Perspectives on Hills and Other “Facts” of Life
I am stepping off a subway station in a Brooklyn neighborhood I seldom visit. I call my friend who said they will meet at the station. As I stand at the intersection, I am given explicit instructions, “Just walk up the hill and I’ll meet you halfway.”
I look to my right. I look to my left. I look in front and behind. None of these options are hills. I squint my eyes a little, knowing that growing up in Pennsylvania has made me very tolerant to even minor hills. But I am so sure that none of these streets could be called a hill.
I tell them this. They tell me there is definitely a hill. We bicker for a moment and then I am heading their direction, not because I found a hill, but because they told me a street number. On top of that, I’m walking on what I am sure is flat ground. I begin composing a mental blog post about this. I cannot wait to find some lesson in differing perspectives and how someone can be so sure they are right when they are really wrong.
In this case, clearly, my friend is incorrect.
We meet halfway up the “hill” and neither can speak quickly enough. “See, I told you this isn’t a hill!” “What are you talking about? This is clearly a hill!”
I don’t understand how we are looking at an identical street from the same vantage point and still seeing something so incredibly different.
Nevertheless, our day continues with laughter and camaraderie. It is evening now and they are walking me to the train station. They say they want me to see how much of a hill it is.
I am equally thrilled. I know that they will be eating their words in a couple of blocks. I cannot wait for them to see the street as I know it is, flat.
And then we turn the corner. And it is clearly a hill. It’s no San Francisco. But it is so clearly an incline and we are standing at the top.
I’m now in tears. “What was I looking at earlier?” We begin our descent. “This is absolutely, 100% a hill.”
I will think about this the whole train ride back to Manhattan. I will think about what it means to deeply examine something from one perspective and to be thoroughly convinced of the situation. I will think about what it means to be open to a new perspective.
But more than that, I will think of what it means to be wrong. I will think about rounding that corner and standing atop a hill and how incredibly funny the entire scene was. It would have been easy enough to double down. To call it flat. To, for lack of a better analogy, choose this hill to die on. But wasn’t it more delightful to burst into laughter?
Wasn’t it more delightful to joke at my own incorrect confidence? Wasn’t that moment so beautiful? To admit I was wrong and come to an agreement on something?
It might just be a hill. But what about when it’s something more? You know, you’re allowed to change your mind. You’re allowed to grow when presented with new information… when looking from a new angle. And, best of all, you’re allowed to give yourself a little grace and forgive past mistakes.
We’re all doing the best we can with the information we have at the moment we have it. And when we learn better, it’s up to us to commit to doing better.
For the most trivial of things. And for the things that matter most.