The Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT, used to have a portion of the test that was devoted to writing an essay. Part of my job as an SAT tutor was to make sure the students were comfortable writing these essays. One of the biggest problems was that sometimes the prompts were above the kids’ pay grade.
On one hand, a certain prompt asked the students if people change because of internal or external motivating factors. Honestly, there was no wrong answer. Not too difficult. But there was another prompt that asked if we need other people to know ourselves. These kids were 16 or 17 years old; they probably didn't even know themselves at all yet, especially enough to consider it from an existential perspective. Honestly, I didn’t even know how I would answer it, and I was considerably older at that point.
When I started thinking about this particular prompt, I wanted to get some more information, see if I was missing anything. So I did what we all do these days. I googled it. I found an article on the subject that said while we are better at pointing out our own neuroses, people who know us are better at telling us about our personalities because they see us as we really are and not what we want to be.
I pondered it for a while. I have a friend, and we are very similar. We have the same reaction to things, and tend to view the world in the same way. Even the algorithms from various social media platforms send us the same stories. It’s very interesting to see. But I have another friend, Joycee ( I added an additional E to the end of her name to protect her identity), who is the yin to my yang. We’re not completely opposite, but different enough to sometimes reflect back an image of myself that startles me.
Every year Joycee and I go to the beach for a long weekend, and on our way every year, we stop to get lunch at a little Greek dive in Wilmington. We were waiting to order one particular year, and I told her what I was going to get. I went on to say that since I tend to be a creature of habit, I was so proud of myself for always trying something different at this place.
Joycee laughed pretty hard I thought, and suddenly she stopped and looked at me. “You’re serious, aren’t you?” she asked. After I nodded, she explained, “You order this same sandwich every single time.” Yikes! So much for self-awareness.
You could have knocked me over with a feather, but it made me start to think about some of the things Joycee has taught me about myself. Sometimes in words, sometimes simply by allowing me to see how she does things in comparison.
For example she explained my extremist tendencies once. She told me if I want to go on a diet, my first plan of action is to give up all foods except water chestnuts. If I concoct a new exercise regime, I work out 7 days a week till I sustain an injury and have to give it up.
In other instances, I have seen how deliberate and thoughtful she is in comparison to my rash and sometimes impulsive decisions. Joycee is methodical where I am haphazard. She wades in slowly where I dive in and sometimes wind up in over my head.
I recently realized that this year marks 20 years we’ve been such good friends. We’ve laughed and been goofy; we’ve had more in-depth conversations than I can count. Hopefully I’ve been able to show her some things about herself, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt I have learned so much about myself because of her. As I reread this post, maybe the biggest thing Joycee has shown me is my own LACK of self-awareness??