I was in the band starting in 6th grade. I played percussion. I could read music decently well, so I primarily played the bells (the little xylophone-looking thing made out of metal rather than wood) until high school, but also dabbled in drums and other keyed instruments of various sorts (like an actual xylophone).
My freshman year of high school, I officially joined the drumline and played the snare drum when we marched. I don’t know what it’s like to be in any other section of the band because I’ve only experienced what I’ve experienced… but my impression was that drumline was a bit different.
You see, we had to play cadences (da! dig-a-dig-a-dig-a-da! go!) and keep time while everyone else was marching along between songs. It makes sense, really, since our instruments didn’t require lung capacity (only bladder capacity– those harnesses press down right on your bladder) so we could play and play and play without needing the break everyone else did. Except that meant extra practice, a special drumline coach, and a general level of rowdiness that was disconcerting for a nerdy little goodie-two-shoes like me. Which is what made Tim Haight so scary to me.
Tim was musically gifted, but alternative– to say the least. He didn’t follow the rules and didn’t care if he got in trouble for it (gasp!) and he scared me because people who don’t follow rules and don’t care about the consequences are unpredictable. I made a lot of assumptions about him.
He called me on it one day.
I don’t remember what I had said, done, or assumed or why Tim felt the need to call me on it at that moment, but he said to me, “You know what happens when you assume something, don’t you?”
“You make an ass out of u and me.”
Jaw drop, heart stop.
It was a pun (a very, very clever and punny pun!) and it was crazy true.
I had never heard that adage before and I’m sure I reacted to hearing it that time very poorly, but it was a good lesson for me. I’d like to tell you I stopped making assumptions right then and there, but that would be a big fat lie and Tim would probably happen to read this one blog entry and call me on it in front of all of you… so I won’t lie. I do still think of that day from time to time though, and every time I find myself ashamed at the assumptions I continue to make.
Most recently, I’ve found myself making assumptions about other people’s intentions. My therapist called me on it this morning. (I’m not certain, but I suspect Tim may have grown up, changed his name, purchased some khakis, and moved to Marshfield to practice psychology…)
It’s never easy to hear someone else talk about your weaknesses– the things you don’t like about your character, the way you should have acted, the assumptions you shouldn’t have made. But that’s what I pay the good doctor for, so I had to choke it down. And now I’m forced to think about it. Ugh.
Self-awareness can be so obnoxious.
It was a lot easier to live in an assumption-fueled rage.
It shouldn’t be though. Because truly, I pride myself on putting my faith in other people and trusting in them to be doing the things most suitable to their own conscience. At least, I thought I did. But I think when it comes to moments why I feel personally hurt or affronted, I automatically assume that the hurt was intentional. Even though, logically and rationally, I can recognize that that’s probably not the case.
My freshman year of college, I lived in West Wadsworth Hall at Michigan Tech (West Wads!!!) in a hall called Good Intentions… as in what the road to hell is paved with.
And it’s true. Because despite our best intentions, we still end up inflicting hurt on other people, and no one is immune to that. Myself included. (Waaaahhh!! I’m not perfect!!!!) I have a much easier time forgiving myself for hurting someone with my best intentions, though, than I do forgiving someone else for hurting me– based largely on the assumption that I know their intentions to be malevolent.
(Btw, I really like the words malevolent and benevolent. They’re good words.)
I’d probably be a happier person if I assumed the reverse. If I could think “wow. That hurt. But I trust that to hurt was not the intent, and I can move on” instead.
It’s not nearly as satisfying, of course, because very little feels more satisfying in the short term than self-righteous anger. But it’s probably a lot healthier, emotionally speaking, in the long run. Dang.
I’m certainly not there yet, but having had my assumptions pointed out to me, I can feel something inside me breaking. It makes me feel like I understand why people hold on to power and anger and resentment so desperately though, because it’s painful to let forgiveness and understanding and patience take their place. It’s painful to admit that you were wrong. And nobody likes to be in pain, no matter how temporary.
Tim was older than me and different from me and our paths crossed only briefly, but he was fascinating and he left a mark on my life that I’ll never forget. At 14, I never would have expected his silly words (and a swear word even!) to be so profound, and yet here we are… amazing, isn’t it?