Being Judgemental

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I saw this on a friend’s Facebook page this week and at first I thought it was cute. But then I really started to think about it and it made me a bit sad. It made me sad because it’s so true of me and how I irrationally dismiss people that I maybe don’t click with. I’ve mentioned in past posts that I can be a bit judgy, and I totally own that, but really, it’s probably not a great thing to admit. Is it?

The definition of judgement is the evaluation of evidence to make a decision.

The problem is that whole “evidence” thing. For me, the evidence is my own opinion and that isn’t always based on fact. I like to think that I’m a good judge of character but the reality is that there is most likely a whole lot that I don’t know about people and their circumstances before I judge them. I remember listening to a customer service seminar when I worked for Starbucks. They talked about how you shouldn’t rush to judge a customer as being rude because you never know what is going on in their life. Maybe their child is sick and they have been up all night looking after them. Maybe they themselves are sick. You just don’t know. Yet, we all do it. Don’t we? Is it really just me?

Take for example right now. I am sitting in the viewing area at my daughters gymnastics club as I type this. There are two women sitting beside me discussing what a poor job the interior designer did on one of their Whistler condos. A. You have a condo in Whistler. B. You have an interior designer. C. Your son is running around pushing other kids and leaving a trail of organic corn chips while you discuss this. Consider yourself judged.

Judgement, I’m guessing, has been around forever and a day. “Judge not, lest ye be judged” had to have come about because people way back then were judging right? And there’s the whole Scarlet Letter thing. I would have a huge J for judge on my chest if I had live back then. And then there’s the witches. Poor misjudged witches.
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My problem is compounded by the fact that if I don’t like you, make no mistake, you will know about it. I can’t smile and make small talk with somebody that I don’t care for. No matter how hard I try. This has included (but is not limited to) co-workers, the lady at the wine store, sports teammates and random people in the school parking lot. If I could just judge people quietly in my head it might be different. Unfortunately though, I can’t, and I have been know to shoot a stink eye at those that say……park in the yellow zone. Just sayin’.

I like to think that I don’t let my judgmental nature be seen by my seven year old daughter. Okay, it’s probably slipped out a few times when I refer to the nice person in the car in front of me as incompetent for not being able to navigate a parking stall in less than six tries. Did I mention that I’m also not very patient? I don’t want her to be judgmental.

You see, being judgmental means that you, in turn, must assume that everybody else is judging you the way that you are judging them. And that creates insecurity. And that is bad.

I guess in a round about way I’m trying to say that I need to work on this aspect of my personality. Not only for my daughters sake but for mine. Oh, and for the unfortunate people who I don’t care for. LOL. The Best Thing in Life is being able to laugh at yourself.

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In Search of Higher Education

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Over the years, whenever I’ve come to a crossroads in my life, I’ve entertained the idea of going back to school to finish a degree I halfheartedly started after high school. For one reason or another it has never happened and now, at fifty, I’m pretty sure it never will. I have no regrets though, because I know that if it was meant to be it would have happened. My friend Karen, however, came to a point in her life, at 47, and realized that she did want to further her education. Growing up in Saskatchewan, Karen’s mom didn’t have a formal post secondary school education and as a single mother she struggled. Seeing that, Karen knew from an early age that she wanted more for herself. She would go to university, get an education and have a career. It was never a question, it was just something she would do. Her life has taken some twists and turns along the way but the desire to better herself has never faded. At 50 years of age she is five months away from earning her MBA.

After high school Karen earned a degree in Commerce and Computer Science at the University of Saskatchewan then took a year off and travelled in Southeast Asia. At the end of that year she needed to make a decision on what to do and where to go. “I sat in a bar in Bangkok and tried to decide if I should go to Australia or the UK”. Although the lure of beaches and surfing was strong, the UK won out. Securing a work visa, she headed to London. Even though she had her degree, she was in her early twenties and had no real life work experience so she joined a temp secretarial pool. Her programming background and her wicked typing skills got her plenty of jobs and within a few months she was offered a full time programming position. There’s no doubt in my mind that it wasn’t just her university degree that propelled her into this job. Karen has, what I would call, moxy.

Okay, so quick life segway…..While working in London Karen met her soon to be husband. They returned to Canada and had two boys who are now 18 and 16. She took a programming position at a telecommunications company and continued to move up the corporate ladder. About 2002 she met me. (Okay, so maybe that’s not really a “life moment” but it was at a time that her life was changing so I’m putting it in the story). A few years later she found herself going through a divorce. Having been through a divorce, I know how all consuming it can be. From what I saw, Karen took it all in stride. She put her head down, worked hard and raised her sons. All the while continuing to better herself personally and professionally. I truly admire that.

Getting an executive MBA requires a lot of things. Working for an organization that believes in people is a great place to start, and Karen’s employer has been behind her all the way. But ultimately you need to have a full support team. Work peers, friends and family. At one point in her first year Karen was struggling to juggle work, school and parenting . Feeling like she was, perhaps, not fully there for one of her sons as he reported a less than stellar grade, she said to him, “I think I should just quit this and be more available for you.” As her eyes filled with tears she recalled that her son had adamantly told her, no way was she going to quit. They were behind her 100%. Now if only she could get them to study as much as she did. Unfortunately it hasn’t all been as good as that. “I wish that women would support women more.” She’s left friendships behind because some friends, female friends, couldn’t support, or understand, what she would gain from this venture. Feeling that there was no room for negativity in her life, she has forced to moved on.

A big part of the program she is enrolled in involves working in teams and networking. Some of the members of her team are VPs of huge corporations and are well connected men and women in Vancouver business. At first she was a bit intimidated, but then one night over beers she realized she was just as smart, if not smarter, than most of them. Hey, she thought, I could do your job. One day she probably will. As she gets ready to travel to Mexico next month to complete the International portion of her degree, she thinks about how good it will feel to be done. She has specific goals in mind for her future and opportunities and connections that will take her anywhere she wants to go.

This is the reason I write this blog. Exploring other people’s Best Things in Life and searching for mine over the last nine months has shown me so many different approaches to doing what you love. So many different ways to be happy. I will not go back to school. It’s not in me. But I admire Karen so much for what she is doing and I think that not only will she succeed in all that she does, but along the way she will teach others a thing or two. She has taught me that some things are really hard to achieve. Sometimes the road to them is long, winding and full of pot holes. But if you can navigate that road, as Karen has, great things await you. The Best Thing in Life await you.

I Made A New Friend Today

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“I made a new friend today.” A normal thing for a seven year old to come home and say, but what about a fifty year old? As we get a little older it isn’t as easy to meet new people and really connect. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all be as open and carefree as a seven year old? This summer I spent a week in the Okanagan with my daughter. Each day we would go to the lake and set up our chairs. She would look around, find somebody close to her size (smaller or bigger didn’t seem to matter) and go and play with them. Sometimes it worked out and the day was spent with her new best friend swimming and building sand castles. Occasionally, it didn’t work out and she would move on to the next small person. So easy and so unassuming.

A few years ago I was having dinner with a group of old friends. Our conversation turned to a women we had all met at a party a few weeks before. She seemed nice and one of us suggested we invite her to our next dinner. At this point one of my girlfriends said “Sure invite her, but I’m not interviewing for any new friends right now”. I didn’t think much of it at the time and we all laughed at her, but it has sort of stuck with me over the years. When you make a statement like that, don’t you close yourself off to so many new experiences, opinions and well, joys? Who’s to say that the person you met at the event you went to last night isn’t going to be your best friend in the next few years and bring a new perspective to your life. New ideas, fresh outlooks and perhaps even another new friend. Sure, they could be a total nut job, but wouldn’t it be better to find out first before you block them on Facebook?

I feel that the best thing to do at this stage in my life when starting a new friendship is to not have too high of an expectation. I know that may sound a bit cynical, but hear me out. I do not expect to have coffee with you every week. I do not expect to chat with you on the phone every day. I do not expect birthdays present or even a card. I don’t expect any of those things from friends I have known for years, or are particularly close to, so why would I expect them of some body I just met? I’m pretty low maintenance when it comes to friendships. My friends have pissed me off many times over the years and I’m pretty sure I’ve done the same, but you get over it. In a solid friendship there is no judgment and there is no “Did I offend you”? Of course you did, but that’s okay, we’ll move on.

I met two great women this summer. In my opinion, both are strong, independent women with big hearts. I could see being friends with both of them; for completely different reasons. I also got to know some women who I didn’t know very well, a little better. All of this happened very naturally and easily. Again, there is no expectation that we will swap spit or have slumber parties anytime soon, but could I call them if I needed a friendly chat or some support? Absolutely. How do you know if the person you meet is potential friend material? It’s one thing to be able to carry on a conversation with somebody, but to feel like you could spend the day just hanging out and talking means that you have shared values and interests.

Maybe that’s why it is so easy for our kids to make new friends. They are without judgement. They see only a person who likes what they like and can build a mean sandcastle. The Best Thing in Life would be to open ourselves up like a seven year old and make some new friends. At any age.

Friends

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You know those cheesy posts on Facebook about how you know you have a true friend when you don’t have to talk to them every week, or even every month, yet you still love them? Every time I see one of them I automatically think of Tani. Not because she’s a Facebook over user, but because she’s one of those friends that I talk to maybe once or twice a year but still consider one of my closest friends. We are so different in so many ways but somehow after 35 years we are still close.

We met in grade 9 at an all girls school on the West Side. You know the one. Big ivy covered walls, tartan skirts, stern head mistress. Thinking back, I don’t remember becoming friends; I just remember being friends. We both had a certain sense of adventure. When everybody else in our grade ten class was attending the Governors Ball to be presented to society, we were scoring off sales at a bar on Broadway and going to a party at Wreck Beach with two seniors from Point Grey. Okay, so maybe that was more irresponsible than adventurous, but you get the picture.

I grew up in West Van with very strict British parents. Tani grew up on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island in a family that regularly threw roaring jazz parties. My parents drank sherry by the fire and Tani’s parents drank martinis at the Timber Club in the Hotel Vancouver. When we were all wearing white gowns to our grad dance (private school tradition) Tani had the guts to wear a sapphire blue off the shoulders gown. (I’ve always admired her for that). She’s happy to stand out in a crowd whereas I tend to try and blend in. Also, Tani is incredibly smart and always did really well in school. I struggled in high school and pretty much gave up on university after one year.

me and tani

We’ve had some amazing times together. The trip to Fiji with Tani and her parents is still one the fondest memories I have. Long weekend trips up to Winter Harbour to discuss philosophy with her step brothers. Some creative and champagne fueled Halloween parties at her townhouse. Her wedding to Bill. Although, I still haven’t completely forgiven her for making four pregnant women wait to get to the buffet.

We’ve seen each other through some not so great times too. Lost pregnancies, failed marriages, (okay maybe that was just me) and lapses in judgement (yes, that was me again). Tani was my maid of honor the first time I got married and three years later saw me through an ugly divorce. I wouldn’t have blamed her for saying “I told you so”, but she never did. And then there was the time that we both got called to the head mistresses office after a weekend party in Langley. Sitting on that bench outside her office is an experience I wouldn’t wish on anybody. How she found out what we were up to is still a mystery.

We were roommates in university for a year. Didn’t go well. I wanted to go to bed early and she liked to stay up late playing cards. She liked the apartment to be clean and I would rather go to an aerobics class than clean the bathroom. (Hey, it was the ’80s). We didn’t talk for a long time after that. She moved back East and I went to live in Banff. One night I had a dream about her and the next day felt the need to call her. No, I do not believe in it being a “sign”. I don’t really buy that stuff. Anyways, turned out that she had just moved back to Vancouver and we reconnected.

tani and me in victoria

Over the years we have seen each other less and less. We live in the same city but have totally different schedules and live on completely different sides of the city. She travels a lot for work and I have a young daughter and a husband who travels as well. We have different friends and different interests. Yet somehow we manage to come together once in a while and it’s as if no time has passed. The difference is that now we share stories about raising our own teens. May they never do half of the things that we did.

When I told Tani that I was writing a piece about us, I asked her if she wanted to read it before I published it. “No, I trust you.” And there it was. Trust. Trust, that no matter how bad we screw up, no matter how many times we forgot to call back and no matter how many times we cancel plans, we would be there for each other.  How’s that for cheesy?  Love you my friend. Have an amazing time in Italy.  You totally deserve it!