Double yellow lines. I don’t need a badge and a police uniform to know that double yellow lines mean DO. NOT. CROSS. They are a mark of safety which silently implore the careless driver to avoid passing even the most put-put-puttering tractor (memories of a two-stoplight town!) for a few miles. They are at times defied, but only with a certain incalculable risk. Double yellow lines mean business.
I am hoping, in this last installment before my summer months, to establish some of my own double yellow lines. Halfway through my college years and officially two decades old, I hardly think myself to be wise. Nope, I’m much too goofy for that. But, I have stumbled upon what I believe to be truths without exception. Much like a double yellow line, they should not be crossed or defied.
The roadway’s lines are made in a single shade: Yellow. Accordingly, I think that every single truth upon which I base my actions and my perceptions of others has been painted from one guiding principle: Respect.
Respect your body. You are only given one. Several friends have called or texted me in the last few months of my college experience to inform me that they are in need of some serious, steady support as they begin to withdraw from substance abuse. My first instinct, naturally, is to cringe at the idea of addiction. My second? To honor their newfound respect for their bodies and the life it encases and encourage them in whatever way I can. Whether it is addictions, eating disorders, a lack of physical activity, or the tendency to shame yourself when you find flaws in your wonderful human frame (Is any one of us flawless?), I beg you to stop. You are your body’s first line of defense.
Respect other people’s bodies. That means hands off. Period. Earlier this week, I had a nasty encounter at the end of a long bike trail when a man thought it was appropriate to entirely dominate my personal space, grabbing my wrist as I went to take off towards home. I have never felt so small, so infuriated, or so insulted. It reminded me of the fact that our bodies are our castles, and no person besides ourselves has a right to them without consent. That means nobody has a right to defile or shame or ogle or make any harassing comment about my form. And that rule has zero exceptions.
Respect identities. This year, I was welcomed into the folds of the Lutheran Student Fellowship’s weekly “chat and chow” and I found myself surrounded by the illuminating fireworks of new cultures. I tried a Kurdish dish made by a budding chef, learned about the Chinese language and ethnomusicology, and shared my stories of traveling to the Emerald Isle. I learned much about the people I chatted and chowed with, and I found that they differed from me in many ways. But every religious, sexual, ethnic, or racial identity was respectable in its own right. Enjoy the kaleidoscope of humankind.
Respect debates. For anyone who has ever spent any time at a liberal arts college (or online, these days!), you know that intelligent, open-minded debates can be truly transformative. They can also get heated. It is important, therefore, to make educated statements about the nitty gritty details of the debate… but also to step back and consider the meat and potatoes of the person you’re debating with (let’s just hope they’re not actually made of potatoes). Many people that we criticize so forcefully in a debate setting are fundamentally good and their intentions are also. Please take time to respect not only the careful art form of debate, but also the person with whom you’re discussing. At the core, you may be more alike than you would suppose.
Respect journeys. There is no standard. Sure, some paths are trod more frequently than others, and they come to be seen as the only acceptable norm. But life is not a set of A to B to C directions. It would not be nearly so worth living if it were so! Understand that some people will take a different timeline through life, and their stages of existence may look almost unrecognizably different from your own. Some wed, some do not. Some go to college, some do not, and some do years later. No path is wrong, so long as it is fulfilling to the one who walks it.
Respect what matters. This will differ for every person alive. But find people in your life who live up the standards you have set for yourself. They may have incredible faith, strong activism, resilience to stress, caring for others, generosity in their time, true spontaneity, dependable kindness, incorruptible dreams… the list goes on. But find something that you can absolutely and truly respect in every person you invite into your life. And do so fully.
*Hops off of my soap box* That is all for today, folks. Before heading off for a few months of muddy tumultuousness as a camp counselor, interstate travel, and teary reunions with my family, my boyfriend, and my dear zipline job. . . I wanted to leave you with the theme that brought me to the end of my second year of college. I may not be a wise old owl yet, but I hope you take this little birds chirping and let it brighten your day.
Until next time!