Cats, Canines, and Conversations Worth Having

My sister lives in a 1500 square foot townhouse but that doesn’t stop her from cleaning to avoid studying. I’m not that desperate, but I do look for excuses to leave my books behind sometimes. Interestingly enough, today, I found an excuse to stop reading AS I was reading.

In my psychology textbook, something fell out as I was learning about human memory. It was a business card for an independent beauty consultant in Nashville, Tennessee. I won’t disclose her real name; I’ll just refer to her as Sarah Williams.

My textbook is used, so I now have an idea of where the previous owner lives. I looked up the address on the card on Google Maps and gave myself a tour of Nashville. Fun fact: inside the city, there’s a college called Lipscomb University. Like, lips and comb? Do they comb their lips?

At the bottom, the card said “Faith first, family second, career third.”

Before I continue, I should say that I understand I’m jumping to conclusions. Yes, I am going to assume that faith refers to Christianity. I am confident that’s what she meant.

I thought it was interesting she included that phrase. I realized that I was observing a stereotype – that Southerners are very religious. In my hand was proof that at least one person in Tennessee valued faith. Maybe, a majority of the people in Nashville supported her ideals, so it wasn’t frightening for her to openly state them. Even if the stereotype of people in the South being majorly comprised of Christians is true, I’m sure there are some people in Nashville that reject the idea of religion. Sarah probably knew adding that line had the potential to lose a customer – even if it meant attracting a trillion more. But she did it anyways because she wants people to know that faith and family matter to her.

Although I don’t run a business, this card kind of reminded me of something I do. I write my thoughts and post them on the Internet. Sure, I’ve gotten positive feedback before. But out of the 7 billion people in this world, there has to be a lot of individuals that don’t like my writing. They might say that I’m ranting too much or that I write boring things. Maybe someone is reading this and wondering why I care so much about some business card. I know that some people might not like what I write, but I post it anyways.

I wasn’t always this way. I used to avoid exposing my opinions because I couldn’t fathom the thought of someone disagreeing with me. Sometimes, I’d hide the smallest, most unimportant things.

Here’s an example: I dislike cats. I love dogs – especially huskies, golden retrievers, and German shepherds. But if you had asked me if I like dogs or cats more two years ago, I probably would have answered something along the lines of “Well, I guess dogs are kind of better but I don’t have anything bad to say about cats.”

I’m sure if I had answered “I like dogs way more than cats” to a feline fanatic, he or she would respect my opinion. Because it’s not a very serious issue, I’d often hear people joke about it. They’d say things like “What? Who are you?” or “You’re so dumb” or maybe even “How could you possibly dislike cats?” They said it all in good fun, of course.

I love joking around. Earlier in this piece of writing, I joked about the name of a university. But years ago, people poking fun bothered me more than it should have. I used to yearn for everyone’s approval because I thought it would somehow validate me. I would equate someone disagreeing with me with someone disliking me.

Being ambiguous was my way to avoid conflict. I liked being in between because it felt easy and comfortable. But, trying to remain as gray scale as possible ruined me. I started to forget how to hold opinions. I’d be presented with controversial topics and immediately try to justify both sides. I’d usually internally choose an opinion. If anyone asked? “Well, I kind of liked this a little more…but I’m not saying anyone is wrong…I can see how the other side is right too…”

Was it really that hard to state my opinion? It was. I would feel inferior when faced with someone that feels differently. Seeing people be so adamant made me believe that I somehow wasn’t good enough for them because perhaps they value their opinions too much to bother with anything that conflicts with them.

Being neutral or intermediate is okay. But when you start to change how you feel to avoid judgment from others on almost everything, that’s when it becomes restrictive. Like my friend Yadira told me a few days ago, “Don’t ever be afraid to say or act how you feel because you are preventing yourself from living and that’s the worst thing you can do. You’re supposed to feel and you’re supposed to let your voice be heard.”

At some point, I realized that I couldn’t just skate through life avoiding everything that begs me to take a position. Opinions shape you as a person. Meeting someone with similar views might help forge a connection. Meeting someone with different views can lead to thought – provoking conversation. It can be great either way.

I started to open up about my viewpoints well before reading Sarah’s business card. But seeing her do it reminded me that I should do it more often.

One of my favorite parts of being a human is getting to listen to other humans. Sometimes I read editorials and articles and 140-character sound bites from whomever I follow on twitter. Or, I get into complex conversation – whether it’s face – to – face talking that makes me forget about everything else or the texts so long that they can’t fit into one screenshot.

They’re all great. But none of them occur unless people speak up. Sure, being quiet is easy. But it’s also boring.

Being quiet is easy but boring. Being quiet is easy but boring. Being quiet is easy but boring. I’m repeating it because I think it’s important.

You don’t have to have your mind made up on absolutely everything in this world. I definitely don’t.

But if your mind IS made up, and if someone asks you about it – answer him or her. They probably asked because they genuinely want to know. Maybe you two can discuss how similar your opinions are and say things like HAVE YOU SEEN HUSKY PUPPIES? CATS CAN NEVER COMPARE.

Or you two can disagree and have a conversation like:
“You like dogs? But they smell.”
“I know – but there’s a reason there is a rapper called Snoop Dogg – not Snoop Kitty. He’s awesome because of his name choice. Anyone with a dog – related name rocks. ”
“Have you ever heard of Pitbull?”
“…okay you got me there”

I didn’t have conversations like that two years ago – and I wish I had. This dialogue I just made up was a hell of a lot more interesting than “They’re both cool! Not trying to insult anyone.”

Your life would be incredibly different if you didn’t listen to others. They might inspire you to pay more attention to politics, donate blood, or even change the world. Sarah openly stating how she feels on her business card inspired me to write this thing that you’re reading. And inside of you is the potential to have the same effect on someone else.

(ps: I’d love to read comments!)

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