My son is now in Junior High. For me, Junior High was when a lot of the problems started that I now go to therapy for, so you can probably guess how excited I was for my precious baby child to enter the world of Junior High.
The first day passed and it was everything I had expected. The feeling of not knowing anyone, not being able to find a place to sit at lunch, getting lost on the way to the next class. I assured him that everyone felt that way and they would sort themselves out. Sure enough, they did. He found a place to sit at lunch, and he is an expert at hallway navigation.
Last month, however, something happened. A girl pushed his books off of his table and onto the floor. Kayden, embarrassed and upset, picked up the books and came home a bit defeated. Junior High is hard. Even when you think you’ve found a friend, it still feels lonely and these pre-teens are not the best at seeing past their own noses. It’s a whole bunch of looking out for numero uno and fitting in at any cost (and at anyone’s expense).
Kayden and I talked about talking to the girl who pushed his books over. I told him she might be going through something at home… fighting parents, mean older brothers, and she might be lashing out. I told him he can ask her if there was something he did that made her upset at him and then try to reasonably sort it out. We talked about how it made him feel and how he can handle it if she ever came after him again.
What he really needed, in that moment, was for someone to see. Someone to see what had happened, walk over, tell Kayden it was okay and help him pick up his books. But that isn’t the world of Junior High, is it?
Then it occurred to me: Kayden could be that guy.
I told Kayden,
“Every junior high has ONE kid. One kid who isn’t there for himself. One kid who helps you pick up your books. The guy who always stops to say hi. The guy who sees a kid wandering around aimlessly and offers to help him find his classroom. Or who sees someone with no place to sit for lunch and invites him to sit at his table. BE THAT KID.”
After all, once Kayden found a table to sit at at lunch, it never occurred to him to look around and see if anyone else was desperately looking for a place to sit. Not because he’s unkind or rude, but because it just didn’t occur to him. The same can be said for so many of us. Once our own problems are solved, we never think to extend those solutions to our peers.
“You have to be to others what you yourself needs.”
And once the words left my mouth, for the first time, I understood that quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
What is the change you want to see in the photography industry? What do you need from others? Do you wish that more people gave a damn about your photography on Instagram? If that’s the case, go give a damn about someone else’s photography! Chances are, you’re not the only one that feels the way you feel or who needs the things you need! Do you need encouragement? Go give encouragement to someone else! Do you need someone to talk to you at a networking event? Go talk to the girl standing on the wall looking uncomfortable! If we ALL did this, we would ALL feel taken care of, we would ALL feel encouraged and seen and valued.
Hey. Do you mind if I tell you a story? One you might not have heard. All the elements in your body were forged many many millions of years ago in the heart of a faraway star that exploded and died. That explosion scattered those elements across the desolations of deep space. After so, so many millions of years, these elements came together to form new stars and new planets. And on and on it went. The elements came together and burst apart, forming shoes and ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings. Until, eventually, they came together to make you. You are unique in the universe. There is only one of you. And there will never be another.