Reverb10 Day 8: Beautifully Different Dreamed 1389 days ago | | 1460 words
December 8 – Beautifully Different. Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful. (Author: Karen Walrond)
The things that make me different are all wrapped up together and can’t be separated. First off, I am a walking contradiction. I am 6’5” with the sweetest disposition of anyone you’ll stumble across on this world. I am filled with compassion and empathy. I am extremely introverted and commanded by my emotions more than anything else. I wear my heart on my sleeve and always have a moment for a friend in need.
I care deeply about peoples, sometimes too deeply for my own good. I have often been out at a restaurant or seen people passing on the street and I could sense something was wrong. Whether it was the look in their eyes or the way they carried themselves I could tell, something was not right. I always want to stop and offer a shoulder or ear but that seems weird so I never do.
All through high school I was always the friend my friends would call when they needed someone to talk to or a shoulder to cry on. I was always that guy who was a good listener and would take the time to either help with a problem or just listen and sit quietly which it all people need sometimes. Just talking through a problem can be enough to solve it.
When I was in college, I used to volunteer at a teen help line run totally online by a wonderful woman out of Minnesota, C.J. Fenner. I had the privilege of speaking with C.J. a couple times and each time I feel like I came away a better person. During the two years I as involved with the site, I would spent up to 12 hours a day in the chat room talking to other counselors and regular kids coming to look for help. I would answer anywhere from 10-30 emails a day coming in from the site. The site was a real Teens for Teens effort. A lot of the time I spoke with kids who were too afraid or mistrusting of adults to discuss or report their problems.
I heard tales of abuse and neglect and simpler things such as how do I tell if a guy/girl likes me and questions about sibling issues and divorce. The most memorable nights were when I talked to a girl from the same college I attended, one building across Monroe Park from me. As a counselor, I had access to the IPs of the other chatters in the room and I could tell she was on our college network.
She was suicidal, something I dealt with all too often.
I spoke to her for hours trying to get her to help herself. Trying to make her see how things weren’t as bad as they seemed. Even offering a couple times to walk over and meet her in person though I did walk over, she never did come down. To this day I think about her sometimes. She told me she was going to leave school and get help but I have no idea what happened to her. I hope she’s ok.
I didn’t know anyone when I got to college so it made it easy to pour myself into the site and into helping people. It made me feel really good about myself and really good that I was able to help others, or at least offer advice.
Sometimes kids just needed an ear to listen to their questions or problems and other times they needed more.
One more than one occasion, I contacted CJ. This was something we rarely did when we knew we needed more help than what we could provide. On at least two separate occasions I contacted her to get local police involved in the case we felt the people coming to us for help were in real danger.
Eventually, as I got more involved in school and my time was being more and more limited I visited less and less and one day eventually had to hand in my “resignation” so to speak. I still miss the great people I met on the site. The counselors were an amazing group of people from all around the world. We did a lot of good for those who came looking for help and in addition really helped ourselves. It remains one of the best experiences in my life.
This love of people and compassion aids my work in the tech world though in a very different way. A lot of what I learned working as a teen counselor and just listening to people growing up was a way to relate to them. Relate experiences and advice to their situation in life. I learned how to tailor my response to them in a way I was sure they would understand it.
Now, when I am explaining a technical problem to someone I don’t fill their head with jargon and techy talk. I relate the issue to a field they know something about. In the case of the reporters and bloggers I support now, I relate problems to newspaper and magazine production and writing. When I worked at Honeywell or GE I would tailor my answers down technically so match their level of understanding and field they worked in.
It is very important when trying to help someone through a computer issue when they don’t know anything about computers to relate it to their experience and expertise. Everyone has an area of life they are highly skilled in. It may be very different than what you know but everyone has something they absolutely know up and down.
Relating foreign concepts to areas of their expertise is vital in passing the information along and getting them to understand what you’re blabbering about.
Just because I understand the inner workings of a computer, doesn’t meant everyone I come into contact with does, or needs to for that matter. As much as I know about computers, I am just as clueless about how my car works. If I put the key in the ignition and turn in and that car doesn’t roar to life I’m stumped.
That’s how a lot of people feel about computers. They are magical boxes where any random button press or mouse click could spell doom to them and their data. It is a scary world inside that case. It is as scary in there as it is when I look under the hood of my car. I’m in a foreign land without so much as a guide book or a map.
The ability to empathize with and show compassion to another person transcends all facets of life. Putting myself in their shoes and looking at a problem from their perspective allows me a greater perspective and knowledge about a situation. Sitting on the outside of an issue looking in afford that level of removal from the emotion and immediacy.
All through my life I have been a problem solver. Whether I am trying to talk teens out of harming themselves (I’ve know far too many cutters) or explaining to a Baby Boomer the intricacies of Windows 7 compassion and empathy will always make things better, never worse.
What makes you beautifully different? This was a great topic and it really brought some things up I had not thought about in a long time. (I really do think about the girl from college from time to time.)
There was also another situation I don’t like to remember because of how bad it could have been and how well it turned out. I have a hard time believing it even happened and I have long lost the chat logs to prove it. I’ll just say I’ve been some really bad things out there between people I knew growing up and people I met through the power of the internet.
I am truly glad I took part in Reverb 10 this year. It has made me think about a lot of things from the past year and before. It is good to turn the magnifying glass inward to see what’s going on in your own head. You might like what you find and surprise yourself. A little introspection can go a long way.
Reverb 10 is an annual event and online initiative to reflect on your year and manifest what’s next. Use the end of your year as an opportunity to reflect on what’s happened, and to send out reverberations for the year ahead. With Reverb 10 – and the 31 prompts our authors have created for you – you’ll have support on your journey.
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