I'm steering away from my blog goals for a moment to digress into a topic that is a bit more reflective than informative so please bear with me on this one.
Last night I was having a drink with a friend of mine, who happens to be a wee bit younger than I, so the perspective was interesting to take in. As we were talking, he stated that I was eccentric. Of course I was taken aback as the image that flooded my imagination was a crazy wire-haired woman with hot pink pants and a cigar. But apparently, and I am only guessing, he had something else in mind.
While the word, itself, derives from the Latin for "out of the center" and can be dated back as far as 1630, it has a different connotation than that of its Latin roots. Depending on the dictionary you reference, it can mean a person who has an unusual, peculiar, or odd personality, set of beliefs, or behavior pattern or deviating from conventional or accepted usage OR conduct especially in odd or whimsical ways. According to Wikipedia, "In popular usage, eccentricity refers to unusual or odd behavior on the part of an individual. This behavior would typically be perceived as unusual or unnecessary, without being demonstrably maladaptive."
After reading these definitions, I was relieved that I was at least not considered maladaptive. But it began to make me wonder how one, who thinks they are very grounded, could be perceived as eccentric. If applying the puritanical definition, then yes being outside of the center might be accurate, but societal perception is that eccentricity is just plain weird and not fully accepted as a norm.
Having momentarily contemplated this, it conjured up notions of perception. When one person meets another in a finite period of time, they have no perception on how that person ended up where they are, who they were before, or who they might become. It's a bit shortsighted and self-determinative (and please take no offense) to presume that you can judge a person by the instant perception you have of them. Similarly, and this might be a bad analogy, if I described a substance that was slightly liquid, brown, and runny you could conjure up an image of mud while another will envision Godiva chocolate. If you knew where it came from or what it was going to turn into, your instant determination might be different.
Keeping in mind, what I describe is different from the concept of the book Blink whose premise is that a person's instant perception is generally always correct and if this instinct is tapped into, a great deal of time can be saved trying to figure people out. Blink's theory only applies to instant perception of a person's core, not their lifestyle, I.e. whether a person is evil, kind, etc. But when people make determinations (and I use this word rather than "judgments") about other people's worth they have a tendency to put them in boxes according to their own perceptions and experiences. This is a bit unfair not just to the recipient of the determination but to the offeror of it as well. Ergo I am eccentric.
I ramble about this, not as a defense to the comment, of which I took little offense, but to make a point about people in this country generally and their perceptions. The United States is supposed to be the land of opportunity. It's where people come to make their dreams come true. However, many an immigrant I've spoken to is disillusioned with the American dream as they find life here much more difficult than where they originated from. Similarly, many Americans who were told they could have it all, that is until the economy crashed and the credit card industry went bonkers, have found themselves in more debt than they can manage. In response to this, I have heard many people in this country berate others for their irresponsibility or laziness.
I find these opinions, like my friend's statement, interesting. There is a Native American saying that you can't judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes (a shame that Custer wasn't more perceptive while he was annihilating the Native Americans as he might have actually learned something or set the country on a much wiser path). I have always found this to be true to an extent. I mean, hell, there are those who are just plan lazy for no good reason. But, I think most people really try to do well for themselves, to the best of their ability.
If people took a few minutes to look deep within themselves, I think most would find that they are projecting their own fears onto others. How many people have not had tough times? How many people have not had to question what they are doing with their lives? How many people have not felt vulnerable or foolish at one point in time?
Just because I have cats, which I got custody of in the divorce, or I live in the suburbs, which was my ex's wish, doesn't mean that I am eccentric or a crazy cat lady. The same way, that just because someone is working as a cashier or has a ton of debt doesn't mean they are lazy or irresponsible. Sometimes you end up where up are based on circumstances and depending on who you are, this can be either temporary or not. What one person sees as crazy, the other will see as brilliant. Perception can be a strange thing but if processed with an open mind can lead to greater objectivity and be an amazing learning tool.
In fairness to my friend once the chronology was explained, I think his perception changed.