I woke up yesterday, thinking about the people in my life, places I've been and experiences I've had. It soon dawned on me that many of these things, integral parts of my life, having shaped who I am or what I believe, are things I was not at first drawn to. We've always been told to "give it a try", but more often than not after that first try if something is difficult, unappealing or goes against what we believe, we don't come back to it. I'm beginning to believe though, that those things we once listed in the "no" column of life are the very things we should come back to, open our minds and explore once again.
While my own experiences may not be relate-able to the masses I was able to think of an example that many will likely understand. Think for a minute back to your 20's or more realistically for most of us those last few years of high school. How many of us upon tasting our first beer said "That's disgusting"? I know at least in my circle of friends there were only a few who claimed to enjoyed the taste of beer, and even among them I'm sure there were liars, hoping to impress their peers or seniors. I remember being told and have since heard it a thousands times, "You'll grow to like it". This isn't only limited to alcohol, for the non-drinkers out there, what about coffee? How long did it take you to stop pouring sugar and milk into your coffee to truly appreciate the taste of a rich brew?
I tried to think of more examples to which many could relate, but I'm struggling. So what is it about alcohol and coffee that we're willing to come back to them, time and again, until we acquire the taste? I'd say for one it's the social standard, tell someone you hate coffee and they might look at you as if you're sprouting a horn out of your forehead. Both of these elixirs are a widely accepted and admired in everyday life, I'd be hard pressed to turn on the TV and not see an add for either. Finally of course is the addictive aspect, the one which everyone denies, "I'm not addicted, I just like the taste"..that's funny 10 years ago the taste was repulsive.
More than food and drink though, I'm thinking we need to open this "You'll grow to like it" mentality to other parts of our lives. One of the things that recently led me down this rabbit hole of thoughts was a quote in the book "All about Love" by Bell Hooks, "Several couples I talked with...one of them did not find the other at all appealing at first meeting even though they felt mysteriously joined to that individual.". This caused me to pause and reflect on my own relationships, both platonic and romantic - boyfriends to best friends and realize that yes, there are a handful that fit the bill. People that have played a significant role, who have been there for me through thick and thin, or if they're no longer a part of my life, will always hold a place in my heart. I can't imagine life without them, yet our first meeting would have never led me to predict that.
Relationships take time, living abroad and continually having to navigate the 'new friends' game has taught me that, more than anything, we need to be open to each other. Just because someone has different thoughts, practices a different religion or speaks a different language doesn't mean they don't have something to contribute to your life. I've learned some of the best lessons from individuals half or double my age, had the most fun celebrating holidays I previously didn't know existed, and shared intimate conversation over a dinner of foods I was foreign to. Had I closed off doors and kept to my comfort zone, I would have missed out on so much life.
Become friends with people who aren't your age. Hang out with people whose first language isn't the same as yours. Get to know someone who doesn't come from your social class. This is how you see the world. This is how you grow.
Second chances and open minds apply to more than just people, too. These days we live comfortably behind the screens of our devices, fed with information and entertainment tailored to our likes, making it very easy for us to shut out the things that make us uncomfortable, upset or god forbid think harder. People come out in troves to admonish Trump for his closed borders policies, yet don't think twice about the same actions within our minds. This isn't to say it's true of everyone, but the fact is the world we live in makes it easier and easier to live selfishly, if we don't agree with or enjoy something it can easily be replaced with the next best option. Hobbies, travel destinations, books, movies and podcasts, as our options are endless it's easier and easier to close our minds and stick to what we know.
Once I started analyzing my own life, it was surprising to me the number of things I could think of which are now integral to my routine, that I once wrote off as "not for me". Most notable of these is yoga, I remember hating my first class, I thought it was boring. Then, a few years later I decided to give it a second try, and then a third, and then suddenly I was getting certified to teach and rarely have a day go by that I don't unroll my mat. Within that practice too there are teachers whose classes I first did not enjoy, but have since grown to love. I look back on my travels and remember disliking cities which I would now consider living, Bangkok and Jeju Island high on the list. Even in the realm of entertainment, book genres, movies and podcasts, my mindset has shifted. When Jay Shetty first appeared on my radar I viewed his video's with a who does he think he is attitude, but in the last few weeks I can't get enough of his podcast.
Of course, our preferences change over time, I'm nowhere near the same person I was 10 years ago. My point is though, if we're not open to re-exploring things we once deemed unworthy of our time, we may be missing out on some great opportunities, friendships and experiences. These people, places and ideas I before thought were not suited to my tastes or had no benefit to me have played significant roles in my life, teaching me lessons and shaping who I've become. Living with an open mind and open heart is not a new idea, but I think now, more than ever it's something we need to remember and come back to. Technology and the vast array of options the world offers us makes it easier than ever to stick to what we know, finding comfort in the safety of our choices, but I urge you to consider reconsidering, revisiting and trying again, what you once thought was not for you.
Emptying my Head
I'm an overthinker, my brain is always on overdrive. Sometimes the thoughts are pertinant to life, and other times they're just a trove of wonder. They're usually about, related to or in memory of travel. When they're good I like to share.