I’ve never been much for new year’s resolutions. In fact, I used to detest them. I think that comes from my aversion to things that other people like. You know how that goes, everyone’s doing it so I need to find some reason its ridiculous. I used to think that separated me from the pack, but I think it just makes you an asshole. Just like what you like and let the rest figure itself out.
However, in lieu of any proper resolution I always find the new year a natural time to look back and reflect on what’s changed in my life. For me this has been especially easy because I had some major events happen in the last few years that gives me a very specific timeline to examine.
Over a year and a half ago I moved cities for a job. I had very few connections here in town. At the time my brother and his girlfriend (now fiancée) were living here, but within 6 months of my arrival they were off to take a sabbatical in France for a year.
I quickly realized that any situation I’d previously had to make friends in (I’m thinking summer camp, studying abroad in the Netherlands, a group program in Mexico, or even when I left my home town to go to university) I was placed with a bunch of other people who were in my exact same spot. You know, you all need friends. You naturally bond over your shared experience of not knowing anyone else. It was easy.
Moving to a new city isn’t like that. You’re forced to put yourself out there. All the time. That is not, generally speaking, my style. Or at least, it wasn’t. I’ve learned a lot about how to be a lot more comfortable with people I don’t know especially well.
Looking back at the many many people Edmonton has introduced me to, I started to realize something.
Edmonton has this really interesting small town vibe where when you ask someone how they know someone else and there’s this weird pause that’s like, ‘well I work with that guy whose friends with that girl, who is always at the pub I’m at, and I’ve seen them around, and I just seem to know everyone by default.’ Now, that’s kind of a tale for a different day but it also speaks to where I’m heading with all this. I’ve met a ton of people (so many people).
I recently started to realize that I’d often only allowed myself to see some of these potential new friends in a one dimensional light. Hell, I definitely even did this with a number of people who I’ve become good friends with. Looking at it logically, when you meet people you try to suss out each one and qualify their traits against your past experience with others to get an understanding of who they are and how well you’ll get along.
The problem with this is, its limiting. Instead of allowing each person to show me their multitudes, I started to place them in buckets. You’re like this, therefore you can’t be anything else. You like this a lot and I don’t know much about it, so we’ll probably never be great friends. But people don’t work that way. We’re full of contradictions and I’d say that’s what makes us so great. Also, finding people who are really different from ourselves can open our eyes to a lot of wonderful things.
Another thing I realized I was doing was placing doubt on my own ability to be interesting to the people who seemed different from me. I started to wonder what they’d want with me because they seemed to have this strong identity and here I am just trying to figure myself out in this new town amongst a zoo of friendly new faces.
I remember asking a friend of mine once why all these people knew my name. Like, why would they even remember me? I’m new, who am I to them? Skepticism came out hard.
But I realize now, looking back at a few people that I placed in boxes, I limited my ability to see them for who they are. I painted a picture of them in my head and even when their actions contradicted my very finite understanding of who they were, I blew it off. I really restricted my ability to see them for their whole selves. Which is a shame. I know how poor it feels when I get the sense someone has a misguided understanding of who I am.
So, while I don’t have an answer to the conundrum of my misguided understanding of the interworking of my friends (new and old), I plan to make a concerted effort to stop stereotyping their behaviours so that I can appreciate all their oddities for what they are. Beautiful, weird, and complicated human beings.