I remember sitting in a lecture hall, third row from the front. It was an old room, well loved, and the sun was streaming through the vertical blinds captured in the dust stirred by 30 nervous, anxious and very unsure students.
It was the first day of college and I had no idea what to expect. As it turns out, I never really figured it out but that’s a story for another day.
Instead I sat there next to two guys who I’d happened to wander into the room with. We were chatting awkwardly and I think we were all grateful when the lecturer entered the room.
Fresh from school, we all hushed up and did our best impressions of being good, eager students. He welcomed us and started to talk about the Glasgow Herald, the local broadsheet, beloved of my Gran.
I remember wondering why he was telling us about how to read a newspaper, trying to figure out just how it would help me get through the next few years of Electronic Engineering lectures and workshops. And then he said some words that have stuck with me to this day, and which I don’t heed half as often as I should’ve.
“Whatever you do, read the paper. All of it. Front to back, or back to front. It doesn’t matter where you start, just read everything you can about what is going on in the world.”
I didn’t, for many years, take that advice because it’s hard to do. I don’t mean it’s hard to read a newspaper, but that it’s hard to keep yourself open to the rest of the world, to the experiences of others, the lives of people you don’t know and wouldn’t naturally gravitate towards.
Over the years most of us will develop our own worlds, we become tiny centres of gravity and attract the people we want to attract into our lives, regardless of how fleeting the contact. In doing so, we make choices to push away others that don’t share our view of life, and I like to think this is what my lecturer was trying to guard against.
I’m as guilty of it as the next person. My view of the world differs from yours but, naturally, I’ll place far more weight on my views.
I’ve written in the past about trying to steer away from ‘drama’, on trying to reduce the noise, to simplify and step away from negativity. I’ve been pretty successful and I’m only now realising that in doing so I’ve also managed to embrace some of my lecturer’s advice. I’m still not the most open minded, laid-back guy but I do try to understand.
My ex-boss noted something about me which sums it up well. I used to put this down to being a Libran (I know, but it did help me understand this part of me when I was younger), and as I grow older it holds true, but I just don’t do well with absolutes.
This very weekend a lovely woman I know talked in such terms. She talked of something ‘guaranteeing’ to work for others because it worked for her. I visibly baulked at the very statement because I know it’s not true.
But I didn’t say anything to her. There is no point to objecting for the sake of it, no point in making noise when it’s clear that the other person doesn’t share your worldview.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m always happy to discuss and sometimes challenge, and be challenged, on my views if it’s clear the other person is also looking to discover and explore something, rather than simply dismiss it.
I know my views are not shared by many. But they are mine. I will voice them. I will stand by them, just as I expect you to stand by yours.
We are not the person we choose to let others see, and we all have a choice in what we do and don’t expose to the world. If you don’t like it, that’s ok. Feel free to ask questions, to discuss, to engage.
But always remember that what you say will colour others opinion of you, as much as what I say colours your opinion of me.