Traveling was a great chance for me to get lost in thought. Interestingly, the bulk of the threads in my head were long-simmering ideas that I now pulled on further.
I traveled alone for most of my trips. In practice, this meant that I was constantly surrounded by new single-serving friends in each new city. I’d meet them where I stayed, on tours, on lines, in bars at night — pretty much everywhere. Spending so much time, with so many new people, I often saw people at their best and worst. It brought me back to the concept of kindness and being gentle with each other that I wrote about a few months ago. Writing about my standard of kindness isn’t my goal here; I wanted to quickly write up this post because of this great quote* I came across:
We all carry these things inside
That no one else can see
They hold us down like anchors,
They drown us out at sea.
It perfectly captures this idea that, as much as we think we know about others, there’s so so much that we don’t. Earlier this year, I had a conversation with my friend David about how so much of the behavior we find confounding in others, is typically rooted in that person’s past, which we have no idea about. Their behavior doesn’t make sense to us, because their behavior is incongruous with the person that they are — that we see in front of us. The behavior taps into the person they might have been, and while circumstances have changed, it’s hard/impossible for people to change. We carry these things around inside us, no one else can see it, and unfortunately some of it holds us down, and in the worst case it can pull us away from the life we should be living.
As if I needed another reason to try a bit harder to be gentle with others, this quote perfectly captured it. We all have our own anchors. Our own weights that drag us around. That probably can’t be helped. But we can help each other.
*It’s actually not a quote, they’re lyrics from a really obscure, strange, sad, little song. I found the snippet of lyrics on Pinterest and then tracked down the song. I ended up finding a cover of the song, which I now prefer far more than the original. In fact, the song is totally stuck in my head. Give it a listen.
Perhaps there's a meta golden rule here — have the empathy and give the benefit of the doubt to others as you'd want them to do for you. Hard to cast off the past (and some would argue one should instead ground themselves in their past). I think part of the Bay Area culture is more willingness to let go of one's origins in order to make things happen. With such a diverse set of backgrounds in our midst it's easy to forget that those backgrounds shape people indelibly. Or, perhaps to your point: we are "delible" 😉
Love it! Totally agree, Nathan. well said.