Monday, January 14, 2013

Nature v Habit; Unlearning for Your Own Good

"What we call human nature is actually human habit." -Jewel Kilcher
"The first problem for all of us is not to learn, but to unlearn." -Gloria Steinem

Let's consider the first quote first, after all I typed them that way for a reason. To me, human nature has become nothing more than an excuse for bad behavior. It's defined as "The general psychological characteristics, feelings, and behavioral traits of humankind, regarded as shared by all humans." Consider then, this implies a characteristic of human nature is something everyone has. Everyone. If you really think about that for a moment, it seriously narrows down what characteristics can actually be put under the category of "nature." That leaves everything else to fall in the category of habit, and habits, albeit seemingly constant, are not necessarily permanent, nor are they the same for all individuals. Let me pause for a moment and tell you the story that sparked this blog topic.

If you've read my previous blogs, you would have read about an unfortunate occurrence that happened to me last month. The Veruca Syndrome was about myself, the victim, having my belongings stolen from me just before Christmas. This situation put me in a financial hole that snowballed into me not being able to get my family anything for Christmas, my phone being turned off, and unable to pay my rent, I was nearly evicted. Thankfully, I sit here today still in my apartment, my phone has been turned back on, and my family still loves me. But, I have to tell you, it took a non-stop conscious effort for me to avoid bitterness. Truthfully, I couldn't avoid it all the time, it crept up on me in weak moments and would strike when I least expected. There's the background, here's the story....All of this lack of money had its effects on my toilet paper supply, somehow, that is the first thing I run out of when I'm broke. So last weekend I stop in at a Starbucks, (I had a gift card ha) it was around 8:30pm and the four employees were busy working on everything unless it pertained to a customer. The lady in front of me ordered her coffee, and the girl that took her order proceeded to hand brew the drip coffee because the pots had all already been washed. The lady had already paid and stepped aside. I stood at the register for exactly 5 minutes before the girl even turned around to greet me. When she took my order and I told her I also wanted a regular coffee, she was clearly irritated and said, "Well, it's going to take five minutes at least." I agreed to wait and paid. She made my coffee the same way and ignored the gentleman that had been waiting behind me in the exact same manner she had done with me. (Meanwhile the other employees were still busy washing, cleaning, and who knows what else.) At last I get my coffee, I take off the lid to examine the coffee to soy ratio and there's hardly any soy milk at all. I get the attention of one of the guys working and ask for more soy, the girl who took my order hears me from the register and yells down, "I put the soy on the bottom, it's in there, you just need to stir it." I smile to the guy, and politely ask him to dump out a little of the coffee and add some more soy. The girl leaves the register (and the customer she is helping), takes the cup from him stirs it and says, "See, I told you that you just needed to stir it." I was floored. Did that just happen? I look at her, then at the guy and said, "Please add more." He awkwardly takes the cup, adds more and hands it to me without a word. I wanted to throw the cup in her face, to be honest I didn't even want it anymore, i just wanted to exit the premises as quickly as possible, but all this time in there and I had to use the restroom. I go into the first stall and as I'm sitting my elbow hits the toilet paper holder, it wasn't locked! One full roll sitting on top and two brand new rolls in the holder...unlocked! (I guess the other employees were stocking the restrooms and cleaning.) I look at my purse and think, "surely I could fit at least two rolls in there, these people treated me like shit, I waited 10 minutes for a cup of drip coffee and then got humiliated by someone whose paycheck I helped provide. I have been stolen from, I'm broke, and I need toilet paper. I deserve this." As soon as thought those last three words, it was like I mentally slapped myself in the face. I stared long and hard in the mirror as I washed my hands, almost embarrassed that I had even had the thought in the first place. I took my coffee, smiled at the girl as I left, and climbed into my car, disappointed in my self and toilet paperless.

I spent several days thinking about this topic after my Starbucks fiasco. (Side Note-I do not hold Starbucks liable for the behavior of one employee-but I also won't be stopping at the Starbucks in *cough cough* Kettleman City *cough cough* anymore....*cough*). I tried really hard to wrap my head around what would make me even consider stealing after just having been stolen from, and then I realized, that was the answer. That right there is how it starts...and that my friends is not human nature, THAT is human habit, a vicious little guy I like to call entitlement. "I deserve this." Put yourself in my shoes, would you have felt entitled to the toilet paper in question? If so, don't worry, there's still hope for you, that's where the unlearning comes into play. Trust me, I wanted the toilet paper, and the friends that visit my apartment wish I would've taken it, but as the saying goes, two wrongs don't make a right. Entitlement "issues" come in all forms, how we act or treat people, how we spend money, they way we view the world etc. Ok, so now we know the problem, where's the solution?

Awareness. That's really the solution to so many issues. I guess I'm one of those crazy naive people that still likes to believe that humans as majority are good at heart. (The two guys that stole all my shit are not included in that majority, obviously). If you are in the majority, congratulations, and thank you. It doesn't mean that for those of us who try to be good that negative thoughts don't pop into our heads, (remember, I was two seconds away from Grand Theft TP,) it just means that when those thoughts arise, we have to be aware of them and make a conscious effort to push them aside. Unlearn the urge to feel entitled to anything. Just think of how much more grateful we will be for even the little things, because with entitlement out the window, every positive thing in life becomes a blessing. Let's be honest, feeling blessed is a wonderful habit.

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