About 8 months into my life in New York City, I connected with a friend from middle school and we became roommates. A few months into living together, I was telling a story that involved someone else from our hometown. Do you remember so and so? I began, rattling off how they might know of this person.
Of course! My roommate replied. I did this activity with them.
I looked up with confusion. No, I began, You must be thinking of someone else. They didn’t do that activity.
Sure they did, my good natured roommate replied.
There’s no way, I repeated. They’ve been one of my closest friends since elementary school. I would 100% have remembered if they did this activity.
We went back and forth—not necessarily because I didn’t believe my roommate—but because I couldn’t believe that I couldn’t remember something as basic as a major school activity that my friend did.
Chatting with that friend recently, I thought about that moment where I didn’t realize a major part of their school involvement and it reminded me of a popular quote that you always see floating around the internet that says, something along the lines of:
You never know what someone is going through. Be kind. Always.
Try not to judge people—you never know what they’re going through.
You have no idea what people are dealing with in their personal life so remember to always be nice!
Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Treat them with kindness.
Each time I’ve scrolled past something like this on social media, I imagine the anonymous person tailing me in traffic or the random person who bumped into me at the grocery store. You don’t know their journey; be kind.
But thinking about that conversation in my NYC apartment four years ago was an a-ha moment. Of course, I don’t know what’s going on in my landlord’s life. But how much do I really know about what’s going on with my friends?
Now of course, forgetting a friend’s extracurricular activities from almost a decade ago isn’t a dealbreaker. But what about the big picture things? What about the people I love who I talk to each day? What do I know nothing about?
So perhaps I’m adding an asterisk to those motivational posters. Perhaps it’s not just strangers at the supermarket. Perhaps we need to be better at practicing kindness and understanding and compassion to those closest to us. Maybe it’s about realizing that even the person who we think we know everything about may have a story they hold close to their chest.
I think back to certain friends whose extended family trees I can draw without blinking… friends whose home phone numbers I still have memorized and whose childhood bedroom I could recreate in a heartbeat. Friends who I’ve traveled with, lived with, worked with, studied with. Friends who I trust with my life. And who are missing whole parts of my story. And I, theirs.
So where does this leave me? Back to the kindness quotes. Everyone you meet—including your happy-go-lucky sibling and your enthusiastic and friendly partner—has something going on that you know nothing about. Extend to them the same understanding you would a stranger. And love them. Always.