One sentence, two stories, and how it changes your life

I have a document where I save my current writing: complete pieces, incomplete pieces, complete but not going to publish pieces, and a slew of ideas for pieces-to-be. When I settle in to write, if I don’t already have something in mind to write about, I will refer to the unfinished pieces or the list of ideas.

This particular sentence has been sitting in the document for months: I had all the targets for a kid to be bullied (chubby, smart, quiet, not fashionable, often favored by teachers in younger years) and wasn’t which was the beginning of being completely unremarkable.

I’ve looked at it and not fleshed it out many times over these months. Nearly always when I write, an idea has energy and I go with it. Sometimes I need to write a bunch before an idea gets energy. For example, I wrote and edited two complete posts before starting what I published on Tuesday. Those other two need overhauls before you’ll see them and they currently live in the “incomplete” section. The ideas didn’t have energy, but writing must be done whether the energy is there or not, and eventually, I found a space in which to write something decent.

Anyway. I have looked at that sentence remembering where I was going with it—which doesn’t always happen—and I didn’t want to go there, so I left it. The piece will be a reflection on my life unbullied at school for no reason and how different it would be and I would be and my entire life would have been and would still be if that hadn’t been the case. Maybe a takeaway of being mindful how you treat people, or how you model treating people for your kids.

This time, looking at it inspired thoughts of a path of being unremarkable, which is a completely different space to fill. Of being good but not great. Of being academically-inclined enough to do well but not to shine. Of falling through a different crack than we usually talk about with regards to school. Of being quiet and overlooked, then not quiet and overlooked. Of how that has changed in the last 15 years in some ways but not others.

It’s the same opening sentence (which itself needs some tweaking) and it leads down two different paths. I don’t know what caused the change in how I read it this time, but it’s likely you’ve experienced something similar.

How many times have you looked at something (or someone) you’ve looked at seemingly a zillion times and suddenly seen it differently? (Not someone who has grown up or changed—the thing in question is the same as it always was.) A piece of art, a knick knack, a room in your house, your neighbor, your aunt? Or read a book that you read years ago and got something different out of it? Or a movie with that same experience?

We grow and change and with that, our perspective changes. 

I am sad for people who dig in their heels and continue to see things the way they have always seen them. Sure, it’s safe and they never have to reckon with anything they’ve said or done, but it completely eliminates growth. And contrary to the argument, it doesn’t stop them from getting hurt. At best, it confines them to a space where they might be able to convince themselves that they’re not hurt.

The same fence that keeps others out keeps you in. And the others you keep out bring potential joy, connection, learning.

I’m grateful not to have been bullied. And I’m grateful to have learned how to keep the gate open to people, to learn and grow and change, to see a different path in the same sentence.

What have you looked at recently that looks different than it used to?

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