Where do we learn the behaviors that make up who we are? For some reason I was retrospective today. Thinking about my childhood, my teens, college, and my early professional career. At each stage I was a different person and I am still growing into who that is today.
As a kid I was definitely strategic (even if I did not know it at the time). I would find a way to con candy out of the old ladies at church (maybe I would not have resorted to it if it was given a little more freely at home). I learned early on that my sister would get sick on rides at the county fair, so if I asked to go on the spinning ones first I could potentially get the rest of her ride tickets. I was often quiet in the presence of my father when I knew he was in a bad mood, I did not dare piss him off. And I was fun and playful. I liked to be silly.
Somehow as I grew into being a teenager, I grew quieter and more introverted. I had seen too much in my life. Death, anger, poverty, sickness, desertion. As I look back at my senior year of high school, I feel a sadness. I barely made it through to graduation. I was lost and sad, but did not really know it at the time. On the outside I probably looked fairly normal. I was social, had friends, was a cheerleader, but my sadness came from not really having a home or parents to ground my day-to-day life. My last three years of high school were spent at a boarding school, so living away from home (that did not exist) sans parents was strange and so different from my classmates and friends. There was no one I could really relate to.
In college, I eventually found my way and I found my voice. That voice evolved into my professional life and experiences. I began to speak up for what I believed in without fear and decided that I had something to say and did not care what others thought of me.
Throughout it all I have been strategic, relentless, and thrifty. When I decide I want something I figure out how I am going to get it. I had to be that way. No one was taking care of me through high school or college so I learned early on to depend on no one but myself. While I now have people I depend on in my life, there is still always a thread that floats in the back of my mind. Will they drop the ball and I will have to pick it up? Will they follow through with what they said they will do? Each stage of my life has evolved into who I am today. Strategic, sometimes introverted, sometimes extroverted, intuitive, blunt, thrifty, and relentless. I have to trust you, and when I do the rest is history.
I had a great conversation with a friend yesterday over lunch. She was lit up. Yes, shining bright. Our conversation ebbed and flowed over what was happening in our worlds. Eventually my friend shared that she had been smacked into reality by a mentor, someone who she had not spoken to in a while and at the right moment in time the words she shared with my friend were just the ones she needed to hear. The right words at the right moment. It resonated with me.
I am a blunt person. I tell friends what I think. I hope sharing from my experience or intuition could potentially help them. I do not mean that in a cocky way, I mean it in a genuine way. If I feel that I have something to share, I will. Especially if the friend has asked for my opinion. Having said all that, there are times when I know I hold back. Maybe at that moment in time it did not feeI right to be so blunt. Or, maybe I felt that this was a situation that they had to wade through on their own. While I might be by their side, they had to make these decisions from their own heart.
Even knowing that, our conversation yesterday made me think about how many times I have not been blunt and maybe should have. My friend sharing her conversation reminded me of how much we sometimes need another to open our eyes. How often we might need someone to pull us from our fog and wake us up and remind us of who we are and who we have always been. I want another to do that for me, but am I doing that for someone else? Do we get so caught up in our own little worlds that we forget how to pull someone out of their own potential deep water?
It is always harder to truly be in someone else’s shoes. It is hard to know what another individual needs. But — we usually know when someone is off… when they are not themselves. Those are the times when we must walk out to the edge of the diving board and bring them back to safety. We do it because we care. We do it because we love them. We do it because it is at the core of who we are.
“Say what you want to say.” I love this line from a Saturday Night Live skit. How many times in life do we say what people want to hear? Do you want to go out with me? Inside you are saying: “I am too tired, you bore me, I just need some time to myself.” Instead of being honest with others, we say yes, we go, and sometimes we wish we had just stood up for ourselves and said no. This skit shows how exhilarating it would be if we just said what we were really thinking.
Do you feel invigorated after watching? While I am someone who is more often than not going to tell you no and be completely blunt and direct about it. However, even for me there are times when it feels awkward, or when it feels like it is the right thing to do to say yes and go along with things. Usually when we are in those situations we feel how wrong our decision was and that we should have listened to our gut the first time. It is better for us all to: “Say what you want to say” rather than say what we think others want to hear.