Reading “Becoming” by Michele Obama I pulled this quote: “This is what a control freak learns inside the compressed other world of college, maybe above all else: There are simply other ways of being.”
In Michele Obama’s narrative she was dealing with the nuances of living in close quarters. Her roommate being someone who tossed books, bags, and clothes on the floor. Items strewn across the living space. Michele learned to both tolerate and make requests to pick up. Later Barack would display the same tendency leaving socks about. Love the person. Understand there are simply other ways of being.
I saw college as an intermediate step to independence. I was on my own to show up to class or not. Study or not. Stay out late, drink, party, or not. Explore the world and myself. All with the safety net of a roof over my head, three squares a day and clean bathrooms. The security of the safety net allowed us students to show up as we were. Through osmosis and direct contact I discovered so many ways humans be.
There were the two girls who came from New York City to Iowa State University. They ran up exorbitant phone bills and fled back east at the end of the first semester. Sharon, also from the east somewhere in New Jersey, would cook amazing meals with a hot plate and one large wok like pan. She became part of the close knit friends group. My first roommate was nice, quiet, rarely around. There was one semester with a drug addict named Karla. That was interesting in an intense angry judgmental kind of way.
We all are molded as children. Growing up with food, language and dialects, beliefs and modes of behavior used by the adults around us. We are individual microcosms of nurture and nature providing an abundant diversity to humanity. My husband, Howard, often remarks that the best thing about being him is all the amazing people he knows. I feel the same way, especially as a life coach and speaker. Over the last five years the number of truly outstanding people I’ve gotten to know has grown exponentially. It is not that the world suddenly has a greater saturation of phenomenal individuals. It’s just in my current occupation I have the privilege of sitting down and getting to know people on a deeper level. I get to hear their stories. Where they came from. The path that lead them to the work they do. What challenges them. What ignites their souls.
The gift Howard and I have both gained is acceptance of the diversity. We are not unique it this. It happens all the time. A common interest draws people together. You get to engage with them on this common ground. Break bread. Share ideas. You are comfortable with them as a person. Somewhere along the way you find out they are transgender or non-binary or ethnically Seminole Indian or built the Missile Crawler Transporter or their a Shaman. You learn they love wild mushrooms, won’t touch sea food, are gluten intolerant. Discover they write poetry, know EVERY thing about the Beatles, are the oldest practicing tattoo artist in the world.
I find it remarkable when someone wants to draw lines in the sand. Wants to create a “them”. Usually stemming from a belief they were molded by as a child. Not knowing there is a “them” close by. An acquaintance, a co-worker, a neighbor, the person next to them in the pew whom they know, like, and trust.
The truth is there are simply many ways of being. That at the root we are human. At the trunk we all have the same wants, needs, and desires for love, acceptance, community, and self expression. The branches and leaves like a gigantic ancient oak are the grand diversity of our world population. Wide spread, individual, yet connected.
For Your Best Possible Self
Coach Christine Clark