Open-mindedness is Easier Said Than Done

Over the past year or so, I’ve very consciously made an attempt to have a much more open mind about people; I want to judge each person as an individual, based on what’s important: kindness, accessibility, generosity, honesty… the list goes on and on. I believe that almost nobody is petty and that they don’t really care about social status or how everyone presents themselves every day, or what’s “cool” or not.

I really do wholeheartedly agree with what I just said, but there’s still work to be done on my part. I still care about how the so-called “popular” people will react when I make my latest annoying post in the Class of 2017 group begging for people to go to coffee with me; I still internally roll my eyes when I see some of the “nerdy” things that people are interested in (not that I should care at all); I still think that how I look each day is important, because part of me thinks that people will think less of me if I look “schlubby,” even though everyone knows me by now.

But, even though I just devoted two paragraphs to it, this isn’t about me. This is about what we all can do moving forward. In college, we’ll encounter people from many different walks of life: different skin color, different socioeconomic background, different religion, or all three. And, as I unfortunately still do regarding certain people because of their interests or status, we’re going to judge them. It’s a part of life, and it’s not something we can avoid. Judgment isn’t even a bad thing; we all offer judgments on everyone, and judgments can be very valid in determining the quality of a person in one’s opinion, so to speak.

Here’s the thing, though: judgment takes time. Don’t look your randomly assigned up and down on move-in day and decide that you’ll never be able to get along with them because they didn’t dress up to meet you, and they’re from New York and you just hate people from New York. If someone says hi to you on your first day of organic chemistry even though they’re wearing a huge cross around their neck and you’re heading to Hillel after, say hi back; maybe you’ll make a friend! These silly, ridiculous hypotheticals are, well, silly and ridiculous. And I’m not saying that that will happen to you, and I’m not saying that if it did you’d react rudely and flippantly. But it’s something to keep in mind as you go out into the real(er) world next year.

Those silly hypotheticals are also kind-of why I started Coffee with Jon. Contrary to popular belief, I’m not doing them to get gossip; I’m not doing them for a college essay. Yes, I plan to write my hypothetical graduation speech on it, but that’s because of circumstances; I didn’t plan it from the beginning. I’m doing this so I can meet people who aren’t exactly like me, or even people who aren’t like me at all. Under everyone’s “school persona” that may or may not be well-received, there is a real, likely great person who deserves my attention in the form of a conversation where they can just be themselves — where no one is evaluated or scrutinized. I wish more people would have an open mind to that, and not just think I’m creepy for doing it. But, then, I think about how I still judge people sometimes; how I’m more nervous for some coffee guests than others; how I definitely think that I have to maintain some kind of a status. Because of those thoughts, I don’t blame anyone for not signing up for coffee or not being super open-minded in general. The thoughts remind me that it’s easier said than done.

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