"We all have a story to tell, whether we whisper or yell." — Happily Ever After by He Is We
This week in my Cross Cultural Psychology class we started talking a lot about stereotypes and how we can prevent people from simply pushing people into categories after a second of observation. Me and my roommate, Devon, started discussing (Even though we were supposed to be paired with someone we didn't know...oh well), and the first thing we decided was if people just took a minute to talk to the person they were judging, their opinion of them might completely change.
One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the fact that every single person in this world has a story. And the only way to discover these stories is by talking to new people. Think of how many stories you pass every day just walking from class to class on campus. If you never just simply talk to someone new, you'd never know what kind of story you are missing out on.
The first time this realization really hit me was first semester of freshman year. I was really homesick, but had no way of getting back to Chicago (7 hours and no money), so one of my good friends on Marching Mizzou Color Guard, Carissa, invited me and our other friend, Kara, to her house in Missouri for the weekend. We decided that it's better than nothing and packed our bags for the weekend. We drove an hour and half away to an area near Hermann, Missouri. We started getting close to her house, and the first thing Kara and I noticed was that our cell phone service was almost completely gone. Then Carissa started talking about the ferry we have to take to cross the river to get to her house as she turned onto a gravel road that stretched for miles. We started drive along the bumpy road, over floods and completely in the dark. Kara and I, being from Chicago, were completely fascinated by the way she lives. The nearest Walmart was around 30 minutes away! We went out to dinner and everyone knew her. Her mom owns the main local restaurant in town and her dad owned the bar in the nearest town. The next day, her neighbor picked us up in his pickup truck and took us to his farm where we got to pet cows, hold pigs and learned to drive a tractor. It amazed me that a lifestyle so different from what I'm used to is just an hour off of campus. If I never agreed to going home with Carissa, I would have never known.
Later in the semester, I had the same experience with the MKT Trail. One of my best friends at Mizzou, Sally, and I decided we wanted to go on a walk and take some photos. Sally of course has ran on the MKT trail a million times and knew all the areas where she wanted to take photos at, and I had never even heard of the MKT trail before. We ended up going on a 5 mile walk and barely making it to our FIG class in time. It amazed me that something so beautiful is literally 2 minutes off of campus, and if you are too lazy to get off your butt and go exploring, you'd never know it existed.
The last experience that completely cemented my fascination of getting to know every story and experience new places happened over this past winter break. I was a production assistant at The Maneater every Monday night first semester this year. Normally by the time it came around to go to work, I was completely stressed out and had a million things left to do on my to do list, which resulted in me trying to get in and get out of the office as soon as possible. I'd finish my work as fast as I could, then go into a different area of the office and try to get all my work done, so I didn't talk or get to know a lot of the people that I worked with every week. Looking back on this, I'm realizing how beneficial it is to be fully present wherever you are. There was one boy I worked with all semester (kind of knew his name, and that was it) that I made some quick judgements about what kind of person he was (exactly what we were talking about preventing in Cross Cultural Psychology....) and never thought deeper into it. My last night working, I was in another area working on a study guide when he turned the corner and sat down and started talking to me. That night I had one of the most open conversations I've ever had with someone. We realized we lived in similar areas in Chicago and ended up hanging out over Winter Break. Long story short, after spending another day with him, I realized I completely misjudged him. The kid that I shrugged off to be a stoner turned out to be an amazing, ambitious, drug-free man who has completely opened my eyes to so many new things in such a short period of time. So, I guess the moral of the story is from now on I should take off my own advice and actually have a conversation with someone before I jump to conclusions.
All of these experiences have just expanded my curiosity and desire to travel the world and meet as many interesting people as a I can. Seeing different parts of the world makes me appreciate every detail and the beauty in everything. Hearing people's stories makes me appreciate what I have in life and opens my eyes to the struggle of others. As my best friend Melanie would say, we live in a beautiful world.