on my shoulders and an army behind me, but I decided it wasn’t worth it. In this moment, I realized how it felt to be on the receiving end of judgements made about me based on assumptions and misconceptions. It was in this moment that I felt the inspiration for this piece, because I know how it feels to be judged by assumptions rather than accepted with openness. This may seem insignificant or dramatic to some, but assumptions cause everyone to feel that they need to prove something to others or live in a box society creates, which is why we should not ever make them.
After a long day of traveling, I landed in Minneapolis, and I was eager to get settled in and return back to work. Seeing as I was in no mood to explore my surroundings or take the scenic route through the airport, I asked for assistance finding baggage claim. The person who came to my aid was not who I expected. I could tell by the sound of her voice that there was going to be a language barrier, and the first thought that flashed through my mind was, “Man, this is going to be more difficult.” Once on our way, she asked me what my bag looked like. I could tell she was having a little bit of a rough time understanding my description, so I did the exact opposite of my typical stress-induced response, and asked prompting questions all the while keeping a warm smile on my face and an forcing open the door into my heart. She wanted to see my baggage ticket, which I fortunately had in a spot that was easily accessible. The lady used my ticket to identify the bag, and getting from place to place, we even talked a little bit about Minneapolis, and exchanged names. I was surprised by her calm demeanor as she helped me navigate different areas with ease and understanding, given that there are cultural differences around the world, which also means there are varying attitudes towards blindness, some more negativethan others.
As I sat in my Lyft on the way back from the airport, I marveled at the positive experience I had, and I truly realized the magnitude and power of keeping an open mind. I could’ve stuck to my initial assumption that the language barrier would make my experience more difficult, but I pushed the negativity aside and chose to show this woman as much kindness and patience I possess in my heart. I chose to be present in the moment as opposed to making assumptions, and I was rewarded.
Everyone assumes things every day. People assume that people who don’t speak the language are uneducated or don’t understand. Society has been taught to assume and believe that blind people and people with disabilities cannot live full and productive lives. People assume that younger people are innocent or immature, or that younger people holding leadership positions are inexperienced and incapable. I’m guilty of making these assumptions, however, my experiences being on the receiving end of actions based off of assumptions have pushed me to remain open and honest. People should not ever have to feel that they are not enough, or that they need to prove themselves to be worthy of anything or anyone, therefore, everyone needs to refrain from assuming, and instead be present in the moment, be honest, and always keep an open mind. After all, you know what they say when you assume;it makes an ass out of u and me.