Monday, May 18, 2015

The Power Of 'Experience'

'Experience'. What an odd word. It's a verb, it's an adjective, it's a 'thing'. There are companies who 'prioritize customer experience' and others who hire based on 'employee experience'. Humans are said to be a sum of our experiences, just as our mortal condition is part of the 'human experience'. Theme parks are based around it, tourism companies tout the 'best experience' of our lives, and even social media focuses on improving the time we spend using it.

Yesterday I had a very special, very wonderful conversation with someone whom I consider to be a new friend. He is an incredible person with some truly wonderful perspective and who, nearing the end of our conversation, brought up the value of experience. We talked about it for a while. And we both agreed that each individual's perspective is made up of many things, but largely from experience. We conversed about how each 'experience' will vary, despite similar details, and how widely those variances may seem to an outside observer.

Lately, I've been thinking a LOT. As usual. But over the last week, I've been pondering over the subject of my experience with Pinkbike and the subsequent 'proof' article that I wrote. My visit with this friend last night was actually sparked by the controversy of the Pinkbike issue, and we talked about it in depth.

The most important thing I think I've learned from all of this stuff is that each human experience is unique. Without fail. Everyone perceives the world differently, and thus they experience things very differently. For example: a room full of people at a party. Each individual in that room is going to walk away from the party with a different story to tell based on their own perceptions, the events that really affected them, and the other individuals they interacted with based on the level of importance that each influencing factor had on said person. Like a fingerprint, each story and each relation of the story will be slightly different, even if everyone saw exactly the same thing. This is often why police like having multiple witnesses to a crime; each recollection of a person's experience will vary based on perspective, personal bias, previous experiences or trauma, and so many other contributing factors.

My point in all of this is that my experience on Pinkbike is clearly going to be different from another users' experience. My experience as a woman is going to be vastly different than that of a man, even if age, demographic, education, income, sexual preference, hair color, eye color and DNA strand are the same. Like the butterfly effect, only one thing has to change in a history, a makeup, a childhood trauma or an event and suddenly both people are experiencing different things. My racing experience colors how I see rider speed in a video and my travel experience changes every single time I visit somewhere else. Just like my rural childhood influences what feels like 'home' to me, my time spent in between justice systems influences how I view authority. My role as a birth mother to an adoptive child and my history as a sexual violence survivor both change how I see others in similar situations, and they've impacted my ability to care deeply about both the world around me and the people in it. My passion about politics stems from my time in the capitol and running a non-profit built around clean air, and I worry about my brothers' brains (and the activities that may put them at risk) because I know what it's like to live as a traumatic brain injury patient.

I am a sum of my life and my choices, is what I'm trying to say, just like you are of yours. But regardless of how different those choices and lives may be, every experience is valid and has value. Every. Single. One. I'm apathetic about certain things because I cannot fathom the pain and so deeply passionate about others because I've known that pain. Even if I disagree with another person's opinion it doesn't mean any more or less than my own.

I think we've forgotten that. I feel as though I've forgotten that on so many occasions. I feel that the world as a whole has forgotten that those around us are just like us: human. And I think that when we doubt each other and devalue and discredit the words or opinions or feelings of someone else, it means that we don't recognize that person as an equal -- and if anything, we all are that. We are all people and we are all equal. Our differences don't make us enemies, they make us the same! And the only way to move past those differences is to relate to each other on a similar level, even if those opposing opinions about a topic is the only thing we have in common.

I'm so far from perfect that it's not even funny. Seriously. It scares me how many faults I have and how many mistakes I have made and I know that so many of you do, too. But if nothing else, that's where we're similar. And I love you for that. So if you want to chat, just shout. I'll be here, and we can talk... About experience, and the value of each one we've had.