During my sophomore year of high school, I saw the same girl at the same time every day. Our PE classes were at the same time, and our lockers were right next to each other.
We never spoke.
Having limited social skills and being not so great at the whole high school thing, I quietly ignored her while silently hoping that some day she might say hi to me.
While the elusive rules of high school socializing were mysterious to me, I knew enough to not initiate contact with someone above my station. Since I was, or thought I was, a nobody in high school, I dutifully remained silent.
It was really awkward.
I mean, we we’re right next to each other, and through no word or glance would we acknowledge eachother’s existence.
It’s possible my thoughts became less than charitable. I mean, yeah, I was a nobody, but was I really so low as to be practically invisible? It was ridiculous. What was that girl’s problem, anyway?
Months went by.
Then one day I realized. All I knew about her was that she was in a PE class for Freshmen. All she knew about me was that I was an a PE class for anyone but Freshmen. For all she knew, I could be a senior with the run of the school.
Never in a million years would that girl say hi to me.
I was the one with the power.
It took me about six months to figure this out because it honestly never crossed my mind that I could be the one with higher social standing. I mean, really.
There’s a tendency, I’ve noticed, to think about power as a binary state. The Haves and the Have Nots. Those who rule and those who are ruled. Us and Them.
But that’s not really acurate.
We all have power sometimes. Whether we like it or not, every interaction has a power dynamic and in some of those interactions – perhaps just a few – you will have power.
Some of us are just so beat down and used to not having power that it can be hard to recognize those fleeting moments when you do have power.
It’s important to me to remember this.
Because as much as we talk about building power to fight power, we also must be sure to recognize our own power. Because whether we like it or not, the person with power sets the tone.
Only by recognizing your power can you change the power dynamic. Otherwise, you’re just the person in power that others need to build power against.
Making the world better isn’t just about building power and advocating for change. If we’re truly going to affect change, we must each intentionally recognize those moments when we individually have power. And we must use those moments to share our power as best we can.
And as for that girl in high school – yes, of course I said hi to her.