Do you really know me?

Really,  does anyone really know anyone? We are such an interesting, complex, mixture of daily experiences,  from birth till death. Not even our siblings, who grew up in the same house know some of the experiences that shaped us. It has been years since I’ve really given this much thought.  This whole concept of really knowing anyone, resurfaced recently when I was dealing with someone at work. I asked her why she was leaving early. She told me that she is a single mother and had to pick up her son.  Then she went on to say that she tries not to judge people because every person has their own challenges, stories, experiences; and the truth is that you really don’t know anyone’s story… or their journey thus far.

You often forget though, in your daily life.  You forget that you really don’t know the many layers that make up the people who sit next to you for 8 hours, whom you roomed with throughout college, or who sleeps next to you each night. It can be a frightening thought! But, let’s not be frightened by this.  When this thought of “do I really know you?” surfaces we often tuck it away. The whole idea can be a little daunting.  It is not unusual to see on the news each day, couples, co-workers, family or friends who thought they knew each other, particularly in tragic situations.

What I am reflecting on, however, is how I  react and respond to people whom at first I thought I knew, and then when I discover something interesting about them that changes my perspective. This reflection and a combination of very recent experiences really made me start to think about not really knowing anyone, and that no one really knows me.

What I am reflecting on, however, is how I  react and respond to people whom at first I thought I knew, and then when I discover something interesting about them that changes my perspective. This reflection and a combination of very recent experiences really made me start to think about not really knowing anyone, and that no one really knows me.

I recently started a new job, and with that always comes new experiences.  Lately, I’ve been really bothered by someone at work who habitually comes in late. It was a new job for her too.  I was bothered enough, that I was pondering how to bring up the subject to her. She did not really report to me, but if affected me, so I wanted to say something. I decided on a more backhanded approach.  I was trying a gentle entrance into the subject in the hopes of having more of an interactive discussion rather than me bitching at her for being late.  Timing is everything, so I waited. Much later in the day, around mid-afternoon. I casually asked.  ” Would you consider yourself a morning person?”

“Why would you ask that?” she replied.

“Well, you don’t seem to get going and warm up until much later in the day.”  I chuckled. I needed to keep the conversation light.  She smiled and admitted that indeed she was not a morning person. As our discussions continued and she explained more of who she is, I began to understand that her tardiness was not deliberate.  I felt less bothered.  It made me realize that once you start to know someone, your perspective changes. You may take a while to get to know them, but with each unwrapping of the layer of who they are, your perspective continues to change. It may get better, or it may get worse.

Now in the past few weeks, I have had more than one occurrence of “broadening my perspective” about different people I thought I knew. I started to realize that every person you meet is so layered in their own experiences that only in time do they start to reveal themselves. And that person controls how much they reveal – consciously or unconsciously. You meet people who appear happy, successful, carefree with all the most wonderful things going right for them.  Then you discover, in the wonderful timing of the universe, be it days or decades, that all is not as it appears.  In one short week this past month, I discovered that someone I thought to be happily married is not; someone who seemed strong is emotionally fragile and someone who appeared to have a wealth of friends didn’t have anyone to call while being hospitalized for almost a week. Each one surprised me in a different way. But again, upon further reflection, I realized that such a phenomenon is not uncommon.

It is not uncommon for me to be approached by perfect strangers. It’s more like a daily occurrence, in what I comically refer to as  ” while minding my own business”.   One Saturday a few weeks ago, a young man approached me. He had just moved to Miami from California and had lived in many states and was curious why so many people in Miami did not speak English. I politely answered him and this drove the conversation in many new directions. He did most of the talking and before long he shared that he was an aspiring writer. He was a bit despondent about the progress he was making as a writer.  I offered some suggestions on how he could get more involved in a writing community.  He returned a few hours later with new material.  Someone I just met was trusting me to critique his work!

I like using my positive energy to impact someone’s life in a forward direction. And I must admit that as he stood there waiting for me to give him my opinion of his work, I asked myself ” Is the universe teaching me something?”  It seemed like one after another in quick succession I had experiences with people that brought back this burning question. Do you know me?? And I found myself asking, “Do I really know them?”

This discovery changed things for me. As always, we are learning and growing throughout our lives.  Don’t judge a book by the cover, walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, on and on…. You think you know someone, you think someone knows you.  I am hoping that these reminders from the universe will continue to help me be better at understanding who people are, why they make the choices they do and what makes their circumstances different. And I realized from all these occurrences that no one really knows me entirely either.  There are parts of my life that the layers are still yet to be unfolded.  Truth is, we are ALL like that.  We are the only ones who really knows who we are.

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