The purpose of “Prompted” is to provide an outlet for myself and others to reflect on past experiences, personal goals and innermost desires. It is my hope that this exercise will encourage unconventional thinking and self awareness. Each week, I will provide a new prompt and post my response on the blog. Readers can comment with their responses on this post and read what others said here.
It has been said that you are what you eat. Rewrite the phrase: You are what you…
You are what and who you surround yourself with.
When I was younger, I refused to accept the idea that “birds of a feather flock together” or the saying “Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are”. I never thought it was fair or justifiable to assume or judge someone based off of another person’s behavior. I argued that everyone has free will, no one is in control of what the next person does, I am my own person, everyone is different and unique, all of my friends aren’t friends with each other… blah, blah, blah. Well, I’m here to admit that I was wrong. Your friends ARE a reflection of you.
There are so many connections that you have no say in. You are literally born with a set of people who have the same blood running through their veins as you. You may dislike them or disagree with them but your differences or commonalities have absolutely NOTHING to do with your connection. I know you can’t stand your aunt who makes everything about her or your cousin who can’t stay out of jail. But, while you could pretend you aren’t related, that doesn’t change the fact that they are family. You have no choice in that.
So, blood, out of your control. Cool.
But there’s more… You may go on ratemyprofessor.com and strategically pick your classes but your classmates are fair game. You may both enjoy math and want to make a career out of it but that could literally be the only thing you have in common. Oh, and don’t even get me started on elective classes! There’s nothing like 20 different majors in a philosophy 101 course! What a time to be alive! Still, your teacher will throw you in a group (usually not of your choosing) and place your grade in the hands of strangers. They call it “learning to work well with others under pressure.” I call it instructor-assisted GPA suicide. BUT. YOU. MUST. DEAL. Out of your control.
Let’s take it a step further…you had a choice in your major, what companies you applied for, even what positions. You don’t, however, have a choice in who you work with. The only thing that Susie and Tom have in common with you is the fact that all of you would like to be able to afford to eat every day and have a place to lay your head. Oh, and the fact that you all enjoy sales or marketing, I guess. Which is why they make small talk with you (I hate small talk) about the weather and how fast or slow the week is going by. So, food, water, shelter, work, week and weather…I bet you all could talk for hours about how much you love your job but you’re all so busy working hard that you don’t have the time! Not. Still, you make the best of it because you have a job to do and a homeless shelter doesn’t sound that appealing.
I think you’re getting the point.
So, I was wrong when I tried to debate the premise at hand.
Your friends are the only group of folks you get to choose! Why would you choose people who you don’t have anything in common with? What would you even talk about it? What would you even do together? When you want to take a break from it all, you choose more of the same? That just isn’t logical. Your friends are people you enjoy being around because you can relate to one another, they understand you, you can talk to them, you make each other laugh etc. They aren’t your coworkers, classmates or family. They’re LIKE family but you can actually disown them if they embarrass you. If someone asks if you know them, you can deny it because all of your instagram pics are deleted and they have no proof the friendship existed. Ha! No but seriously, no one is forcing you to maintain the connection. You like these people for a reason.
I used to argue that I shouldn’t be judged based off what someone else does. If I have nothing to do with it, I shouldn’t be held accountable. But if I’m offended that someone would assume that it is also my behavior, why would I be so passive when it comes to surrounding myself with it? Unless, of course, I see no problem with it. This can be equally damaging. It’s wrong to rob a bank, but if my friend robs a bank and I don’t speak up about it, that sends the message that although I didn’t do it, I’m okay with it being done. You can’t be neutral. No message is still a message, even if it’s not the one you mean to send.
I argued that I am my own person. I have my own mind and I’m not influenced by others. You ever notice that when people spend alot of time together they begin to pick up on one another’s mannerisms, patterns and phrases? If you asked your friends to mimick you, I bet they could act it out perfectly. They may even mirror what you do with out realizing it from time to time. It’s natural. It’s easy to pick out those influences because they’re light and mostly positive. It’s obvious that we can pick up on bad habits from a person as well. Energies can transfer. Behaviors rub off. You could go all day without saying a swear word, then meet up with your friends and drop 5 F bombs and not even bat an eye. You probably don’t even like to gossip but with a certain person you can never understand why all of your talk is about other people. You adapt to the conversation and the vibe. It’s the same reason you put on your “professional” voice with your co-workers. You do it without thinking because you adapt to the “surroundings”. There’s that word again.
Then I said, well if birds of a feather flock together, why aren’t my friends all friends with eachother?! Oh boy, I’ve got an answer for this one.
It’s because they have the same CHOICE that I have on who they surround themselves with. I’m not just one type of person. You can place me in categories and stereoype me if you’d like, but it’s layers and levels to this. Especially, if you’re speaking in terms of zodiac signs. Geminis are supposed to have two or more personalities to begin with right? Okay, so when I made this argument about my friends not being friends with eachother and everyone being different, I should have seen the issue with that from the start. Your friends can be reflections of different parts of you. Even the parts that you would like to hide. That’s right, you aren’t fooling anyone! I could have something different in common with 5 different people and they could have nothing in common with eachother. My friends don’t have to be friends with each other for the premise to be true. They have the same choice that I have but no say in who else their friend is friends with.
You want to know how I know that birds of a feather flock together? Because as I changed in college, my circle changed. Who I started with was not who I finished with. We had less and less to talk about as time went on. I started working here, found this hobby or that habit, joined this club or that organization and as my interests changed, my surroundings did too. Sometimes change is good. Sometimes change is bad. But, the saying is definitely true.
Yes, opposites can attract but if the only connections you get to choose are your friends, you’d better make sure you’re choosing wisely. This isn’t always an easy thing to come to terms with but its necessary for growth.
You ARE who you surround yourself with. If this offends you, you need better surroundings.