“I’ve never quite understood people who pop up out of nowhere and — completely unprompted — start telling the people in their lives what they should be doing,” I say. “I’m just not like that. I’m not wired that way.” I think about it for a moment, before adding, “Thing is? There are people in my life I take advice from. Whose opinions I respect. But they’re never the ones who sidle up and think they have the secret to life. You know?”
“I do,” she says.
“I’ve found that you have to approach the people with the best advice. Because people who know what they’re doing generally aren’t all that confident about it. Certainly not confident enough to assume that they have it right and everyone else has it wrong. I feel like I’ve learned the best by just hanging around people and watching what they do and seeing if it works. And if it does, I adopt that myself.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” she says.
“Yes,” she says. “I’ve been trying to eat healthier, and I’ve learned a lot from listening to you talking about what you’re making for dinner or the things you’ve tried and liked and taking notes.”
“Awww,” I say. This information hits me unexpectedly hard. I’m the meal planner for my little family — and it’s a responsibility I take very seriously. Because doing it well has some important consequences: To our physical health, to our budget (food can be either very reasonable or get expensive quickly), to our mental health (stress level, blood sugar stability, etc.).
But even though I take the responsibility seriously — and have given a lot of thought and effort to the logistical choices I make (as planning has been particularly tricky during a pandemic) — I never presumed that other people would think I do a good job with it. Or that I would be someone to learn from.
True, I’ve learned the most from watching people who seem to know what they’re doing. But it never occurred to me that I might be that person for someone else.