Anna’s Answers: Thoughts from the Airport

Anna returns to the blog for her seventh entry

More stories from Anna Schmidt

Over the break I went to Massachusetts to visit a friend I met this summer while on a trip to Guatemala. I have actually been to Boston before, but this time was special because I was flying to and from the Lincoln airport, all. by. my. self. And being the independent wannabe adult that I am, this was a pretty big deal to me. Before leaving on the trip, I spent far too long going through my closet to decide just what I would wear for the plane ride, what bags I would bring, and how I would look in the airport. I was SO concerned with appearing like an independent adult and fitting in at the airport. I wanted to be sure that I looked like I had done this before.

Once I was in the airport and I had my headphones in and my suitcase rolling behind me as I walked to my gate, I felt like I really did belong. I looked like pretty much anyone else in the airport. I blended in. I looked like I’d done this before. I was happy.

Once I got to my gate and sat down, I turned Netflix on to relax and stop thinking about my surroundings. As I was doing so, I caught a glimpse out of the corner of my eye of a young man, probably around the age of 25, who had a obviously apparent limp, and a twitch in his face. He was carrying a suitcase behind him and looked like he was really struggling, probably walking at about half the pace of myself, and everyone else in the airport.  My heart filled with pity. How tragic, I thought. This poor man didn’t blend in like I thought we were supposed to do at airports and in life. He didn’t look like he’d done this before, or like he was “happy.” Instead he stuck out like a sore thumb. As I sat there feeling so bad for the man, it hit me that I didn’t actually really know why I felt so bad. I guess it was because I thought it was sad that he didn’t blend in. But who said we have to all blend in when we walk through the airport or through wherever we are going in life? No one ever said that, but I think that because I automatically judge people like the man with the limp, and think that it is sad that he doesn’t belong, I fear looking like him, and standing out in the way he did.

Sometimes it seems like we don’t need a reason to start thinking of other people better. We think that if it is just in our heads, than what difference does it make. Well, when I saw this man and immediately assumed the worst for him, I realized the difference that it can make for myself. I realized that as long as I continued seeing people in such a way that made me believe standing out is bad and being different hurts, then I will never let myself dare to stand out, and I will spend hours caring about what I wear to an airport, or how I look for an event, or whatever the case is. I will change the way I live my life, because I will be afraid of being like the people that I choose to judge. And to think, I could have avoided ALL of that simply by changing the way that I look at people when I go places. If I wasn’t so privy to judge the people I see, then I also wouldn’t be so privy to judge myself for what other people see. Wow. Who knew that the way we see other people could have such a strong impact on the way we see ourselves.

After seeing him and reflecting on that, I went through the airport a little differently. I still wanted that feeling of independence and being adult-like, but I decided that it could look any kind of way. It could look like the man with the limp, because regardless of his limp and his twitch, he was still an adult, he was still going places, he was still chasing something, being independent, and doing things. So then maybe it was ok if I didn’t have the right suitcase, or I looked lost and like I hadn’t ever done this before, because the bottom line was that I was still going places, being independent, trying to find the right gate, and chasing after something that mattered to me. I was on my way to independence and being an adult, and that didn’t have to look any certain way other than just how I am. 

This time was in an airport, but next time could be anywhere. For me, for you, for the person that you might normally judge but this time feel inspired by. Open your eyes a different way, and you might just get the opportunity you needed to start seeing EVERYTHING differently.