Sometimes I get a little anxious to get past the first few minutes of a conversation with someone I’ve just met.

Don’t get me wrong—I absolutely love meeting new people.

But in those first few minutes, I am eager to see what is beyond that “box.”

Let me explain: When we introduce ourselves, don’t we usually give our name and then “I am a [insert current occupation],” which usually leads to sharing about where we went to school and probably what we studied?

And then with that information we place each other in these “boxes”–to that person, at that moment, I am what I do and I am where I went to school–and of course, stereotypes decorate that box (I am all of a sudden either rich or poor, this or that…).

But aren’t we all a little…more? Aren’t we also guitar players, good cooks, hikers, activists, goofballs, photographers…you name it?  Aren’t we daughters, sons, parents (which I’d like to believe counts as another career), and spouses? Aren’t we also people who’ve been hurt, who’ve been ridiculed, who’ve had tremendous losses, who’ve felt cheated, who’ve felt lost?

How can I let that person in on the last decades of my life—the little triumphs, the huge milestones, the pain, the moments of joy—that led me to this moment, when we cross paths?

I think that as we grow older, we have to put in more effort to truly get to know people—it takes more work to see each other outside of those boxes, because we’ve developed so much more. We’ve experienced more–we have more passions, we’ve learned more about how life works, and we’ve learned more about how we work.

The best moments are when we are slowly being seen outside of that box—when people take the time to see all that we also are beyond where we work, where we went to school, and what we studied…when they also can see what molded us, what pushes us, what pains us, what makes us happy—and when we can do the same for them.

And that probably takes a little more time–way beyond those first few minutes of the conversation.


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