I spend a lot of time – arrogant as it sounds – wishing people were more like me. At school I was a nerd who could not comprehend why no one else liked books as much as I did. At work I find it difficult to sympathise with my colleagues who work so hard, because I just think there’s more to live for than meeting sales targets. And, yes, even in church I find myself trying to change things one feminist rant at a time. I often feel different from everyone else, but I’m not one of those “I wish I was like everyone else” kind of outsiders. Oh no, I’m far too conceited for that. Instead I wonder, “Why can’t everyone see the world the way I see it?”
This kind of pull-your-hair-out self-righteousness often rears its ugly head around election season (yep, just because the votes are in doesn’t mean you’re going to escape talking about it). For every kind word that was said about Corbyn, there was a response crying out “How can you say that?” For every person who made a point in Teresa May’s defence, someone else banged their head against the wall. We cannot comprehend how any sane and rational person would vote differently to the way we would, so we surround ourselves with like-minded friends to avoid the frustration – and then we wonder why the election results turned out so differently to what our Facebook feed had been indicating.
But a few weeks ago, something extraordinary happened; I was scrolling through Facebook and an image of a politician I did not want to vote for popped up on my feed. I thought it would be a scathing list of bad policies they had voted for thus far, or perhaps an amusing meme showing what an idiot they were. It was not. Someone in my Facebook feed was sharing this photo in support of the politician. Someone I knew was standing up and saying, “I’m voting for this person. I agree with this party.” And this wasn’t just a random cousin or someone I went to school with years ago, this was one of my actual friends – someone I genuinely really like. I had no idea she would vote that way. Yesterday, she voted completely differently to me but…she’s nice?
I was blown away. Not only did my friend surprise me with her political views, but I was shocked to discover that my opinion of her didn’t really change. I still liked her! And then I began to realise that, however much I feel different from other people, however much I wish everyone was just like me, in reality some of my favourite people are nothing like me at all. My friend Naomi is the world’s biggest people person and just has the need to show everyone how much she loves them, whereas I can’t really handle too much time or emotional vulnerability with another human without needing to hide under a duvet to recover. My friend Piero is amazing at pretty much everything which means he can’t help but jump in, take over and run the show, whereas I can’t handle really any level of responsibility. And don’t even ask me what James and I have in common.
I have friends who are detail-oriented (how?) I have friends who like sports (why?) And sometimes these differences can be really annoying. I don’t often want to discuss the finer points of a problem, and I certainly don’t want to talk about football. We want the people around us to think the way we think and act the way we would act. We want them to make plans the way we would, vote for the parties we vote for and completely see things through our eyes – but that’s not possible, fair or even a good idea. I cannot comprehend why any of my loved ones would want to do life their way instead of mine, but I have the option to be annoyed about it or love them for it nonetheless – and appreciate the ways in which it is actually brilliant we are all so different.
Imagine, horror of horrors, if everyone in the world was actually like me. Imagine a world full of liberal, lazy, creative types – who would get stuff done? Who would make all the technological advances that I’d never be able to get my head around? Who would take care of all the paperwork I’d never have the energy for? Even the things I’m good at would shrivel up eventually. How could I write without anyone to introduce me to new cultures and new ideas? Or without readers who hadn’t already thought of what I was saying anyway? And the same goes for anyone. The dreamers need the realists to stay grounded, but the realists need the dreamers to inspire them to greatness. Organised people need a healthy dose of chaos once in a while, but messy people could learn a thing or two about keeping things in order. Yes if everyone was like me then the world would eat a lot of cake and have an encyclopaedic knowledge of Batman, but imagine how rubbish life would be if we were all the same.
At the time of writing this, the election results haven’t been revealed so I have no idea if I got my way or if my friend did – but it doesn’t matter. Whether you won or lost last night, whether your friends and family are a mixed bag of voters, or everyone you know voted the same way, remember that it’s good to be different. It’s good for people to see things in another light, because those people are going to catch something you’ve missed. Those people are going to pick up the jobs you couldn’t handle. Those people are going to reveal the negative qualities that, dare I say it, you – wonderful, always-right, perfect you – may need to work on. We were all made to be different; to play the parts only we could play but to also learn from each other along the way. Difference isn’t only a good thing, it’s necessary. Otherwise, this brave new world just might crumble without it.
Written by Chloe Satchell-Cobbett, Deputy Editor, Liberti