(File this under the ‘baring my soul’ category…)
When I was in high school, I had an afternoon job at a daycare. It was a great gig for a 17-year-old, and I learned quite a bit from it. There is one scene that sticks in my mind that has actually brought quite a bit of clarity to my life over the years.
One of the three-year-old kids in my class ran up to myself and another teacher in (fake) tears. “They don’t want to play with me!” he said, dramatically pointing to the guilty group. Without batting an eye, the other teacher said to him, “Well go play with someone else then. Why do you want to play with kids who don’t want to play with you?”
At the time I thought the answer was harsh. They were only three. Make the other kids play with him. Make them share and be his friend. I hurt for the kid because I thought he would feel rejected. He sulked off, having lost the battle of getting his ex-friends punished, but do you know what? Five minutes later he was happily playing with some other kids.
We desire acceptance most from those who have rejected us. Author Alain de Botton said on Twitter some time back, “There are people we’d have forgotten about long ago if they hadn’t started to ignore us.” How true. It’s the people who won’t play with us that we want to play with.
I find in my own life that there are risks I want to take and things I want to do that I am not doing because of what a handful of people will think. Because surely they will roll their eyes at me and then rejoice if I fail. How crippling to care what people think, and how embarrassing to admit that we do. [pullquote]How crippling to care what people think, and how embarrassing to admit that we do.[/pullquote]
This is something in my own life that I continue to strive to break. And it is breaking – slowly. I am slowly realizing that those kids on the playground who don’t want to play with me really actually don’t care what I do. And me sitting back on my heels and not doing anything won’t make them want to play with me any more than they do now. And if I fail, it’s likely they won’t notice, because they are busy with their own friends.
I think the preoccupation with what other people think is a death sentence for creativity. So with that, I will kindly excuse myself from those that I still strive for acceptance from, and will go play with someone else for a while. I think it will be much happier there.
Who’s with me?