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Make No Assumptions

January 6, 2015

I’ve spent the last two weeks in Denver celebrating the holidays with family and friends, and well, being cold.  Colorado got a lot of snow this holiday season and the half-Samoan in me doesn’t really dig that.

On Sunday, ahead of another snow storm, I went to the grocery store to pick up a few things for my mom.  I also wanted to pick up a couple of magazines for myself so I’d have something to do in case I got cooped up inside because of the snow storm.

With 2015 upon us, I first grabbed Vogue so I could be up on all of the new year’s fashion trends that I cannot afford.  Word on the street is platforms are the shoe of 2015 and felt hats are here to stay.  Excellent.

As I worked my way to the cashier, I saw all of the celebrity gossip magazines with their incredibly pressing questions spewed haphazardly across shelves.  Are Kim and Kanye getting divorced or not?  Is Kate Middleton pregnant with a girl or boy?  Is Kendall Jenner done with Harry Styles or are they getting hot and heavy?

When I see these publications, I generally have two initial thoughts:  1.  Who cares? and 2.  These poor people.

One of my initial responses is “Who Cares?” because seriously, who cares that deeply about some of the most intimate happenings of complete strangers‘ lives?  Seriously.  What is it to me whether Kim K. and Kanye stay together or not?  How will my world be changed if Kate Middleton gives birth to a boy or girl?  Why do I care whom someone 10-plus years younger than me is or isn’t dating?

Given the number of issues these magazines sell and the money these publications bring in, my gut tells me that my “who cares?” attitude is a minority opinion.

So, that leads me to my second initial reaction, “These poor people.”  Sure, they bring the attention on themselves, but still.  Can you imagine having every, single, mundane action of your life scrutinized and even more so, oftentimes inaccurately scrutinized?  As someone who occasionally enjoys running errands in yoga pants without makeup on and has mad a misstep (or fifty) in dating, I can’t imagine living under a microscope.  For what it’s worth, it’d probably be entertaining for you all to watch unfold, though.

I raise the above to make the following point:  I rarely, if ever, buy celebrity gossip magazines.

On Sunday, though, I bought one.

The cover of People Magazine featured a sprawling picture of Kate Middleton with captions about her pregnancy.  While she’s beautiful and an elegant leader, that’s not what caught my eye.  Rather, tucked high in the upper right corner was a photo of a man with four children and a caption about how a People Magazine writer had adopted four Haitian orphans.  That grabbed my heart, and so, I grabbed a copy and threw it onto the conveyor belt.

As I ruffled through my purse, which these days looks like a bomb zone, the cashier began scanning my items.  My food items moved along the belt first.  At the end of my order were my magazines.  First up, Vogue.  He held the issue featuring Sienna Miller’s porcelain face, shot me a look of irritation and rolled his eyes.  Next up, People.  This time, he gave me the same look, but added some commentary.

“Oh!  You’re one of those.”

I’ve been working hard the last few years on holding my tongue.  Yes, my tongue was sharp enough that it’s been an exercise a few years in length for me to keep it in check.  If I was in some sort of rehabilitation facility for healing sharp tongues, I would’ve graduated on this day.  Because I bit my tongue.

Ok, I bit it for the most part.  Let’s be realistic.  I always have something to say.

“What kind of person would that be?” I asked.

“A person who cares about celebrities and gossip and superficiality.”

Yea, Bro.  That’s me.  To a tee.

Instead of saying, “No, buddy” or what I wanted to really say, which was, “Get over yourself,” I just giggled and said, “Gotta have some good reading material for this blizzard” and picked up my bags and headed on my way.

Earning flying colors in Sharp Tongue Rehab, folks! 2015 is off to a shining start for one, Alicia Jessop.

I may or may not have rolled my eyes as I marched away.  I’m working on one problem at a time, ok?

In the grand scheme of things, it was an uneventful interaction, but the more I thought about it, the more anger stirred in me.  Who was this guy to make an assumption about me?  How could he take a look at a cover of a magazine, see one story on it and thrust upon me assumptions about who I am, what I stand for and what’s important to me?  How did he not know that I care about orphans in Haiti and am so not superficial?

As the day went on, with the snow continuing to fall down out of the Denver sky, I had a lot of time to think about things.  And the one thing I kept thinking, is how damaging assumptions can be.  I thought about times in my own life where instead of seeking clarity, I took the lazy road and just made assumptions.

As I ran through every time I’d made an assumption about something big in my life, I realized that the same outcome happened:  Failure, hurt or destruction. The more I thought about it, the more I was able to point to specific instances in my life that I made a big assumption in a relationship, friendship, class or job opportunity, rather than going directly to the source to seek out a conclusive answer.  With every example that rolled through my mind, the more apparent it became that making assumptions has been one of the most harmful practices in my life.

I think we make assumptions because sometimes, in some matters, we are afraid to face the truth.  With that fear in our hearts, we hide behind assumptions.  “He didn’t call because he was busy.”  “She isn’t being as good of a friend lately, because they’re having financial issues.”  “I didn’t get the job because I’m not smart enough.”  “I didn’t get a good grade in the class because the teacher didn’t like me.”  We tell ourselves things to make sense of happenings that fit our own needs rather than seeking out an answer for why things really are the way they are.

The grocery store cashier, who I had known for all of 90-seconds, made an assumption about me based upon my purchases.  He made an assumption that celebrity gossip and news is important enough to me for me to purchase a magazine about it.  Knowing why I purchased that magazine on that particular day, his assumption was not only unfair, but more importantly, it was wrong.*

And that right there is the problem with assumptions:  Most of the time, they’re false.*

This all got me to thinking about this:  What if instead of making assumptions, we started asking questions?  If we didn’t know the answer to something, what if we simply took the time to ask? “Why did you purchase this magazine?”  “Why did you stop calling me?”  “Why didn’t I get in an A in this class?”  “Why did I get passed over for this job?”  What if getting the actual answer or real reason for something became our mission in interacting with others?

Asking questions is worth it, because I know this much:  Answers are always better than assumptions.

*I do occasionally enjoy a good celebrity gossip magazine sometimes for the sole purpose of reading celebrity gossip.  I am human and I am woman.  Hear me roar.

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