I know a girl who knew me before I knew her. It sounds like one of my time lord travels, but stay with me. She was waiting with a friend at the same bus stop as I when the bus was late one morning. I don’t like being late and I must have felt rather bold in curtly criticising the bus driver for this crime when I stepped aboard, only to discover they were nervous and new to driving the route. I came across rather poorly to the girl and her friend. I never meant to. I’m not like that… But they were just strangers and strangers forget. Yet she didn’t.
Not long after, we met at the party of a mutual friend and she recognised me – how could she not considering the same green jacket and Battlestar Galactica arm patch? Never mentioning the bus incident, we talked and laughed and went away adding each other on Facebook. Yet the girl only told me this story a few weeks ago, after we’ve grown close and become good friends in many intervening months. Shes very important in my life right now. Its a good story, demonstrating not only that first impressions aren’t fatal, but that the world is too small to presume and place expectations.
I’ve never had a lot of time for socialising and worrying what people think about me. Being a geek at school from day one quickly made me into an outcast, except that I had a label, and more importantly, an expectation placed upon me. I had to be clever. I had to get the best grades, be the best pupil and prove to everyone that… well, what?
Truth be told, I’m clever and savvy but more of an all-rounder in my abilities rather than an A-grade academic student. I’ll easily procrastinate and daydream of far off lands and rather than focus on an essay about convergent media. I learn things better by feeling them through poetic texture and reading the atmosphere of a situation rather than researching technical specifications and dates (unless its Galaxy-class starships). I’ve known this for some years now of course, but it doesn’t stop me feeling like I have something to prove each time I’m handed an assignment. Be it an essay to ace, or the right till buttons to press. And I do want to be good at things. I want people to respect me, think of me as kind and fair and as someone who knows his stuff. The only thing that my parents asked of me was to “try my best”. I still do.
The problem with it is nobody cares. The scruffy lad who wears green jackets is perhaps the label the average pedestrian in my home town places upon me with little thought to my background or disposition. That would worry me in the past when I’d make a youthful faux pas and appear foolish. “I’m not like that…” I’d naively protest. I’m nice really! I’m friendly! I have a moral centre I promise! Personally I couldn’t care less if someone I knew passed or failed their exam: not in the sense that I’d judge them as a person on it, anyway. You’d be surprised how many whispered gossips I’ve heard. Maybe you wouldn’t be surprised. Maybe that’s just Human. Now I’m older I still feel a desire to prove that I’m ‘worthy’, I guess, but the average person matters little to me.
University is ending for me this year, and I approach a crossroads in life. What shall I do next? A career of opportunity and running around with business plans, or a quiet life with a simple job that might not excite, but is safe and happy? Sometimes people evaluate others claiming that “they could have done something more” or “was too clever for just that”. I don’t ever want someone to say that about me, but I won’t let that affect my choices. The people in the street will always have an expectation regardless if I become a famous film director, manage a journalistic career or simply work night shifts wiping a floor in ASDA, but that doesn’t matter. They’ll forget me. I’m the antithesis of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’. I believe the things I need to keep up with are simply my own ambitions and dreams. My own expectations of myself.
What amuses me is that the girl who knew me before I knew her… was almost someone I knew before she knew me. She looked familiar, perhaps the sister of one of my old Sociology classmates, I conjectured. But its not the case. The girl is someone completely different than I anticipated. And so much better.