Friday, May 20, 2011

Exposure Breeds Similarity

I remember when I was about seven or so, crawling in bed next to my mother and asking her "When I grow up, can I swear?".  This ludicrous question took my mother off guard as she looked down at me with a huge smile on her face, trying not to laugh.  In all seriousness I asked her again, "When I am old, like you, will I be allowed to swear then?".  She found it quite funny that I had referred to her as 'old' - since we had been told many times not to tell people her real age, and that she, unlike anyone else, just stayed the same age forever and ever.  After much giggling and silly laughter, she finally told me "No.  If you can't swear now, then why would you be allowed to swear when you're old like me?".  With very little understanding about what she had said, I replied "Well, because I'll be older and I can do whatever I want.  The people on T.V swear, and the older kids at school do too.  Why can't I when I grow up?".  You have to understand my mother, we weren't even allowed to say "shut-up" - she still hates that phrase to this day, and what is even more funny - I think it seems a little more offensive to see it in writing, let alone hear it out loud.  If saying "be quiet" wasn't enough (which it should have been), we had permission to say "shush up".  A little lame for a kid who only ever associated with the 'cool' and 'popular' children (in partial to my sisters) who said "shut up" as often as I wanted chocolate.

Exposure.  As humans, we naturally like to familiarize ourselves with our surroundings.  We like to find similarity in what it is that we are familiarizing ourselves with.  Those similarities become a base for attitude and behavior.  Attitude and behavior dictate our desires, and our desires influence who we are.  Where we find similarity can come from anywhere.  We are more likely to help another in need if we find that we are similar in some way, shape, or form.  We will be more readily to engage in an activity that we have some sort of experience with - great or small.  We tend to eat or stay away from the same foods because we know how they make us feel.  Our daily routine rarely changes as we have become used to the order of activity.  As long as we can find comfort and similarity in the activities we engage in and the people we come into contact with, then life tends to stay on an even keel.  It is all due to exposure and how much we connect with what we choose to expose ourselves to.

When I was five years old, I wanted everyone to call me Jennifer AND I wanted to be Mexican.  Why, you might ask?  I was the youngest of three girls at the time and they both have 'normal' names.  So naturally, I felt like the odd-child in the family (I don't think anything has changed! :) ).  Kristina and Alison - oh, how much I wanted to be just like my sisters!  Nobody could ever get my name right.  I remember my first day of school in New Zealand, the teacher asked if I had a nickname..... little did she know - Ileva IS my nickname.  Every visit to the doctor's office, the nurse would walk out with my file in hand and just stand there and stare at my name on the front - just from the look on her face and the way her lips were silently moving, I knew it was me she had come for.  "That's me!" I would say before she had the chance to even attempt to say my name.  I just wanted something NORMAL - let alone, pronounceable.  So, how did wanting to be Mexican fall in line with the name of Jennifer?  Well, the only Hispanic person I had been exposed to was Jennifer Lopez.  Yes, J-LO.  I figured, if I'm going to be a 'Jennifer', I might as well be Mexican too, cause then I will be able to sing just as well and everyone will be able to say my name!

Similarity.  After becoming used to our surroundings and accepting those who tend to creep into our worlds, with or without our permission, we subconsciously start to change ourselves to conform to our current environment.  We start to find similarities between our inner selves and the outside world we have created.  We no longer have individuality, but prefer mainstream recognition.  As long as we can keep people thinking that we meet all conditions of 'normalcy', then we have succeeded.  We start to retaliate attitudes and behaviors we have long resented.  People who we held close are effortlessly pushed away if they do not meet our personal quota of similarity. There is an unspoken of and unseen social radar that the followers of 'norms' have to stay beneath - this is where we lose ourselves.

Why do we do what we do when we know what we know?  I'm still trying to answer this question myself.  I don't understand why we sometimes let ourselves return to places that were at one point detrimental - physically, mentally, spiritually, and/or emotionally.  It seems as if it is a neverending cycle - as if we've taken five steps forward and three steps back.  We keep running forward, only to see the good things pass us by because we are stuck on a wheel like a hamster.  Some of us can slow ourselves down long enough to see our lives for what they truly are, and then make necessary changes - for the rest of us, we need interventions.  It is different for everyone.  Each situation similar to another but unique in circumstance.  Each person given their own sets of shoes, specifically designed for them.

I am nowhere near perfect, but I have always been very inquisitive - I had a question for everything.  Some answerable questions, others.... not so much.  But, I think when it comes down to it - Choice, Control, and Closure are my Three C's that I try to include while on this indeterminate journey we call Life. 

Choice is ALWAYS going to presented in every situation - some are just harder to see than others.  Once a decision is made, hold your ground and gain Control of what it is you are trying to achieve.  After all is said done, if you cannot find Closure, then you have not reached true and pure happiness - which should be our end goal in any given situation. 

Choose what you want to be exposed to, Control it, and find Closure in what that exposure brings.

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