The Dangerous Game of Assumptions

About two weeks ago, I finally got the opportunity to live in a dorm at college! Real college--well, as real as it could be during a pandemic. It was a mix of emotions, from excitement to nervousness to confusion and sadness. It was the culmination of everything I didn’t get to experience and all that was yet to come. It sounds dramatic, but moving to college is a huge adjustment, and it had been almost exactly a year since my life had been put on pause. Making friends in college can be a challenge no matter what year it is, but after a year of Zoom school and quarantine, limited interaction and social distanced events, it’s hard to remember a time when we were forced to make friends. 

College itself is a melting pot of people we don’t know--we haven’t read their stories or learned what makes them who they are. It’s a place where people can be anyone they want. They can change the reputation they were given in their hometown or learn to be more authentic; they can come out of their shell or learn to take risks. It’s a place where first impressions are everything, and assumptions run rampant.

woman sitting in front of Macbook Photo by energepic.com from Pexels On one of the first nights I was here, people on my floor wanted to play a game of “Who’s Most Likely To...?" However, since we didn’t know each other, it really became a game of assumptions, where people accidentally created stereotyped characters and placed other players in these roles. We tried to skip over questions that could have been hurtful or too personal, but in a game like this almost every question has the potential to be hurtful or personal. For instance, in the other players’ minds I became the girl who was obsessed with appearance and social media and all things materialistic. Maybe this is because I’m bubbly and boisterous or talkative and excited to meet new people. Maybe it’s because the half of my face they could see reminded them of someone they used to know. Regardless, the point is they didn’t know who I was or what brought me here. They didn’t know that I actually don’t put much effort into my appearance, even when my insecurities try to persuade me to. They didn’t know that more than anything I was sentimental, not materialistic--I love words and stories and music and photos, I love memories and hugs and listening to others. They didn’t know me, but it didn’t matter because they had already decided who I was.

Two women looking at laptop Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels Although we skipped over the personal ones, somehow I felt insulted, unseen, and confused. I know this once again might sound overly dramatic, but I felt misrepresented, as if this was an attack on my character and everything I had known myself to be was unclear to those who didn’t know me. The box I was placed in wasn’t even necessarily bad, it just is not who I know myself to be; it somehow dumbed down all of my complexities into some silly questions on a few game cards. 

I realize that it was all in good fun, and even I was guilty of placing other people in boxes. But it made me wonder why we as humans do this so often. Is it a source of comfort? Does it come from insecurity or does it come from pride? I mean we have a cliche dedicated to these specific situations, and yet we consistently judge the content before even reading the first page. I think that it’s worth realizing that first impressions are important, but sometimes they are wrong! Sometimes people don’t show their story the moment you meet them, or sometimes they try to conceal their story with other elements. Sometimes you may even have to read between the lines to really get to know the character, but it’s important to be patient and kind because plot twists are not uncommon when you’re first introduced into someone’s newest chapter.