A defining aspect of my life was the realization that the way in which I do certain things is not necessarily how the rest of the world does them. The first incident of this was most jarring of course, your entire life as a child is what is presented to you, and then suddenly another way of doing things is offered from an outsider. For me the first example was the fact that most other American families do not eat soup for breakfast. A truly innocuous quirk, one that I am surprised I found about as early as I did. But it was eye opening in the sense that it paved way for what would eventually become my appreciation and empathy for people and cultures other than my own, and what I can learn from them as a result. And this remains one of the few in which I have given no admission to the contrary. Soup for breakfast is fantastic, especially in winter. My folks are ahead of their time on this one.
Somewhere around middle school, I became embarrassed by these quirks, and I spent a bizarre amount of time trying to suss out exactly what made my home the odd one. In hindsight I realize that they’re inevitable and nothing to be ashamed of. In time I learned to embrace these sort of things. But something that should not have taken me so long is the realization that it is nearly impossible to do damage control on something like this. Especially when you’re a dumb twelve year old. The very nature of the things you are looking for is something you cannot observe from your own experience.
The breakfast-soup eccentricity became apparent to me in a brief conversation with a group of peers, and was not of any interest to the group leaving my embarrassment at a negligible level. But several months into being concerned about having my friends inside my seemingly weird home, I was fully convinced that all the major differences were accounted for. And then one day my parents graciously offered to buy me and my friends Chinese food, at which point I went and got the menu binder out of its drawer.
Oh, you guys don’t have a menu binder?
You guys don’t have a meticulously organized sampling of the takeout offerings in the tri-state area?
Again, this artifact of my family home is something I have come to greatly appreciate. Anyone reading this who doesn’t know my father should understand that this binder is a perfect distillation of his mind. He and I rarely approach things the same way, and having a tangible example of that fact makes it easier to appreciate how much I can learn from his perspective. Where I see several pieces of potential litter, my father saw a collection of data in need of indexing.