You’ve probably heard for some time that universities are teeming with diversity. Chances are you’ve even experimented since freshman year, perhaps spending a chunk of college loan money on such dalliances as:
- expensive kalamata olives for a new vegan diet
- a tasteful or classy tattoo
- the latest in tech gadgetry
- the heating bill
So while I expected to encounter some of these things and much worse more, I did not expect to be shocked. Not really. It finally happened, however, on the first day of my senior year when a mutual friend introduced me to someone new. We walked together from one class to the next, chatting about the usual things. In the next class, when each student took a turn introducing themselves and their career goals, my new friend’s description made me realize she was not only very different, but her values were somewhat upsetting to me: she wanted to work for pregnancy crisis centers after graduation.
Though the surprise may have caused my eyes to bulge for a only a few seconds, my thoughts tumbled for at least an hour. These centers are known to favor emotional appeal and manipulation through medically unsupported information, resulting in that non-patients (because center workers are usually non-medical professionals) are not aware they are receiving biased advice that can actually limit their access to timely, safe medical options.
The truth is, terminating a pregnancy is an option. Regardless of how we would handle such a difficult situation, we can’t take that decision away from other people even if it has the potential to shock or disappoint us. A fancy term for this would be ‘tolerance of dissent,’ and it’s worth noting that overcoming differences is important to our personal and professional reputations.
After enough time in the journalism program, among the dearest of faculty, I probably started paying less attention to people who were different from me because I didn’t see them as much. Honestly, I probably just forgot they were out there. Seeing the same faces each semester, in the same lectures, listening to the same arguments and conclusions proves not only that my department well-calibrated but I have probably been lazy in seeking out unusual people or new experiences. If I forgot that my views are my own and don’t necessarily belong everywhere (aside from this blog or the polling booth), then it was definitely time for me to be shaken up.
So, can we be friends?
I didn’t think so. Not at first. When I said that I hoped for a career that didn’t conflict with my own values, I was talking about my values. My respectable, lovable values. But a few days later I felt a pang of disappointment in myself for being, well, kind of a sissy. This girl meant well, there is 0% doubt of this, and though I utterly disagree with her view on how to help others, I know that she must really care about the issue of crisis pregnancies and it’s great that she’s willing to put in the time to support her beliefs. If she wants to help people and make a difference, then I bet she will.
Saying and being OK with that was the hardest part, because I live and breathe my own glorious opinions. After thinking on it, I know that I can’t and shouldn’t try to invalidate her reasoning or try to change her, I should be a friend. Now that some time has gone by, what I know is that she is a smart, considerate person with a great wardrobe and I like her. It’s also an opportunity for me to be a better human.