Humane Instincts

We’re all more alike than we are different. We hear that a lot, right? I think I do, so I am not being original by writing it down or anything.

How often have I picked up a book and said, “YES!” registering the feeling that surely the author and I have walked in each other’s exact footsteps? Maybe I’ve never shot-up heroin or drank a case of Budweiser, but “yes, we are totally the same person!” How have I connected and registered with them so whole-heartedly? Why do I want to traverse on an unlikely adventure across wilderness or to foreign lands with this stranger that I know so well?

Because my basic instinct is human just like theirs and the feelings that drive us to do good things and to make some not great choices resides in all of us. Insecurity, isolation, fear, regret, elation, excitement, anxiety – unless we’ve dulled them with a strong dose of self-medication since childhood, we’ve all had these feelings and they’ve aided us in many choices during our lives.

There was one hallway in my elementary school that was rarely used, and therefore the lights were usually off. It wasn’t completely dark. The doors to the teacher’s parking lot were at one end and the natural light filtered in through the narrow windows of those doors.

One particular year there was one new class that was housed at the beginning corner of the otherwise unused hall, and it was the new fourth-grade/fifth-grade split class. Which meant there were three fourth-graders in an otherwise normal fifth-grade class led by a new teacher. A male teacher: the first of his kind in my elementary school. I was one of the three fourth-graders.

This teacher was young, unlike my dad. Not that my dad was old, but this man could have been a much older brother to me, or a very young uncle, if I had had uncles. He was much younger than all the other teachers in the school too, who were mostly closer in age to my older aunt and grandmother. There was something about him that made this feel special and exciting.

One morning I was crying. I couldn’t stop the tears from pouring down my face. There was no sound to my crying, but the tears shed with abundance and I was afraid I would be noticed if I began swatting them away so I sat stiff allowing them to fall on my desk, over my hands, and into my lap.

My young, male teacher in his red suspenders took me out into the unlit hall and asked if I was okay. I nodded and cried some more. One of the recess aides came by with her outdated Mel’s Diner hair-do while popping her gum slyly between her teeth and asked us both, “everything okay, sweethearts?” My teacher asked her to call my parents. He told me, “it’ll be okay, I promise,” and then I remember my dad showing up, but I don’t remember how that was possible since my dad worked in an office and was always at work after dropping us off in the morning. Where was my mom? Well, she was the one I was worried about. Always, my whole life was a struggle over worrying about my mom. In fact, my first memory, when I was approximately 18-month’s old was of worrying about my mother. It’s only until recently and having my own child have I learned that I cannot worry about her anymore, not the way I was taught to anyway (intentionally or unintentionally).

The point is, from the earliest of beginnings we already have those core basic instincts in us that make us relate to other humans in the most incomprehensible way. What does an 18-month-old know about worry? How does a fourth-grader know about tears to be shed for a mother that cannot get out of bed for unknown, but self-inflicted reasons?

How does this teacher know that a crying child isn’t simply crying because they’re tired, or their feelings are hurt, or they had a fight?

When I read posts, blogs, books that thrive on the author asking to be seen as different and then force their audience to recognize them as someone who is a rebel, or an outcast, or that they don’t fit into groups or titles, I laugh. I laugh so hard because the irony of it is – they do fit in!

You cannot produce content and have followers and speak to thousands of fans and continue to call yourself a defector. These authors, speakers, and renegades are not so unlike the rest of we mere mortal humans, trying to find our like-minded tribe.

I spent my high school and college years “trying” to fit in, and arguing that I was different than the cliques. I was the only one who labeled myself differently from them. I squared my shoulders and barked that they couldn’t possibly understand what is was like to be me, what would they understand of a dysfunctional family.

Yet, any time I forced myself to go out with these women whom I internally wanted to be like, I had the time of my life. I wanted it to never end. I loved being around their human spirit. There was never any judgment so harsh as my own.

I realized somewhere along the way since then, that we are all trying to fit in together, just like we are now. We are constantly rounding our edges, softening our lines, and blending together to create a better human spirit.

There’s always going to be someone out there to make you believe in their superiority over you, which is just narcissism. And there’s always going to be someone who wants you to follow them on their journey of rebellion, but if you’re following, then it’s equally your journey. We’re individuals, but we’re all in this thing together, I promise.

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