When I was young I (mostly) followed what my dad taught me about people – that many of them are shallow and greedy. In the area I grew up, there was a big gap between the ones who made a LOT of money and the ones who didn’t. We weren’t one of the wealthy ones, and that was ok.
As I grew older I found qualities of people and situations that fit that same mental construct that was hammered into me – that I was different – and ‘everyone else’ around was just looking to get a house on the hill. To get rich, have social and financial status to gloat with, to fulfill their role as the ‘yuppies’ that were despised by people like me.
As I matured I wanted to start giving people the benefit of the doubt. I was meeting so many new people of so many different backgrounds with many different social, cultural and economic qualities. Everyone should get a chance to prove themselves, right?
A contrasting point lingers in my memory of my first girlfriend who lived in a trailer park. My mom was opposite of my dad – seeking social and financial status among her “peers”, choosing to create a facade of class in lieu of honesty. She seemed to know all about the kind of person Lillian was though she had never met her. This set me off on a road of rebellion. I knew who she was and she wasn’t trash. Honestly speaking she was a very confident person and I think my mom took that as a threat (we won’t mention that I was forbidden to date until age 16, and I was just turning 15, though she was bringing men in and out of our house at the time that made me feel like I was living in a motel).
The dynamics of my upbringing and parental influence on how to judge people were a bit accusatory and conflicting, to say the least. I feel like I had to forge my own path regarding how to treat people, of the ethics of human relationships and social constructs.
As I grow even older than that, I find (and to an extent, resist) the possible realization that when you reduce people to their lowest common denominator, there really are common qualities that you can assume people have. But what is this anyway, but stereotypes that form half-baked assumptions about individuals? Do we really go down that path of reckless thought patterns as we get older? One that divides, that assumes we know it all about everyone else? Isn’t that just lazy?
I don’t want to be someone who thinks they know it all, that knows someone before they get to know them. I want to hold onto the ideals of my young adulthood by acknowledging that everyone is different – nobody should be generalized. Once you forget about the things that make us individuals, you cease to maintain being one yourself.
I remember in the early 2000’s when YouTube was just starting out and there was a channel called “Hometown Baghdad”. This was in the midst of the Iraq war, as well as the Internet revolution. A group of young adults living in Baghdad created a YouTube channel and posted videos of their views on the world from their vantage point. “I love hubbly-bubbly” was one of my favorite videos posted, a funny and charming video in homage to their favorite hookah. Another video explained the reality of their lives – in the quote I remember, as the young men were explaining their views on life, reality, as part of the vlogger movement – “Everyone just wants to be heard”.