As easy as it would be to surround myself with like-minded people at all times, I’ve seen enough TED Talks to know that true growth lies in respecting and regarding viewpoints that differ from my own. After all, Republicans are everywhere.
What’s interesting, is the fact that your own perspective, the lens with which you see the entire world, can change over time, too. For example, this year I will be 34-years-old, and only now do I cringe at the thought of myself wearing a pair of jeans with a cut-out dangerously close to my ass cheek. Thirty-something Tara knows this isn’t a good look, especially for someone who has never been and will never be described as “skinny.” But teenage Tara saw things quite differently. Now would probably be a good time to admit that I also went through an ill-advised, sparkle-encrusted, crop-top phase. My apologies, people of the world whose line of vision I sauntered across. I see the error of my ways.
A terribly misguided sense of fashion is only the tip of my evolving worldview iceberg. Age has allowed me to change the way I respond in most circumstances. It has also given me the ability to find true value and importance in education and lifelong learning. A stark contrast from the crop-top wearing trollop who skipped classes to visit her boyfriend at UMASS every week. But most importantly, growing older has changed the way I understand people, or at least try to. This does not mean that I’ve mastered the art of empathy and gone all Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird Atticus, not Go Set a Watchman Atticus) or that I’m immune to judgment, because after all, haters gonna hate. All I am saying is that with each passing year, I find myself with an increased ability to take a deeper look into what’s behind another person’s actions and how they’re looking at the world. I know, I know. This can all be chalked up to maturity, but even so, sometimes it’s really hard to do. Especially in trying times (see: Trump, Donald J).
A reexamination of my oldest relationships has helped this cause. Only now do I understand that my dad is just a man. And sometimes a man can feel trapped. And, usually, a person who feels trapped escapes, regardless of what his daughters need him to be. Similarly, the contempt I felt for my mother, who I watched wither away as she cried into an untouched dinner night after night, has turned into understanding and admiration as I figure out the woman (and dare I say, mother?) I want to be.
Life changes us. Perspectives evolve, perceptions shift, and on and on it goes.
If empathy were easy, everyone would do it; it’d be like selling LuLaRoe on Facebook. Instead, we get thrown into this divide, whether it’s real or perceived, that separates people into black and white categories, forgetting about all the beautiful, messy grey in between. I’m partly saddened by this, but mostly annoyed. C’mon, peeps, throw on your creepy skin suits – “It rubs the lotion on its skin, or else it gets the hose again” – and look at things from someone else’s eyes. What you see may shock you.
This blog is the beginning of that journey for me. I’ve started with people closest to me, those who have shaped me into who I am today and those who have shown me who I do not want to become. In fact, our namesakes, Barbara and Ruth, were two such individuals. Barbara, fierce, strong, and talented, always let you know what was on her mind. And Ruth, nurturing, kind, and wholesome, lived her life for others. My grandmothers lived very different lives, had dissimilar perspectives on most things, but united in their ability to instill their values into the hearts and minds of those who followed them, changing perceptions along the way.
Whether you’re a Barbara or a Ruth, I ask you to join me on this adventure. Share your story. Listen to others. We’ll laugh, we’ll cry, we’ll buy matching t-shirts.