“Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you’ll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others.”
~ Jacob M. Braude
I was recently told, “You must not be from here.” It’s interesting how a seemingly innocuous phrase can have such a strong reflection on you after the fact. It was early Friday afternoon and I was in the laundromat not far from my home. I was using a king-size washer to wash a sleeping bag in preparation for a camping trip on Saturday.
To pass the time, I was listening to my Atlanta Braves on my Android. In preparation of future articles, I also brought working papers, notes and my spiral notebook to write in. I do more sitting than I care to while working my day job, so I spread out my stuff on the folding table where I listened to the game and wrote while waiting for my laundry to finish. After a few minutes, a young couple entered the laundromat and began removing their clothes from the dryer. The woman rolled her basket to the table and began folding her clothes at the far end of the table. It was the only space available as I had my stuff spread out from the middle of the table.
At that point, I turned to the woman and asked her if she needed to me to move. With a look of surprise, she told me if I didn’t mind it would be very helpful, so I grabbed my stuff and moved to a chair. The man, who turned out to be the woman’s husband, looked at me and said, “You must not be from here.” I proudly responded, explaining I was from Nebraska. He then proceeded to go off on a rant about how rude the people of San Jose are and that no one from San Jose would have ever asked if they needed to move, much less move voluntarily.
In conversation, I learned the man was a recently discharged Army veteran of six years having served a tour in Afghanistan. His wife was from the Bay Area, but he was raised outside of California.
Since arriving in the Bay Area in 1992, I’ve lived here longer than any other place in the United States. I’ve had my share of negative interactions with people everywhere I’ve lived, but thankfully I don’t believe I allowed it to change who I am. In retrospect, I regret telling them I was from Nebraska and reinforcing the man’s opinion of people from the Bay Area. “I am from here.” For better or worse, the Bay Area is my home. While I cannot control the people I interact with, I can change how I respond and interact with them.
Much like our relationships within our blended families, we may desire to change our family members’ behavior or way of thinking; if they just did what we wanted, we’d be so much happier and things would be easier. This is not the solution, but rather a path to increased frustration and stress.
Save yourself some frustration and stress today and learn to stop trying to change others. Focus instead on changing your own faults and you will find yourself living a happier and more peaceful life. Find out how I learned about respect, confrontation and forgiveness in a parking lot.