Don’t Get Comfortable

Don’t get comfortable.

You’re going to want to do it. Throughout your life, you are going to find people, places, and things that are going to make you feel safe. You’re going to want to hold onto them, to keep them near even when you’re starting to get bored and tired. Because even if they’re predictable, at least they’re comfortable. At least you know it all, inside and out.

But you can’t get comfortable.

If there is one absolute in this world, it is that things change. Things change all the time. People change. Circumstances change. You change. And if you aren’t prepared for that, then things are still going to change – they’re just going to rip the rug out from underneath you and leave you reeling. They’re going to make you feel lost and confused. You might know that one thing really well, but if you haven’t weighed your options and kept your mind open, then that is the only thing you know.

If you are not prepared for change, if you resist change, then you lose out on your opportunity to grow from that change. You are so preoccupied with holding onto that safe, easy past that you forget to notice the doors that this change might be opening for you. Nothing is forever, and you need to move on, but you won’t move on if you don’t allow yourself to. If you’re too comfortable in what you have today.

So don’t get comfortable.

Don’t take the good things that you might have today for granted. Remember that you will eventually lose them, and it isn’t a matter of if, but of when. Remember that, and let it happen when it does. Mourn its loss if you have to, and then find out what’s before you. Don’t get comfortable doesn’t necessarily mean don’t love; it just means that you need to appreciate that person, place, or thing in exactly the way that it deserves to be loved.

Don’t get comfortable. Sooner or later, life will reach right for you and drag you out of your comfort zone. It’s going to happen, whether you agree to go easily, or try to fight it tooth and nail. The only difference that the latter option will make, is that that transition will become so much harder for you.

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Why “I Know I’m not Supposed to Say This” Doesn’t Excuse What You Say

So I received the most unsavoury compliment today.

I was at work at the time, and my current job involves working in customer service. So, essentially, I smile at people, I talk to them, I help them out, and I’m super polite about the whole thing. And, considering politeness comes naturally to me, I find that aspect of the job fairly easy.

A customer comes in, and I offer her my services. Lots of “please”s and “thank you”s are passed between us; it’s all fairly ordinary.

And then the customer turns to leave.

And then she turns back.

“I just wanted to say thank you for saying ‘thank you’,” she says to me. “I just got into an argument with a girl working at another location, because she was so rude – she didn’t say ‘thank you’ or anything. And I know that I’m not supposed to say this because it’s racist or whatever, but I just wanted to say to her, ‘go back to your country, because here, we know how to be polite’.”

In a split second, a thousand potential responses went through my mind. The part of me that identifies as an intersectional feminist wanted to start a discussion with her right then and there, but the part of me that was acutely aware of the fact that I was currently working in customer service told me that I should just laugh and move on. Not wanting to betray my beliefs but also not wanting to lose my job, I wound up doing something that was between a polite smile and a grimace, and she walked right out of the store, going back to her day like nothing happened.

But her weird, back-handed compliment stayed with me throughout the day – particularly the part where she said, “I know I’m not supposed to say this”.

Well then, I thought, why did she say it if she knows she shouldn’t?

Did she expect me to agree with her? I mean, I am visibly white, so did she take that as the indicator that I would agree with her beliefs? That she would say something risque that I would clearly understand, and we would be united in our little moment of hatred? Was it meant to be a bonding experience for the both of us?

Because that isn’t what ended up happening. To me, what she said was about the equivalent of her turning around to look at me, giving a great, big, smelly fart, and then walking out of the store without a word of apology or understanding for what just happened.

And she had to know that that was a risk when she said it. She said, “I know I’m not supposed to say this”, which means that she was aware that it was a controversial statement that she was about to make and I may or may not agree with it.

Was I supposed to feel good about what she was saying? She did precede it with a compliment toward me, so maybe I was supposed to feel flattered at the expense of some other woman who I don’t even know. I’m supposed to take comfort in the knowledge that I, a white, North American girl, know how to say “thank you”, unlike those ‘awful’ immigrants. Except, I’ve never really been the sort to find my own confidence at the expense of other women.

And, as I have already stated, I don’t even know the woman who my customer was referring to. I don’t know her name, her background, where she works, or why she works there. I don’t know if she was having a busy morning, and thus forgot to say “thank you”. I don’t know if she intentionally avoided any “thank you”s because this customer was being overtly racist, demeaning, or dismissive toward her. I don’t know if her mom, her dad, her spouse, her three kids, and her new puppy just died in a horrible, fiery car accident, thus putting the word “thank you” out of her mind completely. I don’t know nearly enough about her to find comfort in the knowledge that I’m more polite than her. But, more importantly, this customer doesn’t know nearly enough about her to judge her, or an entire group of people, because of one missed “thank you”.

Or was the comment “I know I’m not supposed to say this” meant to serve an entirely different purpose, one that has absolutely nothing to do with me or the situation or even the woman from the other location? Maybe the comment was, very simply, intended to excuse the customer from what she was saying.

After all, she knew that what she was saying was racist – she couldn’t not know it. But she wanted to say it anyway, because she still believes it nonetheless. So how do you get away with saying awful, hateful, racist things about people? You precede it by acknowledging that what you are about to say is racist, of course.

She knew that what she was about to say was controversial, but she didn’t want to face the consequences of making a controversial statement. She wasn’t looking for a fair discussion or a debate about immigration. If she had been, then she wouldn’t have made the statement to someone who is literally paid to smile despite all pain and constantly remind themselves “the customer is always right”.

But the thing is, just because one acknowledges that what they are about to say is racist and hateful, that doesn’t make it any less racist or hateful. Had the wrong person heard what she said to me, then regardless of how she preceded her comment, she still would have succeeded in alienating and insulting someone who our society is already pretty good at making feel alienated and insulted.

There is a time and a place to discuss these matters, but that place is not a mall, and that time is not when the person you are talking to is working. These are matters that someone should sit down and discuss, in detail, with a wide group of people, coming from many different backgrounds. These are concerns that require research and reading and understanding. I am not saying that, if you believe something that is controversial like this, then you should never, ever voice your opinion, because sometimes, voicing your opinion is the best way to expand your understanding of the issue.

But if you are going to voice your opinion, then expect responses. Except discussion. Except disagreement, even, and accept that that’s okay. Because these aren’t simple matters, and we cannot expect simple responses.

If we reduce these matters to something simple, then we ignore whole sides of them. And, worse, we miss out on our chance to expand our minds when we don’t actually, genuinely discuss them. I wish that I could have had the opportunity to explain to that woman the potential harm that her comment could have on someone, because she still doesn’t know. The way she sees it, what she’s saying is merely something that people aren’t allowed to say because of crazy, over-the-top, politically correct social justice warriors (you know, people like me). She’s going to go out into the world, not understanding that what she’s saying is harmful, and she could make a good person feel extremely alienated from their own country and their fellow citizens with what she says.

So anytime that we precede a comment with “I know I’m not supposed to say this”, we need to take a moment to consider that there might be a reason why people get upset when we make statements like these. And if we don’t understand why people get upset, then we need to talk about it in a calm, non-confrontational sort of way, just so that we can understand. I’m not trying to call anyone wrong or evil or anything like that. All that I am trying to say is that, if people get upset when we make statements like these, then we need to treat these statements with a certain sort of weight and open-minded understanding. These are not the easy, closing statements that we make to just anyone.

You Cannot Change People

They say that people can’t change, but I disagree. People change all the time.

People grow and develop. People learn new things and change their minds and take on new and better habits. People apologize for their own wrong-doings and try to make amends. People change their entire lives and use their mistakes to help other people going through the same thing.

Change isn’t just possible; it’s common. It’s a daily occurrence that comes for us multiple times in our lives.

But what isn’t always possible is changing someone else.

Sometimes, the people we care about don’t want to change. Maybe you see something wrong with them, but they don’t. Maybe you want them to become a more outdoors-y type person, but they’re perfectly satisfied staying indoors – in fact, they might even prefer it. You might be succeeding only in making them uncomfortable by encouraging them to do otherwise. Maybe you disapprove of a specific habit of theirs, but they see absolutely nothing wrong with it, and don’t understand why you’re trying to take it away from them.

Sometimes, when we try to make people change when they don’t want to, all we do is create a strain. We make them want to do the forbidden thing even more, directly because it is forbidden. Sometimes, when we try to make people change when they don’t want to, all that we are really doing is getting mad at them for being who they are. And from time to time, we seem to take this opinion that, especially if we’re in a romantic relationship with someone, we should come before everything else in their lives, but that just isn’t the case. I’m not saying that our loved ones shouldn’t value us highly, but it is important that they value themselves, their personalities, their likes and dislikes and the way they were made.

And it’s important for us to value all of that too. Maybe not like it; no one is going to like absolutely every tiny little aspect about someone, but so long as what they are doing does not hurt or disrespect anyone, then all that making a big deal out of it does is hurt and disrespect who they are as a person.

And no one should have to shave off important parts of themselves in order to be with someone they love.

And if what they are doing is hurting or disrespecting someone, and you want to stop them from doing that because you truly do love the better sides of them… you still might be disappointed. Like I said, people can change, but you can’t necessarily change someone.

If they are going to change, then that change needs to come from them. This is true of small changes, like encouraging someone to go to the gym once in a while, and this is true of larger changes, like dissuading someone from engaging in behaviour that is bullying or abusive. You can try to help them out, you can try to be there for them, but if you choose to do that, then you need to remember who they are, and that they aren’t going to change unless they make the decision to do so. And they might never make the decision to do so.

And if you don’t think that you can handle that, then it’s okay to decide that you can’t have that person in your life anymore. It’s okay to value your own well-being.

Because change comes from within. You cannot enforce it on someone else. And if you choose to try, you run the risk of pushing them away or forcing them to give up pieces of themselves. So end of day, you can choose between two options: you can love them for who they are, flaws and all, or you can decide that they do you more harm than good and leave them. There is no shame in either choice, but you need to make the one that you can live with end of day.