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Your perception is your reality

Jennifer Oechsner


How many times have you had an experience or been part of a conversation that you and someone else remembered completely differently? How many of you sometimes love the rain but some days its the worst thing ever? How often have we wished for the warm sun on your skin but then other times just want hide from its burning rays? How is it that one day you wake up with a smile while others you just want to pull the covers over your head and avoid the day all together. 

While of course there are many factors that effect our day to day existence, but what I’m talking about is perception. Our perception shapes our reality. Our perception affects each of our experiences. I spend a lot of time thinking about this facet of life and am fascinated by the minds ability to bend and shape what our eyes see, our ears hear, and what our skin feels. We are complicated animals and our experiences along our journey through life effect our perceptions to varying degrees. But how often are we cognizant of an opportunity to look at something a different way? How often do we pause and consider changing the lens through which we see the world? Perception can be the cause of inner turmoil as well as conflict with others. Not only that, but when we become too deeply mired in our own existence we might miss the opportunity to shift our own experience for the better.

Living in India has given me so a plethora of food for thought on this topic. When I boarded that plane back in September embarking on this journey to Jaipur I thought I knew what I was getting into. After all, I had been to India 3 times before and traveled to various parts of the country, including time spent in the are I'm currently living. I knew it would be hot, but this leo loves the sun and the idea of skipping winter seemed just fine to me. And of course I knew there would be mostly vegetarian restaurants, an overabundance of horn honking and cows in the streets. However, nearly 5 months here my perspective has changed. 

Some days the horns hardly exist to me but some days the incessant noise makes my blood boil. Some days the cows are charming but some days I don’t even blink an eye at them. I suppose the novelty of things wear off but there seems to be more to it than that. Some days I even long to bundle up and play in the snow! (maybe you can’t take Wisconsin out of the girl). 

Sure, there are things that were novel and no longer are and there have been growing pains associated with living in an Indian city. There’s the “foreigner price” for things that you just have to deal with. There’s the confusing income tax system. There’s the traffic rules (there are no rules?) There’s the sometimes overwhelming attention that comes with being a white woman living in a conservative Indian city. Even my perception of this varies. Some days I find it infuriating, others I pass it off as innocent curiosity and many days I take little notice. Again, my perception is my reality and can shift on a daily basis. 

I'm borrowing a friend's scooter for a bit and I took it out for my first ride yesterday. I was nervous the the traffic would be too much and I took it out during a less busy time just to be safe. The roads are chaos here and I wasn't sure I would be able to smoothly navigate the roundabouts. However, it turns out that the being a passive participant in the back of a car is much different than playing an active role in navigating the chaos. Its far less intimidating. 

One of the struggles I face with life in India is trying to understand the Indian perspective and ways of doing things. I'm not gonna lie, it can be super frustrating. But that's part of living in another country. And part of having a peaceful existence her (and anywhere really) is being able to roll with the punches and letting things roll off my back. It’s not always easy, but it is of course a matter of perspective.