I remember trying to learn a language for 12 years of my schooling. Year in and year out, I’d pass the written parts of the exam with ease, but the oral exams were always a struggle. Too worried about my pronunciation, about getting it wrong and looking like an idiot, made me not manage to remember much of it now. I had passed the theory with flying colours but scraped through the practical. I had memorized the words but couldn’t fully embrace the learning and understanding of the language, instead living each word through someone else’s experience and not my own.
Rumbling through this memory made me liken it to those people who are always single but are generally the first ones to give out relationship advice; or it’s like the people who tell you under no uncertain terms that you’re living your life incorrectly.
Being an individual who finds it difficult to fit into the mold of normal, I’m often told this (more in hints though because my resting bitch face helps scare enough people off). It is not through lack of trying that I do not fit into the mold provided to me. I’m not a non-conforming, rebellious, rule-breaking individual, but I do find my logic and need to make sense of things gets in the way of abiding to the requirements given by outdated traditions and society’s need for boxing people. I also have an incredibly deep need for people to just get along, even if it’s apart.
The combinations have most likely been the traits that have helped me be open-minded to how others live their lives, with any questions coming from a place of wanting to understand as opposed to judgment and attempting to effect change.
When I read the words “Each life is a language no one knows” by Mark Nepo, it deepened my acceptance that no matter how many times we observe or hear about other people’s lives, it’s similar to only ever knowing the theory of a language without practicing it. We would never be able to pronounce it in the same way or use the words with the same emotion.
The best we can do is have an open mind and learn as much of the language as we can. We’ll get the pronunciation wrong, the words at times, and probably a few laughs may come from it. But what we are showing the other person by doing this is that we are trying our best to see things from their perspective—their point of view. And while we may not be able to speak the language of another person’s life, we can appreciate the beauty in it.