Ever think about how many people you unintentionally encounter in one day?
The Starbucks barista, the UPS truck driver, the lifeguard, the bank teller... and this doesn't even include the douchebag who cut you off on the highway. My point is, the number has got to be astronomically large, even if you're from a small Ohioan town just like me. It's dizzying to think that every one of these people has their own thing going on, with problems of their own, and you are nothing more than a blip on their radar. The fact of the matter is this: you will never really know the full story about anyone, with the exception of one person.
That's right, no matter how well you think you know someone, the only person you can truly know in such an intimate way is yourself. I'm not challenging the legitimacy of your relationships with your family, best friend, or significant other. Rather, I'm bringing to light the idea that people are kind of like icebergs, since we only see what's above the water.
On the contrary, when it comes to knowing ourselves, we know more than we may think. That stuff under the surface is actually what makes us who we truly are. Even if we don't know what the future holds for us, we know our own dreams and desires. We know how we'd react in any given situation because we know what we'll tolerate and what we won't. We know our own likes, from simple things like how we prefer our eggs be cooked to more complicated things like how we prefer to be treated on a date. We know who we love, even if we don't know why. We are the forgers of our own thoughts, the keepers of our own hearts.
It's peculiar to reflect on the reasons that someone may rub you the wrong way. What is it that you dislike about them? Is it their condescending tone, or is it the fact that they reminded you of someone who broke your heart? Or is it because, deep down, they called to mind a version of yourself that you're not proud of?
Those past versions of ourselves are often the spark which unknowingly ignites us to make a change. At every pivotal moment in our lives, the person we come to know as "me" is constantly in flux, adapting, learning. When we become aware of ourselves, it influences the lives of those around us. But here's the catch, we get to choose whether the world is a better or worse place because of it.
Let's go back. Remember the guy who cut you off on the highway?
Pause right there. Freeze frame.
Now turn the camera around.
How did YOU react?
Did you get super irritated, flip the bird, and tailgate him until you got to your exit? (That's what I probably did, because I have some road rage issues). Or did you get super irritated, let out a big sigh, and be thankful that he didn't cause an accident?
How about the Starbucks barista? She was very peppy, which might have been a little too much for you at 8 in the morning. But did you respond with a smile or roll your eyes?
I'm not saying that anyone is perfect, because I know it's hard to be kind all the time. People are stupid, they make us mad, and we react in ways that wouldn't make our future self proud. But people are also lovely, funny, good company, and have a lot to teach us. It's all just a matter of whether or not we want to learn.
While that camera's turned back on you, in a moment of self-reflection, ask yourself this:
Would I like me, if I wasn't me?
Because after all, the most important person you can meet is yourself.