I read something the other day that everyone sees a version of you—and none of them are reality. It got me to thinking about people’s perceptions against your own.
I am the only one who knows everything there is to know about me: the way I think, why I act the way I do, what past events have shaped how I deal with the current day. Everyone else, including family and good friends, knows a version of me. Some know me better than others, and some can predict my actions better than others, but all of them only know the pieces that they witness, or that is revealed to them.
Strangers shape their opinions in momentary interactions and that can be varied from minute to minute. I can be walking down the street and nearly get run over by a car clipping a corner or trying to beat the light. I may glare at them or even call them choice words. That is one interaction. Then, up the street, I may smile at a passerby, or hold the door for someone, and that will be another dealing altogether.
Even friends are influenced by where they intersect with me in my life. I am lucky enough to have some long-term friends who have been around me long enough (and not run screaming) that they have a good sense of who I am and what I will do next. They know a lot—but not everything. Then there are others, more recent folks, who know the Claire of today and not the one of the past. Those people are surprised when they start to learn my history, as reconciling it against the older, more sedate model of 2019 doesn’t always jibe.
I think that’s true of many of us. That’s what makes stories so interesting. A story can start one way, with today’s version of the character, and then as the story goes on more, as they say, is revealed. A good story will take the reader there slowly, inch by inch, each revelation building on the other until the whole truth is laid out like a tapestry.
Isn’t that what makes it fun, though? Part of the joy of getting to know new friends is to learn their history, warts and all, and share yours with them. Stories are the same way. I look forward each and every day to learning new stories, in life and in fiction.