Mandan News

Brian L. Gray: We did just see the same thing, right?

I don’t know much about this world. I like to think I knew it all, and in high school I did. But I think college ripped that out of me. It might have been all my professors telling me over and over that there are multiple paths to the truth, not just the ones that I believe. Or maybe it was all the alcohol I consumed.

Whoever – or whatever – stole my wisdom while I was passed out in the bathroom, I hope they’re having fun with it and making the kind of money I should be making.

I do know that Americans in general are stubborn people. We pride ourselves in our resiliency. This nation was founded on the principle that we are free to do what we want. We wanted liberty. We ran away from the Brits so we could practice and believe what we wanted without anyone telling us differently.

Now we’re all free to do what we want – but if anyone thinks any differently from us, they’re wrong. We are self-righteous and self-contained, and that’s the way we like it, because that’s what we’ve made for ourselves.

People tend to judge others by how those people are different from them. And I’ve never subscribed to this way of thinking. Here’s something I thought of in high school, which I remember because I wrote it down, and still believe it, and that is that we should be judged not by the differences we have, but how we react to others’ differences. Too much “I’m right, you’re wrong” is going on. There’s not enough “What works for me may not work for you, and that’s okay.”

I’ve always believed that there’s really no right or wrong, only what’s right for you. The challenge here is finding out what that is.

Maybe I DID know everything in high school.

The only things I didn’t know were how to get a date on a weekend or how to get rid of my acne. Both, I believe, were somehow connected.

I look at my life now. My roommate and I couldn’t be any more different. We come from polar opposite worlds. He’s a war veteran, serving three tours of duty. I, on the other hand, cry whenever I see somebody get punched.

He’s also an intense, chatty kind of guy who has long-winded stories about the smallest of things that happen to him, whereas I’m a laid back guy, and enjoy my quiet and solitude. I’m a magnet; he’s steel. I watch movies with captions; he hates to read. He lives to exercise; I live to loiter. And I’d delve deeper, but this is a PG paper, and there’s a good chance my roommate might read this, so if I get any more personal he might come after me. And you know how I react to violence.

These signs should strongly indicate that we shouldn’t have much in common, but there are things in life much more important than a person’s opinions.

We have a great time together. We have a mutual understanding that we are different, and we disagree on many – to most – things. But we don’t think any less of each other when we don’t synch up. We’ve become pretty good friends, in fact, and are able to live with each other’s myriad of differences.

I embrace differences. I don’t know what my parents did to me when I was younger, but they somehow got it instilled into my system that I am able to openly accept anyone’s personal beliefs or choices in life, regardless what mine are.

And it’s made me realize that the world really is… well, gray.

I need to start making that my column tagline. “You’ve just entered… THE GRAY ZONE…”

I can only hope others do the same as far as accepting others the way they choose to be. But I don’t see enough of it. These days I see people more divided and separated than I ever have before, which is keeping us from holding healthy conversations about the things that matter to us, because no one seems to truly listen to the other side. And I think seeing this, and experiencing this, tends to inspire my desire to be a quiet guy who enjoys his solitude.

I’m 30 now. I’ve had a bit of time to learn about the world. At this point I want to retain the things that I know are good, and keep them going. Acceptance is one of those things, because I know it keeps me open to all the possibilities that surround us. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Everyone’s different. No one can run from that fact. It’s how we deal with those differences that truly determines who we are as people.

I’m beginning to think that maybe I’m starting to get my intelligence back.

Sweet. I should celebrate. Hook me up with the beer bong…