My column from the Albert Lea Tribune August 20, 2018 ©️Julie Seedorf
Julie Seedorf: Let go of perceptions and look beyond words
Published 8:30 pm Sunday, August 19, 2018
Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf
By the time you read this, my 50th class reunion will be one for the books. I have learned so much about people since I graduated in the class of 1968 those many years ago. I am a different person than I was then.
I am not so self-centered, although you may disagree with me because we don’t always see ourselves the way others see us. I hurt more because I care more about others. Back then, the hurts were more about wrongs done to us, perceived or otherwise.
I have learned those we thought were stuck-up — yes the term back then — were shy, making it hard for them to put themselves out there for fear of being ridiculed or hurt and it was scary for them to make the first move in a friendship.
I have learned those who were loud and blustery, quick to wound with words to others, were covering insecurity, and that was their way of compensating and trying to feel better about themselves. I suspect they were walled up and hurting inside or were not in touch with what was really behind the name-calling and attacks on others.
I have learned those who kept their sexual orientation secret were miserable in a world where it was not acceptable to be who they were if it differed from society’s opinions of what was right, so the secret stayed hidden, resulting in problems later in life with families and deciding whether life was worth living, some choosing the path to suicide.
I have learned getting the best grades do not make us the smart ones — it just meant that we were good at studying or test-taking. In case you wonder, I wasn’t one of those good studiers, always feeling stupid because my interests were on more creative endeavors.
I have judged the quiet ones, the blustery ones, the ones who I suspected were choosing a different sexual orientation and those who were the smart ones. But, in my old age, I find myself questioning my attitudes and my judgment because I wasn’t necessarily making my own choices when I judged someone. I went along with the crowd, and, yes, at times I was the crowd leader. I wanted to belong.
I am a chatty person so the quiet ones made me nervous, and I felt perhaps they were judging me.
I was scared of those who were loud and blustery and cruel because I didn’t want to be their target, so it was easier to go along with it than to be the one attacked. I remember a boy telling me — and, yes, I still remember this boy’s name because he was a member of a prominent well-to-do family in town — that I was ugly so I knew I didn’t want to cross him. I had lots of friends, boyfriends too, but yet this one time I was targeted sticks with me to this day. I am lucky that is the only time I remember cruelty directed at me, but I am sure there were other times but they weren’t so devastating.
And now because I took the time to know people who are gay and transgender and have asked them deep questions, I am not afraid as I think I was back in the day when I made the judgment. I thought I was making a judgment based on religion, but in reality I was basing judgment on the fear that somehow their lifestyle might affect me or they were a danger to me. I found out years ago those I was friends with and those I loved had kept those secrets. I loved them before I knew their secret. You don’t stop loving and caring about someone when they make choices you aren’t sure about. I took the time to hear their struggle and their hurts, and my judgment went away and so did my fear.
I now understand smart doesn’t always mean the best grades but smart means each person is different and talented in other ways and we need all the gifts each person brings to the table to make this world work. We also need those from all walks of life, rich and poor, different ethnicities to build our lives and make them richer.
I would be lying if I said I don’t judge still today because I do, and it has been difficult trying to walk between the lines of the political rhetoric going on today. Sometimes I attack without thinking in many things when I began to judge. It is a knee-jerk reaction that I fear is human. I don’t always succeed right away in pulling it back and realize what I am doing.
There are some who have never been back to our class reunions, citing hurts from many years ago. I get that. When I am ready to go out that door, I still have a little trepidation that I won’t be accepted and the old feelings come back, but I push through and make an appearance and I have never been sorry in all the reunions over the years I have attended. Time and experiences make people change. If we let go of our perceptions and look beyond the words, we see the years of life in those we spent our early years with. It feels good to reconnect. Maybe it is our perception of us that had to change, finally being secure in who we are and being confident others reactions don’t matter because we are “free to be me.”