I stared at my math book at the tender age of 12 and the numbers seemed to blur together. At that age, I distinctly remember beginning to notice more and more what I knew and what I didn’t know. I remember my father yelling at me when I got a math problem wrong and the exasperation on my mother and sisters faces when they sat down to help me. While staring at my math book, I would often think of how it would be to sit in an actual classroom. Being homeschooled my entire life deprived me from the school experience and left me only with Disney channel renditions. As I grew older all I could think about was moving away as I wanted to explore and have the freedom to make my own decisions.
I moved to Chicago a few months after my eighteenth birthday with no idea what I was in for. I remember my mother telling me to smile all the time as a child and as one of my first jobs was a Flight Attendant position, that philosophy seemed to work for me and was all I knew. It was my “when in doubt just smile philosophy”. When I first got out on my own, I was surprised how people responded to me. I grew up being overlooked and pushed aside by many in my social circle and I never imagined that people in the real world would actually like me.
No one (including me) thought I was capable of much. I remember blindly being dragged along by life until I turned 19. It’s like everything that everyone ever said to me exploded and ignited a fire that drove me to change my life. At first it started as a vendetta to prove all those who doubted me wrong. Then I realized that being underestimated is not the worst that can happen to someone.
There are people all over the world who are truly suffering and are in need of an advocate. Ruminating in this realization evolved my definition of success.
I have to admit that I am a fan of idioms in general but “a leopard can’t change its spots” is one that I cannot wrap my head around. As human beings we are all capable of anything at any time. Yes, ANYTHING! A series of drastic and uncontrollable life events have the power to alter a person’s character forever and it’s up to us to decide who it is we want to be and pay that cost. The truth is that we change and change often but sometimes we don’t do it consciously. Our appetites change with age as do our priorities and the way we define success. This can cause us to live most of our lives as one breed then change into another.
In my lifetime, I think I have changed from a sloth to a fish, and then a sea urchin. Now for the first time in my life I actually feel like a leopard but I also know that I won’t always be and that’s ok. One isn’t better than the other; each is different and valuable in its own way. We can change who we are and our character can be gutted to the core, cleaned and refilled with a different substance. It’s actually rather simple. It comes down to our commitment to self-improvement.
I guess a leopard can not only change its spots; it can also become a different animal.
The knowledge of how people change and are affected emotionally, physically, spiritually, socially or economically is valid in communications. Our lack of knowledge of our own capacity to change and be influenced hurts us when companies use this information to mercilessly peddle products or services. What if instead we used this information to change the world for the better? What if we used this knowledge to spread the core values and mission of an organization that gives back to society?
In an age of abundant knowledge and technology that can profile consumers, we have the responsibility to use our knowledge of people responsibly and not for ill gotten gain.