Changing Exclusionary Thinking

Looking back to check the diversity of my life to emphasize that I am who am I am; and here I am now, alive and well, and 21 years into a new millennium. I realize this is only a matter of time and nothing else. I am me, of course, and you are you and the world around us is vivid and colorful yet somehow, we are finding ourselves split and confused. I suppose they call this life; in which case, each day is a new day and here I am—wondering if I’ve said more than I needed to or did something that I shouldn’t have. Is it me? Is it the way I look? Or, maybe it’s the sound of my voice or the flow of my accent. Do I look a certain way. Or better yet, do I have to?

I think about the random sensitivity checks and the eye-opening events that make me wonder about people and the way we treat each other. I think about the times when I spoke with intention; however, the interpretation was not the same.
I think about the times when we were young and called for time-outs and do-overs to rewind and make something fair. If you ask me, I think we had it right. I think we could all use a few time-outs and a few do-overs. To me, I think the idea of time-outs and do-overs were fair and helpful. There is something wholehearted and kind about them but I doubt anyone would stand up in a boardroom and call foul or ask for a do-over.

I am thinking about me as a man, or better yet; I am thinking about me as a person. I am made the same. I am a body, flesh and bone. I have a heart that beats. I have lungs that breathe. I have a mind that thinks and dreams—and sometimes; I think and dream all day long. I have a drive. I have a need to be heard. I have a need to be wanted and included. I want to be invited and not because I asked to be; but more, I want to be involved because I am valued and worthy of the invitation.

I used to be intimidated by people with positions or titles. I used to shy away from conversations with people who seemed to be fit for the upper echelons of the social crowds. I was always intimidated by the socially approved versions of “Pretty.” And why?

Perhaps I have told you about this before. Perhaps I have mentioned the line between the crowds of the so-called pretty and the assumed-to-be average. I call this line the Red Velvet Rope. I came up with this idea when I was younger. I was out to enjoy the nightlife in the City. I was standing outside one of the popular night spots. Meanwhile, there was a promotor standing inside a squared section in front of the door. There were bouncers in the squared section. Yet, on the outside, there were crowds of people that gathered around the sides of the squared section.

I was someone in the crowd on the outside of the red velvet ropes. We stood there, hoping to be picked and hoping to get in—or moreover, people stood there with hopes to be chosen, which meant that yes, they too could go inside and dance with the pretty people.  This meant something. This said something about their level of coolness. I remember the critical judgment. I remember the promotor whose eyes scanned the crowd for tiny glimmers of pretty people. I remember those whose names were on the list and how the promotor would unclasp one end of the velvet ropes. The promotor would give way and let the preferred ones pass through. It was a big deal to get “In.”

I view this as a perfect analogy. I see this as description of me and the chores of my insecurity. I see this as the symbolic nature of both inclusion and exclusivity. Yet, this was so absolutely small, which means if we expand this on a broader spectrum, we can see the truth of exclusivity. However, to me, there was a time when fitting or getting “In” was so important.

I look back at my life and my misjudgments. I look at my talents and the irrevocable qualities which I have been born with. I think back to the birthplace of my misjudgments of self. This comes from old memories that have imprinted a belief system that is typical and inaccurate. I think about the levels of importance and the way I compartmentalized and boxed ideas away—as if to submit to my inner quarrels and accept them as truth. I believed in the social stigmas and that me being who I am (and as I am) would only mean that I could only be accepted in certain settings. “I’m good to fix your toilet. I’m good to fix the pipes but don’t worry, I can leave before the guests arrive.” Man, what a terrible way to see one’s self.

I saw myself as a person on either side of the red velvet ropes. I saw myself as someone addicted to the ideas of division over inclusion—and I say the word addicted as if to describe my thoughts as compulsively committed and drawn to a habit of thinking. I saw this as believing that yes, this is life. This is the way it is. We are divided by race, color, creed, wealth, looks, talents and charm. You have to “Be” something in order to stand out.

It’s not who you are; it’s who you know. Or wait, did I say this wrong? It’s not what you are, it’s who you know—or wait, no. It’s all who you know, right? For example, if I was someone on the outside of the velvet ropes and seemingly too average to have the promotor choose me to come inside—but yet, I somehow knew someone on the inside or found a way to get my name on the guest list—then of course, the promotor would walk over, unclasp the golden hook so that the promotor could give way to one end of the velvet rope and just like that, I’m “In.”

But what if I chose differently? What if I chose to be an innovator? What if I chose to disrupt the habitual order of my thinking and challenge the narrative? Rather than follow a flock; I could understand more about the value of my own culture. What if I could be both colorless and colorful? Either way is fine because at last, I would be rid of the habitual assumptions that kept me separated or left out.

What if we were able to wipe out the socially biased mistakes that act like a line that separate the pretty from the average? Either way, I don’t want to be pretty. I want to be beautiful. I want to be me without apology. I want to be me and fit in wherever I choose. I want to be rid of the social snobbery. I want to be rid of the educational pretension, and more, I want the squared section to open up. But then again, I go back to my old trained thinking. I find the old me wondering, “Is it really getting “In” if they have to let you in?”

I think about the words from Groucho Marx when he said, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” I think about this and the habitual belief system that bullies the mind into a sad submission. I think of this and then I realize how important it is to disrupt the old dialogues.

Would you like to know something?
I used to think that I was never good enough to go to certain places. I used to believe that I would never vacation at certain spots because put simply, I would never have the ability nor the funds nor the means to get there. I used to believe that I would always be on the outside of the red velvet ropes.
But I want more.
Not for the acceptance or for the bragging rights which say, “Look at me. I got in,” but instead, I want more to relearn and reeducate myself and the embossed thinking that habitually misled me into believing at best, this would only be me.

More than just a trip to Europe, I’d like to watch the sunrise from the coast of a little town near Cartagena or better yet, let’s make that Alicante, Valencia, or even Ibiza. Let me be there to see any of the places I have read about and yet, let me be there for the midday life in the center of Rome—or let me see the ruins or the mysteries of the world.

Let me see the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. Or wait, even simpler, let me walk anywhere and realize that yes, I most definitely belong; that I earned my place at the table and that me being me is irrevocably perfect; and moreover, let me come to the realization that it is my belief system that allows me to think otherwise. So put plainly, let me start now. Let me believe in me and say, “To hell with the red velvet ropes.”

I got me a fine place here . . .
and where this is; the world is just right

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