We’re All Dumb Together

I apologize for the absence of posts; I took a recess of sorts. Luckily, I had an existential crisis, so I have something to say now.

I was reading a comic, to no one’s surprise, about a girl in college who is very confused by a classmate’s current behavior based on his previous actions the year before. Last year, he had been rude, judgmental, creepy, and mysterious; this year, he is nice, kind, friendly, and yet the mystery continues. Was it all in her head? Was her perception of his behavior flawed? No one else saw him in a negative light; he was popular for his charming good looks, warm behavior, and generous gifts. And yet something nagged at her that everyone else was all wrong.

Eventually, it is revealed that he too had a negative perception of her at first, which only added to their original rivalry; and that perhaps, if things had been different, they could have been friends from the start. Of course, there’s more to the story than that; mystery and confusion abounds, and some premonitions proved to be true.

As I continued reading the comic and realized how time and time again, their false perceptions and judgments led to hurtful conversations and deep self-questioning thought patterns, I felt overwhelmed. How many times had I done this same thing? How many times had I sized someone up based on who I thought them to be without once speaking to them?

I pride myself on being accepting and kind. I like to make new friends and expand my social circle. I make posts on expanding our views from centering on one culture and one way of life.

And yet, when it comes down to it, my judgmental ways have caused me to fall more times than I can count.

Even last fall I fell into this. I heard rumors about a guy and immediately sized him up as a “scumbag.” I looked at him and that was all I could think. I made up stories in my head about him. I thought terrible things of him. I associated everyone who spoke to him as just like him.

Then, I found out the core source of these rumors was a friend of my roommate’s renowned for being a pathological liar. She told countless lies to me, my friend, and everyone she could find about how much this man was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad human being, when turns out, he was an innocent boy who accidentally dated a girl who ruined his life.

If I had stayed in my judgmental ways, I could have missed out on so much. I could have missed out on good friends and possibly even my relationship. And as I read this comic, I could not help but think, “Aren’t I just like this girl? Don’t I manipulate my perceptions of people based on what others say about them and how they appear to be?”

But the thing is, I changed. I no longer let first perceptions stop me from befriending people. I listen to many opinions of a person before making my say. I stopped holding these thoughts in and learned to share them with people I closely trust for their counsel.

And so did she. She gave him a second chance, and he became one of her closest friends. She learned to share her deep concerns and alter her perception of others.

Sometimes, I feel like I’ll never change and I’ll be stuck in a never-ending cycle of repeated behaviors forever. But when I recognize that there’s something I need to work on, I can’t unsee it. I begin to work on it, bit by bit, until it changes. I inform myself on how I need to improve. And even though I constantly feel like the dumbest idiot on the planet, I can recognize how I’m not as dumb as I was a semester ago.

Life is a continuous process of realizing how dumb you are, smacking yourself in the face, and changing your behavior until something even dumber sticks out.

Never keep yourself back because of who you used to be–I guess that’s the lesson I learned through all this. We all start out as bigoted racist homophobic fat-shamers, right? So why not learn to change?

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