Here's What I Would Do If I Were You

“Well if I were you…” well you’re not, not even close to me. You weren’t raised by my parents. You didn’t go to school where I did, and you surely never saw the classroom from my seat. You couldn’t have, because I was there. Just like you were there on Wednesday nights for Catholic Mass and I was there on Sunday mornings for a Methodist sermon. 


“Yes but if I were you…” but you’re not me, you’re you. You’re a man who took a subway and walked 6 city blocks to a 4 story high school, and I’m a girl who wound rural roads to the gravel pit parking lot of a school of 500 students. Four formative years of our lives were polar opposites and sprinkled with experiences the other only saw in movies.

“I know but if I were you…” no you don’t know, because you can’t know because you aren’t me. Did you visit all the museums I visited on your family’s summer vacations? Did you even have family vacations? Have you read the books I have read and seen the paintings I’ve seen? Did you reach all the impasses I’ve reached? Have you been told “no” at each turn I have, and have you been told “yes” in all the same places, too?

“I don’t know but if I were you…” you aren’t. We don’t look the same, talk to the same, feel the same, hear the same, see the same. All of these basic, obvious differences, you think you can overlook merely because the same thing that happened to you, happened to me? Because we are both humans, Americans, adults? All of these differences between us, and you want to tell me what you would do if you were me? So I suppose if you’re smart enough to be right about everything, you’re also smart enough to be able to put all of yourself aside in order to make a decision on my behalf? 

Impossible.

We can never be unbiased.

And this is why I have a huge problem with the thought process behind “If I were you…” and this incessant desire people have with constantly trying to get people to believe what they believe. I know this often comes from a place of love and not a place of criticism. I know that we are sometimes just trying to help someone make an important decision, someone we care about and are even trying to protect, someone who is our friend, our child, our family. 

But still, we have to be careful with this mentality, because everyone’s lives are so very different and delicate. We are each a combination of so many things, from the books we’ve read to the sermons we’ve heard to the jobs we’ve had and the lessons we’ve learned. We can’t help these things. We can’t judge these things. They just are. I believe the things I believe with reason and context and background the same way you believe the things you believe, and like it or not, your truth may not be someone else’s truth and vice versa. Somewhere else, maybe far far away or maybe just next door, “THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT YOU KNOW IS ALSO TRUE”- (Timber Hawkeye). 

Why do we have to go beyond the misunderstanding of an opinion and pass into deep hatred and criticism? You will not understand everyone. You will disagree with many. You should stand up for what you believe, but you shouldn’t stomp on other people while you stand. 

The funny thing about yelling is that we think we are turning the volume up when really we are muting ourselves. No one can hear what you’re saying because of the way you’re saying it. 

You are wasting your beautiful breath by trying to change someone’s mind. You are not a genie. You do not have the power to change all of someone’s truths and values which are rooted in years and years of experiences. Who do you think you are?

It seems like you think you are God as you sit and decide which evils someone has committed are better and worse. Can we stop with the justifications, the blame, the hate, the elementary-recess-field communications? “He said” “she said” is the easiest route to take. 

“I did,” “I’m doing”, “I will do” is something I’ve yet to hear. 

Be upset. 

Celebrate. 

Misunderstand. 

Agree. 

Disagree. 

But stop slinging words like weapons, and remember you’re you, not me.