This is one of my favorite things to discuss. Why? Because we as a society perceive and assume so much, and those perceptions and assumptions make for great stories. As children, we have a perception of how great it is to be older. We can’t wait to achieve certain milestones like turning ten, because it has double digits, or turning thirteen because we can’t wait to be teenagers, or sixteen so that we can drive a car, then eighteen because we want to be able to vote and twenty one so that we are legal to try alcohol. Our perceptions and assumptions as children are the thoughts of the “grass is greener on the other side.” But how much of those perceptions are accurate?
For every single milestone that we achieve, there are elements of heartache that we don’t expect. Oh, sure, it’s easy to surmise that a person will encounter heartache and quite another to actually feel the heart break. I remember the first time I heard of a classmate dying. I didn’t understand. I was fourteen. I thought that the young didn’t die so soon. That was my naivety at work. After all, kids are supposed to outlive their parents. How could a young man be gone so quickly from an accident? He was one of several kids I knew that wouldn’t make it to high school. Another young man that I thought the world of died while playing chicken with a car. He too never made it to high school. My perceptions and assumptions changed from their deaths. Yet, that was to be short lived.
As I got a little older, I went to college where my wild side really came out. I didn’t join the Greek World of collegiate opportunities because I assumed how the Greek Life would be. In many ways I’m glad I didn’t partake. However, there is a lingering self-doubt about myself. Would I have been accepted? Would I have changed who I was and how I perceived my life? Probably. I probably would have made more powerful connections and been able to achieve wealthier income levels but I believed in staying true to myself and I saw the Greek life of fraternities and sororities of being a money grabbing world. That people who were a part of that life were paying for acceptance and I didn’t truly comprehend what it was about. That is on me. Because there are a lot of fraternities and sororities that are not about those labels. Those were my perceptions and assumptions and I’m the first to admit that in many instances I was wrong. This is where education and questions would have helped me see a bigger picture. What I saw were the folks who were all about who they could get to help them along. I looked at it through a narrow lens and for that I apologize. On the flip side, I do not apologize for the fraternities who were all about the parties and destroying people’s lives and reputations. There have been many documented cases where fraternities and sororities were involved in the needless deaths of pledges and other members. Some of the tactics used in recruiting were and are dangerous. While not everyone is fit for that kind of life, death and bodily harm to young people who want to be accepted are never a good recipe for any type of organization.
I entered the workforce with the mindset that if I worked hard, I would be able to work my way up. I was wrong. I had started out in the fast food industry. I was there for four years and never got a promotion. I worked really hard but I had to watch from the sidelines as those who appeared lazier than me, different races than me, and those of a different gender seemed to obtain more opportunities than I did. It hurt. A lot. I should have learned that those perceptions should have fueled me to do more but instead it caused me to look for jobs that didn’t challenge me. I wanted to do something different but it seemed like every job I went to only wanted to hire me for low entry positions. For the last decade it has felt that I wouldn’t be able to get out of the same types of industries and had I not gone back to school, I don’t think I would have been able to change my mindset. Fortunately, there are a lot of people who are helping me along the way see the potential I have in new careers. I am truly grateful to them.
It really isn’t important at what we perceive or what our assumptions are in our lives. The truth is that when we are so authoritative that we can not allow ourselves to learn that we aren’t perfect, we don’t have all the answers, and we truly don’t know everything about what someone is thinking or feeling, then we deserve to get proven wrong. We aren’t conditioned to perfection and yet we all strive for the perfections that we long for. We want to be the best. But what is the best and when is the best good enough that it can’t be perfected any more? I think once we get to that type of mentality then we start limiting ourselves. If you combine perceiving and assuming, then what you get is a melting pot of negative issues. Don’t assume that you know everything. Be willing and open to learning and change. After all, we need each other in this world. I like being able to learn on every level. I may not be right about everything but I can admit to being imperfect. That admission in itself allows me to understand that my perceptions are not the same as anyone else’s. That’s what makes it special to me. Just like your perceptions and assumptions pertain and are special for you. Take a chance on yourself and others. Look at the world through a different lens and see how your perceptions and assumptions change. I can pretty much guarantee you that if you are open to changes, you might just find new ways of doing and learning things.