July 25, 2010

Your Perception of Me Is Not My Reality

"I am here to remove your illusions of grandeur. You have false hopes and unrealistic expectations. My job is to bring you back to reality." Those were the words of one of my teachers in high school. It is not an exact quote but it is close enough- "illusions of grandeur" was one of his favorite terms.

It was tenth grade and we were taking a course that was supposed to help prepare us for the future. I don't remember the exact name of it, but it involved taking the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). It was a test that supposedly could help identify what you were good at so that you could focus your attention upon whatever that was: truck driver, scientist, doctor, misfit etc.

Twenty six years later I don't remember what my results were. Can't tell you whether they were promising or disappointing. I suppose that means that they were neither stellar nor disappointing. I have to admit that I am somewhat surprised that there is nothing more to this memory- I am famous for remembering all sorts of useless trivia.

Perhaps it can be attributed to ego. I was irritated by Dr. What'shisface and his assertion that most of us had unrealistic expectations. I thought that it was shameful for a teacher to try and throw cold water on our dreams.

All these years later I understand it differently. Many of our dreams were not founded in reality and some were certainly outside of our grasp, but not all. I am not a professional athlete- that didn't happen. And that girl Stacey that I spent hours staring at never did go out with me, but then again I never asked her.

But that is neither here nor there. 

I suppose that some people would disagree with me. They'd see the actions of this instructor as a kindess. Why push kids into trying for something that they can never get. I don't. I disagree. I am a dreamer. I spend a lot of hours living in a different world. I wander through worlds where I have abilities that I don't have now. In some I can fly and in others I am that singer/songwriter I have always dreamt of being.

But I also spend a lot of time in touch with reality. Hours and hours are spent in tune with what is happening here and now. And mixed in with or through it all is time that is devoted to trying to make the dreams I have today into the realities of my tomorrow.

That teacher wasn't the only one to say things that I disagreed with. His comment wasn't directed at anyone person but all of us. Frankly I was more irritated by the English teacher who refused to write a recommendation for AP English. She told me that my writing wasn't strong enough to merit being in the class. I thought that it was a personal attack and told her that she was wrong.

And she was.

If you ask my children they will tell you that I speak with them about perception. We talk about impressions and how they impact how others treat us. They know that I am relentless in teaching them to make decisions about others based upon actions. It is the only way to truly know who a person is.

But the contradiction of life is that sometimes you never get the chance to show others who you are because their perception prevents that experience from taking place.

It is not nice, it is not fair and it is not reasonable- but it is reality. And through the years it is going to be a recurring topic in some manner or another.

The one thing that I can tell the kids that has always worked for me is the reminder that "Your Perception of Me Is Not My Reality." You can have your ideas, your thoughts and your beliefs about who you think I am. But those thoughts, beliefs and ideas don't have to limit or define who I am.

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