I’m writing today about Bubbles.
Not these bubbles:
Or even these bubbles:
No, I’m talking about the kind of bubbles we find ourselves in every day. Generational. Community. Geographic.
How many people are friends with people older or younger than them? Not like, casual friends on Facebook or Twitter friends. Actual friends. The ones that gather together to celebrate milestones, grieve over losses, or even just meet up for happy hour after a stressful day at work.
I have been truly blessed in life to know many people both younger and older than I. I grew up as the baby of the family. My sisters are 5 and 10 years older than I am. As somewhat of an outsider and loner growing up, the main people I interacted with were either way younger or way older than me. I used to come in early to talk to my teachers about the articles I read in the newspaper as I ate my breakfast. People constantly call me an old lady stuck in a young person’s body.
That’s what happens when you’re forced to grow up early.
Some of the biggest influences on me growing up were from camp counselors, youth group leaders, coaches, and teachers. I got a lot of wisdom and counseling in my teenaged years from these amazing people. I wouldn’t be who I am today without their guidance. I know I would be much more narrow-minded, probably bitter, and less inquisitive.
Some people never branch out. They don’t do extracurricular activities. They don’t talk to people older than them. They don’t put themselves in situations where they have to talk to other people.
They are missing out.
This is one reason why networking and mentoring are so important at work. You’re forced to work with people outside your comfort zone, and that’s a good thing. You not only need to be able to work with people who are different from you, but you can learn a lot from them while you do.
I’m taking part in a “reverse mentoring” group. One of the Vice Presidents of MegaCorp set up a meeting with a bunch of Millennials from the office. He knows we have a lot of thoughts, feelings, and ideas about what is happening in our office, and he wants to know what they are. He’s reaching out to us so he can learn. As a Millennial, I think he’s smart for doing so lol. We have a lot to offer. I have friends in other companies that aren’t doing something like this, and they complain all the time how their office environment isn’t conducive to them and how they work. My VP might not implement everything we say, but at least the door is open for communication. That’s a damn good start.
Another bubble out there is community. I’m definitely guilty of this one. How often do we seek out people who are similar to us? Race, hobbies, income levels, etc. I have a friend who moved to a fancy neighborhood full of McMansions because she didn’t like the way her old neighborhood was going. Because her new neighbors weren’t like her. Is she a terrible person for doing so?
She just listens to the fear mongers among us about people who are different than we are. She is, however, missing out on teaching some valuable life lessons to her children about empathy, patience, kindness, and cross cultural awareness. How do you teach your children to be kind and understanding to others who are different than they are, when everyone they know is exactly like them? My sister moved to a neighborhood that has a rep as being not the greatest two years ago. You know what’s happened to them since they did? Nothing. She’s made friends with the neighbors (or at least does the hand up wave as they drive or walk past) and been able to answer a ton of questions from my niece about them. How would she have learned about other people if they weren’t smack dab in the middle of everything? A good example of this is from Justin over at RootofGood. He wrote a related post on gentrification.
A while back I was involved in a fabulous Twitter conversation. I mean, I have many fabulous Twitter conversations, but this one sticks out to me. In it, one of my fellow bloggers was trying to decide if she wanted to become a financial mentor to at-risk women. I immediately told her to do it. These women are in shelters for one reason or another and have recently gone through a budgeting/beginner finance class. I told my blogger friend to do it because she has a chance to make a real, immediate, huge impact on someone’s life. Often, women in these situations have never had to handle money or haven’t had positive influences to model after. She can be that person. She can show those women the importance of saving, be there to cheer on her positive changes, and celebrate when she gets her money under control.
It’s incredibly difficult to be different.
Especially as it relates to saving in a consumer based economy like ours. It is huge to have people celebrate your milestones instead of try to take advantage of you or mock you for your decisions. I encourage you to step out of your normal bubble and routine. Try something different. See what happens!
I’ve lived my entire life in the Midwest. I know how things work around here. What I don’t know is how people live their lives in other areas of the country, and other areas of the world. I don’t want to say something offensive to someone because I simply didn’t know any better. It’s better to say something out of ignorance than malice, but it’s still not great.
Ever since I started traveling, I have expanded my worldview. My basic tenets of how I thought the world worked have been challenged. I say something, and someone asks me “Why do you think that?” instead of, “Mmhmm, I agree.” It’s forced me to think. Oftentimes, my answer is “I don’t know” or “because that’s the way I’ve always done it”.
What would I do if I didn’t have a car? What would I do if I had to wait 3 months for the store to deliver my mattress? What would I do if I have a small fridge, no sprawling supermarket, and a fresh market down the road? How would I live if I didn’t live in an 1100+ sq ft apartment?
I don’t know. I don’t know how I would react to those situations. But I want to find out. I didn’t even know there were situations like that around the world. But there are.
I am a much better person for exploring the world and expanding the bubbles I live in. My only wish is for everyone else to have the opportunity to do the same.
What bubbles are you in? How have you challenged your world around you lately?