The beauty of perception…or do you see what I see?

How many of us could look at an identical image and, yet, each see something different? And that’s just the beauty of it. And that’s part of what makes life interesting. And that’s what is on my mind.

I’ve always loved the outdoors. As a small child in Burlington, VT, I spent the majority of my waking hours outdoors. We lived on a dead end street with woods running behind the houses and at the end of the block. Woods are a fertile playground.

Add to it Vermont’s natural beauty. Vermont is a magical place where one is meant to be out of doors to appreciate all it has to offer. I did as a child, and I did each summer that I visited until I was 16 and started working. But my love of the woods, the lake, the pool, skating, skiing, and horses would certainly not be everyone’s cup of tea.

People who never learned to swim might be leery of any body of water. Those afraid of being stung by insects, especially if allergic, would want to stay indoors. As well as folks who don’t tolerate the sun well. So my idea of heaven is easily someone else’s idea of hell. Fair enough.

Take a look at the picture that is part of the post. What do YOU see? A fire. Yup. Some body of water. Uh huh. Trees. Okay. Stone firepit. True.

That’s what is on the surface. Is this a pleasant moment? A scary moment? Is it a time of memories? A time of solitude? A prelude to merriment? Remember that perception is what you bring of yourself to a situation. It’s constructed of your life experience, your expectations, what you think you’re seeing. But are you seeing everything? A rhetorical question, sorry. There is no answer. If a group of people looked at this same image, it would be interesting to ask what each sees. Think about it.

The same is true with people. We seem to see what we want to see or we see our perception of whispered gossip or we inject images that just aren’t there. Take me, for example. Into my college years I was trim and active. Fun-loving, smiling, and always cracking jokes. I played that role well. I didn’t feel that way at all on the inside. But due to the fact I was somewhat silly, I was never taken that seriously. Add to it that I was an uninspired student and it doesn’t give you a remarkable perception of me as a young person. Honestly, I have no idea how I was perceived except for some of the names I was called such as “burly” and “dyke.”

I wanted to belong as most teenagers do. But I also wanted to be myself. I was a reader, a thinker, an observer. I loved learning as much I loved playing tennis and volleyball. I was fine unless I had to speak in front of the class, or, God forbid, a boy. During my early college years, I lived at home and attended a local college because I was footing the bill for my education and also needed to work. I worked almost full-time at a nursery/garden center. When customers asked if it was my career I smiled and said I was in college. Then they’d invariably ask if I was studying to be a gym teacher. I’d politely tell them I was an English major. Some of them even quizzed me. More the fool were they. I always knew the answer. Pft.

So don’t assume you know everything about a person or place because you bring just your perception. We aren’t a large enough piece of this world to assume we have all of the answers. And if you want an honest glimpse into a person, look at his or her eyes when you are speaking. The eyes will tell you much of what you need to know. If you’re too uneasy to do that, then just listen. Don’t just hear, take an active role and listen. You will surprise yourself by what you learn.

N.B. The photo in this post is one I could construct half a dozen stories around. In reality, it represents bittersweet memories for me.

Catch you on the other side. Class dismissed.

About thequarryschild

A self-described forensic junkie, Beth Anderson spends her days shaping young minds to ask critical questions and wonder “whodunit.” Beth resides in the Capital District of New York and spends her free time reading and solving the great mysteries. Her love of swimming, tennis and sports provides the basis for one of the lead characters in her new book The Quarry’s Child. Beth is one of the founding members of the Upper Hudson Valley Chapter of Sisters in Crime (aka Mavens of Mayhem), a graduate of the FBI Citizens Academy, a survivor of a visit to an active aircraft carrier while it was at sea, and a published poet in Soundings, a literary journal. Beth continues to instill a love for mystery fiction in her students as she has for over twenty years. Photo credit: Quinn Mulvey
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2 Responses to The beauty of perception…or do you see what I see?

  1. Wendy says:

    This really made me think, Beth, and I admire and appreciate your humility, especially about high school. I wasn’t part of a big group of friends, and barely did any activities, and I do still suffer from those feelings of feeling left out even at this age. But, being newly retired in a pandemic is helping me to appreciate what and who I have. I appreciate your thoughtful writings.

  2. Linda Hardy says:

    Love this. So true!

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