When I was younger, I not only blurted out every magnificent thing that came into my head, but I was encouraged to do so. My mother thought it was the best way to let me express my freedom as an individual. I was invited to speak my mind and my mom endlessly engaged me in thoughtful, provacative and often silly conversations on the most benign topics. This practice of exchange came back to haunt her in the 80s when I was a teenager and she was no longer keen on my freedom or my individuality and had long since tired of my provocation. Train. Station.
Later, my friends and co-workers egged me on. Friends, I think because many of them were too repressed to say what they wanted to say, thrilled at my willingness to scream the virtues of shaven hair at our prim all-girls college prep. Co-workers reveled in my multi-page memos on why I shouldn't serve coffee to clients, something I do for myself these days, so as not to be a total hypocrite.
Freed from the chains of social constraint on my teenage and twenty-something self (most of which I had ignored anyway) I embraced the full volume of my 30s wit and wisdom. I had opinions on every single thing and you heard them whether you cared to or not. I got a lot of attention that way, and if it was negative I was too busy blasting away to know it or care.
But now inching ever closer to the stands where the polyester print sweater brigade awaits my enrollment I find I'm less inclined. I find other folks who always have an air of authority seem immature and impatient to me. Was I those things? I see others who are opinionated well beyond their scope of expertise, or even exposure, and think, 'You look like a fool.' Was I so foolish? I'm eager to respond to things that I think require hastened attention, but I've found that if I sit back and wait the urgency dissipates. Was I always jumping the gun?
I've found I'm richer and more satisfied as a listener than a speaker. I find that even when the incompetence of others frustrates and slows me I can get past that and not feel afterwards that I've put on yet another lavish display of bull-in-china, the Carmen edition. I still feel that I'm better at an awful lot of stuff than other people, but I'm doing every thing I can to inform that arrogance with the experience of finding others' talents valuable and interesting and worthwile.
And I'm doing everything I can think of to keep some of my opinions to myself so that others can enjoy the sound and feel of their own.
I give it another couple of weeks.