I've been thinking a lot lately about what we value in other people. I think there are some scary cultural norms but the real answer varies greatly from person to person. I recently moved to a college town and I've overheard and witnessed all kinds of snobbery based on education, which I find so ironic. I have friends who have prestigious degrees and friends who are professors and they don't seem to judge based on a person's education or lack there-of, but I have some exceptional friends and much gratitude for them.
There are so many different ways we categorize people- education, type of employment, perceived success or achievements. I just wonder what these things really say about a person. I have met so many "educated" people who have routinely proven themselves to be ignorant or closed-minded and really out of touch with reality. I experience the unfavorable looks when I tell people I clean a library, as if that tells them something about who I am. I've seen how I shrink to some people when they learn what I do. You know what? They shrink to me because of that reaction.
I have been at this job for (almost exactly) eight years and in that time I've really struggled with not defining myself by what I do. I work with people who have told me I'm probably the smartest person in the building. I don't know if I agree with that but I'm no slouch. I have a voracious appetite for knowledge and am, therefore, very self-taught. This means that there are a lot of things I know very little about and a lot of things I have picked apart as best I can to figure them out. I think that's true of most people. We learn about what we're interested in. But I am sure that there is not a degree on this planet that makes anyone an expert in anything, and if there were, what's that anyway? Someone who knows a ton about one thing.
Here we go with the circles again. What I'm trying to work out is what is really important, what is really of value in a person? When I think of my friends, the people who I spend time with, the first thing that comes to my mind is an open mind. I have unpopular opinions and a lopsided world-view so I need to hang out with people who will hear that and accept me without the need to agree or disagree. Kindness is the most important thing any of us can carry. It's become almost novel, to be kind in general to those around you. I like people who laugh easily and freely, and who have strange senses of humor. I think authenticity is also hugely important. If you're not being yourself, I don't care who you are. I want to know real people. I don't understand people who put on airs to try to make themselves appear to be perfect. I see this a lot in people who have a lot of money. That sounds judgmental and I think it is so I'll just fess up to that right now. But I have a friend who lives in one of those fancy neighborhoods where all the houses look the same and everyone has to make sure their kids have the same new cool toy as the neighbors. It just goes on and on. There's such an immature attitude that seems prevalent in the whole little community. My friend, an exceptionally sensitive, authentic, and generous person, is miserable and at a loss for how to deal with these people. I know that not all people who have money are like that, but I think somehow in the quest for "bigger, better, newer, more", people forget about what is truly important.
I wonder about that greedy need. What if you had nothing? What if there was no money, no car, no house? Or what if you suddenly found yourself in a crappy "job" (like, I don't know, cleaning) and you had an old car and a rented home? Would you suddenly be a different person? The answer is yes if you defined yourself by those "things" in the first place. I would like to say that I don't judge myself in these ways, that I don't have wants that distract me from needs, but I did grow up in America and I'm not immune to consumerism or to the sad way we evaluate things. I think my awareness of it stops me from really buying into it all, though.
I know that who I am is something (indeed, the only thing) that can never be taken from me. I am a loving, kind person and I do my best to evidence that every day. I am learning to be less judgmental and more patient. I am learning about what really matters to me and how different that is from what the rest of society seems to deem important. I stopped watching T.V. because it's so full of negative messages and feeds low-self-image. I have realized that if I want to be a truly loving person, the most important thing is for me to love myself. I can't afford myself the luxury of sitting back and saying "I'm only a custodian." or "I have no degree and therefore no worth>." because I don't really buy into any of that.
I know that my worth is in what I do and how I interact with the world. It's in how I show up every day. It's in the fact that I'm so content, so happy and feel so blessed to live my life that might, to others, seem like a struggle. I'm aware of the things I struggle with but they're mostly worldly things and are not as important to me as they seem to be to others. I have great friendships. I have a beautiful, amazing daughter. I live in a wonderful house with a gorgeous backyard where I can sit and meditate all afternoon. I live in a cool city where there are tons of fun things to do. I have a sense of awe and wonder at the world that fills me with love and peace every day. I have difficult days when it's hard to find that peace, and then I wake up again and it's there. I am truly blessed and will never be better or worse than anyone. We are all here. We are all one. We are all worthy.