People can surprise you. I've found myself wrapped up in notions of what I thought a person would be like, only to find myself pleasantly disproven.
I've been traveling a little bit recently, to make trips to visit grad school open houses and another trip for work. One of my favorite experiences while traveling is meeting unusual people or overhearing unusual conversations.
Recently, I was in North Carolina, and a colleague and I were talking to a bus driver, a real southern good ol' boy type who hated the big city. At one point, he saw a Muslim woman crossing the road, and he remarked, "She's wearing one of them things, what do you call 'em, them veils they wear on their heads? I heard those things got banned somewhere!" I began to suspect that this conversation was not going to go anywhere good or to say the least, not anywhere politically correct. But then, you know what he said?
"Well, I think that's ridiculous! They been wearing them their whole lives! They should wear whatever they want!"
This just made my day - I'd honestly been expecting this guy to say something offensive, just because I'd assumed he might be "socially conservative" (or whatever the current euphemism is), but I was completely proven wrong.
This idea of confronting assumptions and first impressions has been on my mind a fair amount lately. I've dealt with more new situations and new people lately, it seems, with traveling and some other things going on in my life. It can be difficult to be open-minded; the idea of coming to a conclusion about someone or something is seductive. What I mean is that I find myself wanting to make sense of things; deciding that something is or isn't a certain way makes it easy to file it away in my brain and focus on the next thing. But, I'm thinking there's no sense in assuming that I've got it all figured out, otherwise I'm never going to learn anything new.
I'm trying now to push myself out of my comfort zone of things and people I know, and into situations I don't know. This fall, I'm moving out of DC and starting a graduate program in North Carolina. That's the big "comfort zone" change in my life lately, but there have been other smaller ones, like joining a recreational sports team.
So, anyone else have any good stories about people that have surprised you lately? And what are your thoughts on getting out of your comfort zone and keeping an open mind?