The saying goes when you assume, you make an ass-(of)-u-(and)-me. But let me tell you; in my experience of all these years of life - this caution has not stopped the many multitudes of people who have crossed my path. Just this morning for example I faced a jarring onslaught of assumption from a good friend's parent about my life choices, and it made me think about all the assumptions that I have had to face / fight / overcome all my life. I owe it to myself to write it out, so here are 12 I can think off of the top of my head right now, in no particular order:
1. I will be happier with connections to my biological family (no matter how toxic those relationships very obviously are).
2. I want to lose weight (likely because I am a woman and am not a supermodel clone).
3. I have close ties to where I was born (but where I have spent no / very limited time as an adult).
4. I aspire to marriage (likely because I am a woman).
5. I aspire to children (likely because I am a woman).
6. I am rich & foreign (because of the way I speak / write).
7. I am poor & foreign (because I am not white).
8. I am not smart in technical areas like math / programming (because I can be a gracious host, a social party guest).
9. I am not fun (because I don't usually drink).
10. I am an expert in South Asia (presumably because I was born there, even though I have spent very little time there as an adult); I cannot be an expert in Europe and America (even though I have spent all my adult life here).
11. I will "go astray" because I have lived alone since I was 17.
12. People know more about what is the "right" way for me to live, what will make me "happy".
I know - these all rise from biases, lack of knowledge and I should just overlook them and move on, and trust me, that is what I do, have done and will continue to do for as long as people continue to assume things - but let me ask though, in an era when the whole world is at your fingertips via Twitter / Facebook / Instagram, or even Netflix / Hulu / Amazon / HBO, when exactly are people going to get that we are not all the same? From exactly when is it going to be okay to take issue over random assumptions all women, people of color, anyone who is not a part of the majority has to constantly face / fight / overcome? Can we as a group take a pledge that when we see people, we will make an ACTIVE EFFORT to not immediately bucket them as whatever your bias is telling you about them right then? Can we absorb in once and for all that there are different kinds of people and that we do not know things about them that they have not explicitly told us? Because frankly, the other side is a little bit tired of this constant fight. I eagerly await that day when people let all of us live in sweet non-assumption, but till then, here are 5 top tips from my experiences to survive and thrive:
1. IMPORTANT: Pick life partner / partners who doesn't assume. Finding life partners is hard anyway, but save yourself and make this a criteria in the selection if you don't want to live with someone who think they already "know" what bucket you "must be" in.
2. Surround yourself with people who don't judge i.e. pick non assumptive friends.
3. Be kind, but don't hold back. If someone is telling you what you "must know" about something or "must want" something, or generally they know how you should live your life, remind them in clear, direct words that you actually didn't tell them that and it will be great if they don't assume.
4. Love yourself enough to pursue your vision of life; other people don't know more than you about what will make you happy.
5. Realize that you own your life, and have the right to live it as you want to. You have one life to live; do what is necessary for you to own it 100%.
I am aware that none of the above is easy, as I am in the trenches right with you, but the good news is that it gets easier with practice.
As for the people who assume (you know who you all are), do not tell our stories, and indeed please take active steps to overcome this. Watch Chimamanda's Ted Talk as a first step and the next time you want to put someone in a box, BE MINDFUL of what you are doing and face your biases. We are not all single stories any of us; we have our own minds / complexities / visions of life and we hope you will learn and practice that sooner than later.