“My name is Cary. I’m from Little Rock, Arkansas; I live in Stamford, Connecticut; and I call Denver, Colorado home. I am an ambivert, logophile, dancer, learner, and teacher. I am most alive when learning something I didn’t know, followed closely by seeing someone’s face light up when they learn something of which they weren’t aware. I think of myself as dichotomous – I love spending time with people but need alone time to recharge; I love a mountaintop vista but thoroughly enjoy video games; and I love the vibe of a city like Denver but crave the serenity of a forest path or lake.
My strongest passion is Lindy Hop swing dancing! Lindy focuses more on momentum and partner connection than the other swing dances (which are all great). I’ve discovered no greater feeling in the world than that of a really good swing out. When you and your partner are anchoring each other just the right amount before your momentum collapses towards one another, the feeling of communication and teamwork is like nothing else. Swing dancing opens up whole new avenues of communication. You can tell a lot about someone’s personality by how they dance, and it’s almost impossible not to smile or laugh while dancing. Plus, learning how to toss someone in the air is pretty cool. (Big thanks to Lauren, who is responsible for getting me into swing dancing to begin with!)
Once when I was working at a frozen custard store in high school, a lady pulled up to the window. In response to my “Welcome to Shakey’s, how can I help you?” she pointed to her ear and handed me her order on a piece of paper. I realized she was deaf. I grew up around deaf people, and I picked up conversational ASL because of it. I signed her order back to her, and her face absolutely lit up. She started signing to me much more rapidly than I was able to track, and I apologized. We conversed for a solid ten minutes as her ice cream melted, but she didn’t seem to mind. I think she was just appreciative that someone who isn’t deaf took time to reach out of their comfort zone and communicate with her.
It was in that moment that I decided to study Deaf Education, and also one of the first times I considered studying Spanish.
I realized that there are so many people who are living in the United States who have a hard time communicating in English, and it can mean the world to someone when you even try to speak to them in a language with which they’re comfortable.
That story is a good reminder that every person has something to teach me, and that I have something to teach everyone. Because I spend so much of my time intentionally asking questions about things I don’t know, I can get arrogant about the things I do know. My favorite moments are the ones where I am taught something by someone I didn’t expect to learn from.
To add to that, I firmly believe that every person should live in another culture for at least a year, and every person should work either in retail or in a restaurant for at least six months. Far too often we act in ways that seem perfectly normal but have an adverse impact on others because we don’t know any better. Continually seeking to broaden our perspective to understand why people vastly different from us think the way they do is one of the best personal improvement methods.
We’re hard-wired to make snap judgments, which can be a beautiful thing because we don’t spend hours deciding what to have for lunch. But it gets us into trouble if we make those snap judgments of people.
That’s why I am intentional about seeking to understand why someone with whom I disagree thinks the way they do. More often than not, their perspective and experiences have lead them to a perfectly valid point of view. Very few people try to be irrational. We just can’t see all the facets of their reasoning.
The most important lesson I’ve learned is to assume nothing, and question everything. Each person has honed their perspective and values through the lens of their experiences. Those are uniquely theirs. No one could replicate their specific outlook on life. How many people on Earth do you think have had the same experiences as you? Even if there are a few who have had similar ones, their values are probably vastly different than yours. If that’s true, then doesn’t it make sense that what they see as important or how they act could also be vastly different?
But does that make what they think any less valid? 99% of people come by their opinions through valid means. They’re not crazy. They just think differently. The next time you encounter someone whose point of view doesn’t make sense to you, I urge you to try to understand why they think the way they do. Try to see their perspective.”