You Don’t Know What I’ve Seen by Subhadra Jayaraman

I know people who exaggerate their experiences to encompass way more ground than it was worth. Like my mother used to say, “if it had a mouth, it would wail” (‘it’ being the experience in this case). In a conversation about delicious shrimp, there was once a story from a person who ate piri-piri shrimp in a small restaurant. The story involved the origin of the African spice medley, the wildlife safaris of Masai Mara, and the cloth used in traditional headdresses. The shrimp lay forgotten in a corner. They are the ones who just need one word to form associations and dive into tangential stories about everything from Kentucky to great white sharks to the Game of Thrones fan fiction.

There are people brimming with anecdotes and experiences, who feel the weight of their knowledge and find a dire need to share it. It is almost always with good intentions, but not often received so. They aren’t actually boring, just too haphazard and too scattered and too laden with information to make any sense or have any necessity. How often does a time come when you can share what you read in the caverns of the internet about the pygmy gobies of the Philippines (unless you sneak it into a blog post like this – wink wink)? Almost never? So if you are toppling over with the load of information, you just have to make space in any conversation – whether it is about malaria or plumbing problems – and just find an opening, rush in headlong, and just tell everyone about the fish before you burst.

Sometimes people suffer from the “have not been there, have not done that” syndrome. This is way past the FOMO (fear of missing out), because they have already missed out (true to their fears), the entire world around them has been there and done that and moved on, and they remain behind in frustration. These, when presented with anecdotes of what they have missed, try really hard to steer the wheel in a completely different direction – the direction of “Forget that, that’s old news, listen to what I have to say instead. It is cool.” Like when everyone is talking about how Jack died of hypothermia, leaving Rose behind, and the one guy who hasn’t seen Titanic starts talking about how his neighbor’s cat went missing and he looked for it in the middle of the night with a flashlight.

Some learn from their experiences and some become prisoners to them. Letting experiences be a part of our lives is a natural phenomenon. But when those experiences eat us up from within and start pulling our stings and directing us, is when we know that we have been imprisoned. If I start thinking that mine is the only story that matters, if I think I know everything about a place because I visited for a week, if I think I have seen it all after watching a National Geographic documentary, and if I think any combination of these gives me the natural right to impose my opinions and suggestions on others around me, I am a prisoner. Plus, I am also an annoying prick, but that is only secondary.

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