Most days I have better conversations with my 8 year old nephew than I do with other adults. Kids are pretty easy, though. Give them a little attention and you’ve secured a captive audience. The same rules don’t always apply with adults.
At a certain age, big people revert back to chasing flashy things like an infant who has not yet mastered language. Not being an expert in attention grabbing myself, I end up feeling like white paint on the wall. I exist, but, nobody pays attention. People assume they know everything about me because they know where I live and what I do, but there is so much more than those basic facts.
Partly, it is my fault. I shy away from having eyes on me, so I don’t make a big deal about my personal victories. Still, it is disappointing to be approached by a friendly face who is only anxious to hear about how my sister is enjoying her latest adventure, or what my brother is up to these days. I smile and respond politely all while looking at the person and thinking, “Did you know that Winter Orchard White has a subtle tinge of gray that compliments any decor?” White paint, like people is more complex than it appears.
It has become so normal for me to feel unseen that I’m shocked to the point of disbelief on the rare occasion when someone actually does notice me. I grow immediately skeptical searching for their angle. At some point, I started assuming that anyone who takes an interest in me may have mistaken me for someone else.
Earlier this month, an old friend came to visit. I have not seen him much in person, but we stay in touch on social media. I know where he lives. I know a little bit about how he spends his time. What more do I need to know, really? But in person, as one conversation led to the next, the Acadia White Benjamin Moore paint that covered him slowly washed away, and I was amazed to discover the fun, smart, kind, and clever man underneath.
I had taken my friend for granted in exactly the same way I hated people taking me for granted.
I learned a lot during his short visit. Not only do his niece and nephew adore him, but adults revere him as well. I tease him for too being chatty, but the truth is he is friendly. He doesn’t wait for others to notice him. He sees people and acknowledges them. He is interested. He makes an effort, and in return people remember him.
Looks like I was wrong, things don’t change so much as you get older. With adults, just like with kids,you have to give some to get some.