Out of Character

This weekend I surprised myself. I did things I’d consider out of character — things other people do, but not me. I flew up to Ashland, Ore., for a quick up and back trip and started chatting with the woman next to me on my flight. During the course of the conversation I told her I didn’t have a car and wasn’t sure how I was getting to and fro. She said, “Well, let me give you my number and if you need a ride while you’re out there, give me a call.” I said, “Actually, what I really need is a ride from the airport to my hostel.”

She told me her parents were picking her up but she was sure they wouldn’t mind dropping me off. “Really?” and she replied in the affirmative. So I got into the car with a stranger that I didn’t pay to transport me. In my world you don’t do that sort of thing because it’s dangerous. Even getting into a lyft or a taxi provokes anxiety within me so trusting a total stranger is antithetical to my normal behavior. My whole weekend was like that. I made conversations with strangers. I stayed in a hostel and socialized in the evenings. Even staying in a hostel is unusual for me.

I looked for “character” and this is what I found. I like it. Photo by Антон Воробьев on Unsplash

Normally I stay in hotels or airbnbs because I enjoy my personal space. I’m highly particular and want to control as many variables as I can. However, due to financial limitations, and also the desire to stay close to town, I slept at a hostel. I’ve heard stories of people making friends with strangers or the magic of connection during travel experiences, but my magical experiences tend to involve thinking I missed my train but the train was running late. I barely ask strangers for directions much less make conversation with them.

It may seem like a small thing, but for me it’s indicative I’m trusting myself and the universe more. I’m starting to view the world as safe and friendly as opposed to scary and antagonistic. It’s for many reasons — the chiropractor I’m seeing, the work I continue to do in therapy — but what stands out to me is the way we experience the world and ourselves can change. How the world appears to us is not stagnant or stale. It’s dynamic and vibrant and we are the same. The title of this post is “out of character” but it’s just as true there are many facets to my personality and perhaps this Rebekah is someone I hadn’t met yet, but she’s been here all along.

My spiritual teacher speaks to this through his words and actions. His first initiate was a dangerous criminal who tried to rob him. That criminal completely turned his life around and became ethical, sincere, and devotional. No one would have predicted that person existed inside that criminal, but he did. And the same is true for all of us. There are internal people we know and internal people we don’t know, but it’s all us. And maybe “out of character” is like the people I met this weekend — strangers that become friends.

I dream of a world where we recognize there is more to us than we think. A world where we understand acting out of character just means a part of us is unfamiliar and unknown. A world where we realize we all have many parts and facets to our personality and perhaps it’s time to say hello.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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