Vantage Point

Truth - The way things appears and the way things are can be drastically different and yet exactly the same. How something is viewed can make all the difference. Context is key. Without background, history, or relevant input we're left to piece things together. From one angle things may look alright but change your viewpoint and it's a completely novel story. We edit, cut, and paste together our lives and the world around us. Even what we play back and tell the world is only one version of the truth. Change your vantage point, change the world.
"When you really listen to another person from their point of view, and reflect back to them that understanding, it's like giving them emotional oxygen." Stephen Covey

Do we ever fully get the whole story? I mean, do we ever get to know everything or the exact truth? The definitive answer is no. Every single time we tell a story, it's different. We hyperbolize, without details, and remember selectively. Every recollection we have is not actually what happened but rather some semblance of it. We are like those unreliable narrators who cannot be trusted i.e. Gone Girl, Life of Pi, Fight Club telling fanciful, inconsistent, and sometimes downright deranged disillusionments to all who will listen or to ourselves. If we can't trust ourselves or our memories, how do we know anything to be true? Well, all of it is true to a certain extent. We believe in the unseen regularly. Quantum particles, viral germs, light rays, Area 51, karma, and God remain invisible to the human eye and yet some people hold them to exist as self-evident truths. Seeing really isn't believing - believing is believing. We see what we want to. We see when we are ready to. We see how we can handle it. There are some truths that are too much to bear. There are some truths we cannot see. There are some truths that we choose not to see.

Every person moves through the world and embraces it uniquely. With their identities, upbringings, ideals, and experiences - they have a distinct way in which they interact. Some people have an unwavering optimism, some bring a nonchalant pessimism, and others still carry a reputable pragmatism wherever they go. The glass half empty or hall full debate gets shattered when add in that either way the glass could be refilled. It's those shifts, alterations, and tweaks that make all the difference. We naturally view the world the way we were taught to. Some of us see hope, light, and goodness in all people while others see destruction, darkness, and helplessness. Some of us walk through the world carefree, unaware, and unmoved by the chaos around us while others cannot escape the dismal diabolical desolation that surrounds us. It is a gift to look in the mirror and see yourself, to see your individuality, your humanity - others are not quite so privileged and see what society has ascribed to us and what we have internalized for ourselves. Turn the mirror ever so slightly and everything changes. Who we are shapes how we view the world. It's our global vantage point.

Do you ever look in the mirror and see someone else looking back at you? Are you ever confused by who you see in the mirror? Have you ever sworn that your reflection did something you didn't? Each day I wake up and get ready to face the world by staring at my own face in the mirror. I ask myself all these questions - what's up with these bumps, why is facial hair so itchy, are my teeth straight enough, is that a rash, why don't these scars go away, is my face symmetrical, and why do I look like this. I run my hands down my face and step out into the world carrying the weight of my entire life with me. I look out and see other people and wonder what they carry with them. What is their story? Why are they who they are? What perspective do they bring? Have they discovered their gift and their purpose in life? How do they change the world for the better each day? I see my reflection on my iPhone screen, in a shallow puddle, and walking by an office window. What do people see when they see me? What do they think my story is? What point of view do I bring?

It's funny how quickly things can change. First impressions can be such fickle things. One encounter and we already think we know people's entire stories. It's laughable since we don't even know the totality of our own. This week saw me getting to meet brand new people and swiftly being reminded that people are often not who I perceive them to be. One of the student organizations I help advise had their first meetings of the semester and I was able to sit back and observe. I learned a lot and saw sides of people I hadn't seen before. It's been both fascinating and challenging at the same time to piece together who each person is and the contexts in which I find them. I found the most purpose during those times in taking notes, speaking with students who were alone, and trouble-shooting the smaller oversights. Now more than ever I realize how much emphasis I've come to place on keeping up appearances, for better and worse. It's clear though from what I'm situated that I have a lot to learn from these truly awe-inspiring people. These are people that play by different rules, have their own ways of life, and see the world drastically different from the how I do. It's going to be a perpetual bout of figuring out and adjusting where one stands. I hope they can take something useful from me as well.

After a rough first few interactions, at least from how I remember them, I made some much needed headway in aligning myself with the men I get to oversee and live with in the fraternity houses. One of brothers brought me a form to fill out and led me over to some of the others who were play some classic Super Smash Bros. Melee on the Gamecube. I took a seat, shifted in to the fun version of me (that secretly loves video games), and proceeded to bond. From there were talked for a couple hours about still surface level stuff but the sustained dialogue definitely changed my views of them, and hopefully they of me. I know their initial instinct is to be defensive of an outsider trying to intrude upon their brotherhood but the same also goes for me in being legitimately intimidated of having to face a whole house (or two) of people who know each other well. I am now sincerely excited to get to know more of them, little by little, if they let me in. From what I have gleaned, once I make moves with any of them - word spreads like wildfire and gets relayed to the others that I'm okay. It's going to be a real game of point of view tinkering but hopefully we all line up soon enough. I just want them to be able to be candid with me and me them - that's the vantage point I'm looking for.

Perception is a complicated thing. People see us and see things about us that we do not. It's a little curious that outsiders are able to pick up on things about us that we ourselves may not even know. It gives them this passive power, but also reminds us that we are able to do the same. What I know is that every time we take to connect with other people our views of them shift, sometimes in big ways, but most often in minute almost unrecognizable ways. No matter which we go in making those movements, it's the act of doing them that matters most - that's the vantage point. X


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