A shift in the schedule from time of application to time of participation took me away from events on the penultimate day of orientation. A dose of grace, a real-time lesson in trade-offs and the bittersweet that so often flavors attempts at balance in life accompanied me through a most spectacular event celebrating the 80thbirthday of my mother. It was encouraging to share even this small first dose of the experience with friends and family, hearing in my retellings the potential that is brimming in this pending year and likely many beyond.
A concept that came up for me during the drive between professional and personal worlds was one of perspective. Orientation is being held only a couple hundred miles south of my hometown, in a neighboring state that harbors many rivalries. On commenting to a colleague about how great the town was, the reply was that I was defying my native roots if I was expressing an affinity for this “enemy state.” With a true love and loyalty for my state of origin, this struck me and posed the query – isn’t is part (or all of) the problem if we identify ourselves by who it is we hate?
The reciprocity of this bias was illustrated for me when my cousin, who attends college in this neighboring state, noted that on arrival, she was met with similar sentiments regarding the detest of my home state, warned not to wear clothing adorned with the name and encountering general derogatory commentary. I fully admit to life as a loyalist and experiencing the dedication to a club, team, group in an experience of “vs” that is anti. As with most of my adult life experiences, it is through the lens of parenting that this has shifted significantly for me.
Coaching and watching my children in athletics, the discussion around sportsmanship is frequent. We have had caustic opponents and have been them ourselves at times, which has led to the discussion of attitude and effort that never need come at the expense or derogation of others. Cheering for one’s own team need not mean cheering against the opponent. I am fully in support of competition, understand that there will be winners and losers and believe this can be managed in a way that does not cultivate animosity or incompatibility.
How often do we identify ourselves by what we are not? What we will not do? What we do not believe? What is the purpose or merit of this negative process? What if we were able to focus on that which we are? That for which we stand? That we do believe and are willing to do? It can be easy to shun, to criticize, to oppose. It can be much harder to get clear on the details of true values, to effectively and consistently be our authentic selves.
In this mindset of “not that, not them,” do we truly know what we are opposing or rejecting? Do we take the place, concept, idea, person at surface level and make a snap judgment or do we take the time to investigate and truly understand the depths of the experience of another to make an informed decision leading us to stay the course or potentially expand, shift or change our stance accordingly.
Perspective can be powerful. It shapes our reality. Let us be willing to craft it from many angles, moving from a one-dimensional experience to a dynamic, engaging, larger-than-life version illustrated through the lens of the whole.