When I was a little girl, my grandfather sat me down one afternoon for a heart-to-heart. At the time, I was in 3rd grade and one of my best friends was deaf, so I had picked up on sign language and knew it like the back of my hand. Grandpa witnessed me signing to the movie “Charlotte’s Web”, and this prompted the heart-to-heart. After pausing the movie on the VHS player (this is back when DVD’s were a thing of the future) I sat across from Grandpa at the kitchen table, and he told me how proud he was of me, and how he knew that someday I would achieve great things in life. I didn’t know what to say, and I remember staring at my hands a lot of the time during that conversation. I don’t remember much else, but what I do remember and something that has always stuck with me was this: “Sara, always remember that you are no better than anyone else, and nobody else is any better than you.”
I really took that to heart. Looking back, I think he was trying to make sure that even if I achieved greatness, I would always remember that when it came to humanity, we are all equals. We are all the same, and we all put our pants on one pant leg at a time (or two if you are in a time crunch).
So, I’m really not sure where my need for pedestals set in. Maybe it was my first boyfriend. A close friend. What I do know is that I started to put people on pedestals. Really high ones, too. I thought they could do no wrong. I won’t go so far as to say I worshipped them, because that’s just plain creepy. I guess putting someone on a proverbial pedestal is a little creepy, too. It’s just that I really held certain people in high regard, and they were close to perfection in my book. I overlooked the “no one else is better than me” part of what Grandpa taught me, and started to think of others as better than me. They were more experienced, or did something a lot better than I did. Or, I loved them with all my heart and let the rose-colored glasses blind me to the fact they were indeed human, just like I was, and fallible in all the same ways I am.
And boy, did those people fall, and fall HARD off the pedestal. My husband once told me (after his own long and brutal fall) how it was just impossible to live up to the standards of perfection I’ve set forth for people I admire in my life. Everyone will make mistakes and do stupid things from time to time. It’s what being human is all about, and if I allow myself the room to be a dumbass, why won’t I give others that same courtesy?
I’m not near as bad as I once was, but I find myself setting someone on top of a pedestal from time to time. Lately it’s due to respect or admiration. Something I’ve learned through all of this though is that true respect and appreciation for someone is a mutual thing, a 50-50 give and take, and that’s when the pedestal goes away. It has to. I will always encounter upon someone who has a different life experience than I’ve had, and the goal is to learn from each other. I have plenty to teach and a whole lot to learn. And really, I’d rather see someone eye to eye, anyway. All that pedestal placing gives me a crick in the neck.