“She’s over 25? No, I’m not interested. She’s going to have too much baggage.”
“He’s divorced? No way! I don’t need ex wife/Baby Mama drama.”
“Her parents got divorced when she was a teenager? No, thanks. She probably has daddy issues.”
“He’s over 35? If he hasn’t been able to lock down a woman for this long, there’s got to be something wrong with him.”
Any of this sound familiar? That’s a rhetorical question because I’m sure we’ve all heard it. If you haven’t said this yourself, you’ve definitely heard someone else say some version of it. Let me be frank, we live in a pretty damn judgmental society. We claim we’re this free and easy going generation who doesn’t want to repeat the sins of our parent’s past, but we always seem to find new and creative excuses for keeping with the old mentalities that have held us back over the years.
Like any stereotype, some of the images or people that came to mind when you read those first four statements might ring true. But like any stereotype, it’s usually not true for the majority. And it’s not fair to attribute it to the masses. Two things we could stand to do better are withholding judgment and not accepting subjective narratives of others – people we don’t even know.
There is no one out there without baggage.
As human beings, we all start to develop “baggage” as soon as we start using our emotions – that means from birth. Our first few years of life are completely dictated by our emotions (nature). Rational thought doesn’t begin to enter our lives until we learn it from our surroundings (nurture). And every single person’s nature and nurture varies completely, even siblings and twins. That means the amount of time it takes for people to gain a grasp on their emotions differs based on their individual life experiences. Most people don’t enter the adult phase of their lives having completely figured themselves out. And it’s not even possible because we’re a continuously evolving species. Furthermore, life doesn’t stop and wait for you until you do the work either.
Hang on, feelings for that awesome guy or girl across the room, I can’t catch you until I decide if I’m ready and have resolved the negative impact of the broken hearts I suffered in my college years.
I said no.
I’m still ‘working on me.’ Stop! I don’t have my catching mitt on. Stay where you are. You never listen.
Here we go, again!
That’s not quite how things work. There is no one out there without baggage. Regardless of your age, you come with some sort of weight from your life experiences. And what people don’t seem to understand is that doesn’t have to be perceived as a negative. You can take something out of a hot oven dozens of times, and one time, your hand slips and you get burned. It’ll heal eventually and you do what you have to do to prevent it from happening again. That situation teaches you to take precaution when you do that in the future, but it still might happen again. You don’t live the rest of your life avoiding ovens. And it’s highly unlikely that you’ll have that experience every time you use an oven again in the future. Life is kind of like that.
By pigeonholing people to the so-called baggage they come with, you’re also belittling the efforts they have made to work through their emotional demons, not to mention any success they’ve had in those efforts. If we’re going to label people ‘damaged goods’ based on any negative past experience, then we’d all be sharing that label.
We’re all vastly different people who have had various interpersonal experiences before, during, and after they intersect with each other. It’s not fair to criticize, judge, or place expectations on others because of what we believe their lives to be. And we especially all deserve to be given a chance to express our narratives to each other, ourselves. No amount of information you receive from mutual acquaintances or social media digging can add up to what you will learn about someone when you meet them for yourself. I’m sure we’d all prefer that courtesy extended to us from others, so let’s start by showing it to one another and forge that path. Then, we can each pay it forward until it becomes the new norm.