Context and perception
When I was a kid, some teacher or other gave us a stack of optical illusions that blew my mind. Excited, I went home and showed them to my sister.
“See?” I said “She looks so pretty, but then if you look at it a different way, it’s an old woman. Do you see it?”
“No,” she said, and went back to what she was doing.
“But look,” I said, shoving it under her nose. “See, right here, how her–”
“I don’t want to see the old woman. I only want to see the pretty one,” she interrupted. And that was the end of the discussion.
I was living in Tucson, dating a guy who lived in LA. On one of my weekend trips to see him, I noticed an older guy totally scoping me out at the airport. I gave him a flirty smile, because why not? I looked super cute in my T-strap heels and vintage cranberry velvet blazer. I felt like a million bucks, some exotic adventuress off to explore grown up life. The world was my oyster.
Turned out that was my last weekend trip to LA. On the way back, I wore sneakers and a sweatshirt, slouched down at the boarding gate under the weight of another shattered relationship. The same older guy was on my return flight. I remembered him, and smiled again, but his eyes skittered right over me with zero recognition.
Because, I realized, I was out of context.
In Vegas, when some idiot driver shoots across four lanes of traffic to the exit ramp, my instinct is anger. My perception is that this dude is an asshat aggressive driver. Then I remind myself that I’ve cut across traffic like that before. I read the directions wrong, maybe, or my navigator didn’t tell me to exit soon enough, or I was having a massive panic attack. Those other drivers, they probably thought I was the asshat driver.
They didn’t know my whole story.
Sometimes we get so caught up in our perceptions of what is, or what we think things should be, that we lose sight of context. And we forget that we have a conscious choice. We can choose to see the beauty, or we can choose to see the old and ugly.
Putting life in context can change your perception
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