I wave at people when I drive by. It doesn’t matter where I am, in or out of my neighborhood, but if our eyes meet, I wave. Mostly they wave back, but sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they look at me with a puzzled look, as if because we don’t know one another we shouldn’t be acknowledging each other. That’s what a wave is, though, it says, “I see you,” and the wave back says, “I see you, too.”
It’s a funny thing, being seen. I spent most of my childhood not wanting to be seen. If I had Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, I would have lived in it. I preferred to slip in and out of class under the radar, uncalled on and unacknowledged. Don’t get me wrong, I was a good student, I just wasn’t a very public student. I preferred to get my A’s quietly and sneak on with my life as though I were never there. That changed as I got older, grew up, hopefully got a little wiser. You can’t really go through life not being seen. Someone always sees you, even if it is only your fish (dog, cat, bird, fill in the blank with your pet of choice).
When I got my first apartment, I got goldfish. They were low maintenance pets for a gal on the go. They were fancy bubble-eyed goldfish, the kind with bugged out Marty Feldman eyes. One was gold with white trim on her tail and fins and the other was black. They knew I was there, that I shared some indefinable space with them. Sure, I fed them, but they watched me even when I wasn’t feeding them. They were in a 10-gallon tank, so they had lots of room to roam and certainly plenty of better places to spend their time than studying me through the glass, yet they did. They would hang there in the water and watch me move about, comparing notes on the daily activities of the being that brought them food. I had a connection with those fish; they were great listeners. Then the black one got sick and the gold one stayed by his side until he died (the dreaded ich, which is apparently a goldfish disease). The gold one died about two weeks later, I am convinced of a broken heart. Her companion was gone and she was alone. There was no one to see her anymore. I saw her, but I’m not a fish. She needed something more. She needed someone to really see her, she needed the one who mattered to see her.
It is an interesting notion that who sees us is as important as being seen, that those who are close to us carry more weight than those who hover around the fringes of our lives. Praise from a parent, significant other or supervisor carries more weight than that of a stranger or co-worker. Sure, there are some social consequences as to whose opinion we pay attention to, but in the end, there is only person’s opinion that should really matter, and that’s your own. I wish I could take credit for coming up with that, but that one belongs to Dr. Wayne Dyer. I saw him speak several times, each time coming away with a life-changing epiphany. One I have never forgotten is his talk about “the good opinion of other people.” You can ask 100 people what they think about something and you will get 100 answers. The only opinion that matters, though, is your own. Only you have to like the way you look, the way you think, what you eat, what you do. Everything else is just “the good opinion of other people.”
Over time, I have stopped trying to mold myself to seek the approval of other people. Instead, I have chosen to revel in what is uniquely me. It was hard at first, trying to find myself under the layers upon layers of adaptation to the whims of the world, but I was under there, and trust me, so are you. Glorious, unique you is waiting to be seen. And the world is waiting to see you, and wave.