There is a game I like to play when I have the down time and am feeling particularly creative.
I will go and sit in a public place and people-watch — I’ll think about what that woman with the glasses and the limp is thinking, what she did today; what that man with the beard and leather jacket’s family is like and what he likes to do for fun. Sometimes I’ll write these things down, and the people that I think them to be then begin to develop in my head and become characters — when, moments ago, they were just passersby, now I am beginning to get to know them.
But I don’t really know them, do I? As much as I whittle them into poetic people, craftmanship of my own design, that isn’t who they really are. The truth is, sometimes the passerby is a mystery. I am imagining what is under the stone without actually overturning it. I can only be so accurate in these imaginings, and at times I wonder if my attempt to stimulate my creativity can simultaneously be harmful in my connecting with my surroundings.
This dilemma doesn’t just arise with strangers. Sometimes we think we know a person, and we expect them to live up to who we have built them up to be in our minds, but we don’t realize that we have drastically missed the target — that they are nowhere close to what we perceive them to be. Maybe they have more self-doubt than we realize; or more anger; or more passion. Maybe their quiet demeanor is masking their inquisitiveness, their creativity, their stubbornness; or maybe their stubbornness is masking their exhaustion, their kindliness, their loneliness.
Maybe they are more content with life than they appear; or maybe they harbor more hurt than we could ever possibly imagine.
Most people tend to skip over the true beauty of friendship. It’s not just about the surface interactions; you can judge someone by the casual conversation they hold, but oftentimes that is not a true depiction of who they are. And that is the beauty of friendship: getting to know someone — truly getting to know them, after the introductions and the pleasantries — even if it means you see their underbelly. We go through life understanding that we have more than one dimension, but are so quick to assume that that’s all others have.
The world is a strange, unfamiliar place, and we must resign ourselves to walking through it, turning over stone by stone as we come to them. It is imperative that we never believe that we fully understand the fluctuating nature of society, or the people within it… but also that we never stop trying to understand it. Whether it is joy that we find in getting to know someone, or pain in trying… It is them. That is who they are. With all their blemishes and faults, they are still walking on the same earth that you walk on. They are still crying out for someone to want to know them. They may cry differently than you or I, and they may have a different way of dealing with life, but they are there. And sometimes that is all a person has.