“Maybe she hung out with them, but doesn’t mean she was like them.”
My father has come a long way. He has most certainly evolved. I’m starting to think that maybe I did raise him well.
Dad has broadened his perspective, thinks twice before making a statement, and counts to 10 before lashing out—on most days.
When my father made that comment, I, of course, had to jump in because, well, I just can’t help myself.
Then our family discussion began, as it always does, and for which I am grateful.
To have been raised by parents who dive into deep and controversial topics is a gift. We can talk about most anything for hours, bouncing back and forth between subjects and going round and round. When we disagree (a somewhat regular outcome), we continue to love each other and make efforts to understand.
It’s never been dull at the kitchen table, and I only wish that everyone had this experience growing up—or maybe more so now, as an adult, sharing a lively friendship with those who parented them. How blessed I am, and never for a moment do I take that for granted.
That passing comment my father innocently made grew into a passionate and interesting discussion when I expressed the fact that we can socialize with all kinds of people, but not be like them.
Welcome to my life. I wouldn’t want to sit around a table where everyone was like me. How boring! What would there be to discuss or learn, debate or laugh at?
We may not like everything about these people, our acquaintances and friends, and they may have qualities irredeemable, but there are some characteristics that we do enjoy.
They are different than us, which makes it interesting and thought-provoking.
They open our minds and challenge our beliefs. They may beckon us to question our values and morals, giving us the opportunity to explore the recesses of our soul. Maybe they make us laugh or think, offering us humor and perspective. They are the missing pieces to our puzzle.
I’ve never fared well with narrow-minded people. Those who don’t step outside their comfort zone or welcome new folks into their circle. Those who are part of a clique and remain within that nucleus eternally.
The narrow-minded view those who are eccentric as weird. Eclectic language and actions leave them bewildered. They are skeptical of those who speak openly, as it can make them uncomfortable. They refuse to trust what they can’t define or understand. And even if these eccentric people have piqued their interest and may possibly like these newcomers, they will reject them if others in their group don’t—or won’t. Heaven forbid they be perceived as uncool or odd themselves.
How confining. How ridiculous. How…dull.
People are like spices: they flavor our existence.
Some are sweet; some salty. Some are strong; some mild. Some are colorful; some bland. But when selected carefully and sprinkled just right, they combine to create the perfect dish to satisfy most any appetite.
As a free-spirited woman who has finally come into her own at some 50-plus years, I’m thrilled to have opened my world to such colorful people. They’ve enriched my life in countless ways.
Since birth, I’ve welcomed and cherished the weirdos, the nerds, and the geeks. That’s what a bohemian girl lives for. They get me, and I get them.
I’ve invited those who are the polar opposite of myself into my world and into my circles. I want to learn about your race, your culture, and your religion. I want to know you, find out what makes you tick, and I like that you’re different. I want you to know that we are free when we are together—free to be, you and me.
Diversity satiates my inner hippie. It is a recipe intended to please the palate. Experience is an education one will never get from reading a book. You have to explore, adventure, and embrace the uniqueness of others to truly taste life.
I’m not like most of the people I know, and many of them may not even get along if in the same room. But I like them, and I thank them.
For it is they who have spiced up my life.
How can you spice up your life? Here are four ways to get started.
1. Be curious, not judgmental.
We often look to find some aspect of one’s personality that we can relate to when we meet someone. We unconsciously seek to put them in a box that fits our world. Something we can define or label and stereotype. We listen to judge—not listen to learn.
In doing this, we restrict our ability to broaden our horizons. We risk learning and growth, putting ourselves in danger of ignorance and bias, stunting our minds and hearts.
Be curious about others. Talk to them. Ask them questions. Listen for what you can learn from them, then stop and appreciate them for sharing what they bring to your world.
2. Open your heart, and your mind.
When you’re inquisitive, you can’t help but be interested and crave knowledge. People are a wealth of information on an array of diverse subjects. And everyone is an expert in something because we can’t all know everything.
Janitor or CEO. Homeless or elite. Student or professor. Fast food workers or restaurant owners.
We are each different, but we are all human. We come in all flavors. And each of us offers a different taste or texture.
Some are nutritious; some not so much. But everything in moderation—including moderation.
Care and compassion. Interest and understanding. Let your heart lead you and your mind can’t help but open. Genuine interest in others will open not only your mind, but open doors to a life that you wouldn’t have imagined possible.
3. Welcome everyone, then discern.
There is absolutely no harm in talking to and accepting everyone. You’re in control. If nothing else, you may just have a more interesting day as a result of your interaction.
Some are meant to play a role in your life, while others are just passing through.
Be open to others, then decide if they have a seat at your table. If not, move on. But if so, pull up a chair and sit down.
4. Be afraid to say no—not yes.
Don’t live with regrets. Don’t constantly wonder “what if” or ask yourself if you “should have.”
Just go for it. Stop overthinking and overanalyzing. Don’t get caught up worrying about what others think. They’ll be talking about someone else before you even walk away.
I guarantee that you will have more regrets when you say “no” rather than “yes.”
Take a class. Go on an adventure. Make small talk with receptive strangers. Some of those strangers may become your best of friends.
Most importantly, accumulate experiences. Only in doing this will you add some spice to your life.