Everyone’s heard the phrase “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes." Essentially it means not to judge someone until you’ve taken the time to see things in the way they do. It’s a lesson in understanding the circumstances that surround someone else’s situation, learning a bit more about that individual as a person and ultimately using that understanding to formulate your judgment rather than simply concocting an opinion without all the facts.
From my experience, this is probably one of the most important things you can let yourself do; you will never come to understand more about a person than you will after putting yourself in their situation and “becoming” them for a bit. Do you have the basic concept I’m getting at down yet? I’m pretty sure you do, you’re a smart person. So let’s expand on this whole notion a bit.
The reason I felt this was a good topic to discuss is that recently it came up with someone I rather enjoy as a person. They’re one of those people who, like myself, know who they are and really enjoy every bit of it. And that’s great, there’s nothing wrong with being confident and happy with your person as a whole. This buddy ended up saying something along the lines of “I don’t have to do any of this self-exploration stuff with life. I know exactly who I am, and how I want to be living. I know absolutely what is best for me.”
Now, there’s one thing wrong with that statement… it’s completely and totally false logic. See kids, if the only person you’ve allowed to influence who you are is in fact yourself then you’re missing out.
Think about it this way. How much have you changed as a result of sharing experiences with the people around you? How many of your current musical obsessions were shown to you by chums? Which of those things you are “totally into” would you still be “wicked all about” if someone hadn’t taken the time to show them to you?
Heck, just exactly how much of your lifestyle developed completely independently of the influence of others? It’s kinda clear what I’m getting at. While everyone is “their own person” we are also very much the product of those around us. If you’d like me to get personal for a moment (and c’mon, you know you do. I’m probably the most interesting person you know) I can honestly say that the essential and core “me” was almost entirely brought about by 3 or 4 people throughout the past 10 years. I define myself as “the nerd equivalent of a hipster”, but until I met a friend in my freshman year of high school I had no idea that even a little inkling of nerd was buried inside me.
Anyway, back to the point of this whole literary rant. When you care about someone (be they a buddy, a girlfriend, a family member, or what have you) you want to share important bits of your life with them. It’s the normal thing to do, and really it’s the only way to really grow closer to these people.
In my own experience, one of the things I feel like I share with my beloved ones is my writing; it’s something that’s special to me and that I WANT them to experience. But this goes deeper than hobbies and tales of “this one time I did this thing." I’m talking about allowing yourself to experience not just the things in someone else’s existence, but their very way of life itself. Everyone lives in their own way and to a plan of their own design; it’s something they have found works for them.
What people have a hard time coming to grips with is that this other person’s philosophies may very well work for them as well… you just gotta give it a try. I knew a lifelong believer in polyamory that decided to give monogamy a go because that was the dynamic their most recent partner believed in.
Would you believe that this individual found that they much prefer the one-and-only-partner lifestyle to the one they’d be living for most of their life? Then there’s the kid that lived the “sheltered and safe life” who was nervous about everything.
I’m talking about this person needing to obsessively plan everything in advance and freaking out if they were running even a few minutes behind schedule. They ended up coming across an adventure buddy that got them to at least embrace a “don’t worry about it and just do” philosophy of thinking.
In the end, it turns out Nervous McPanicpants was a ton happier as Tommy Laidback-dude, so much so that this person has taught this notion to others. The lesson in all this is that you may be set in your ways, but there’s merit in at least giving something different a try at least once. You grow as a person; you find out more of what works for you, and even more important “who YOU are”.
So this whole walking the mile in someone else’s shoes thing, the most common thing I hear from people in an effort to not make an attempt is “But I know I won’t like it.”
First off, having never done it you don’t know that. More importantly though you don’t HAVE to like the experience, what matters is that you gave it a go and you discovered factual evidence and undeniable proof that your way is in fact the best for you.
It’s all about trust in the end; trust that those who are willing to bare themselves (and their lifestyles) to you are doing so because they care and want you to share it, trust that you will at least give these new concepts and ideas a try, and trust in yourself to “get over it” and just get out there and garner the experience. After all, the only thing that sharing these things can honestly do for you is to make you a better human being in some respect.
Remember, schlepping that mile up the hill in some 6-inch platform heels that are three sizes too small for you might be painful and annoying. Once you get there though you may come to the conclusion that you’d never make that mistake again.
But there’s also a very real possibility that the lesson the journey teaches you is that you don’t mind walking the distance, you’d just much prefer the footwear of your choosing the next time you step out.
Either way you are always changing, you’ll always be growing and evolving. The species that survive are the ones that adapt to their environment and deviate from the “standard design”, those that don’t wind up in exhibits of “Extinct Marvels of the Ancient World”. So what’ll it be today kids, are you strapping on the same old sneakers or is today a day to slip on your best buddy’s flip-flops and go for a walk?
Are you riddled with confusion regarding romance? Bummed about your bros bein' baddies? How about harrowed by the recent happenings around your high school? Any chance you might be an avid admirer of alliteration? Dhaonan Ehren Ashburne is here to lend you a helping hand! Focusing on the questions and issues of teens and twenty-somethings, he's the guy you should go to for a dose of practical advice spiced with the elements of the unpredictable (Spirituality, & Art, & Surprises...Oh My!) that is sure to be just the thing you need! Fire off an email to DhaonanLeonis@gmail.com and quicker than a hummingbird's heartbeat, he's got all the answers.