so different we’re the same

We sit at the bar at the little cafe in the quaint Brooklyn neighborhood. We’re looking for breakfast even though it’s lunch time. I’d rather not think about food. It’s 2007 and I’m pregnant.

My college roommate and I are in town visiting friends, but they had to work so we went exploring. We get the menu and just when I’m trying to figure out how to hold my nose from the smell without looking four, I catch a glimpse of our surroundings.

Everyone is in gray, black, or muted earth tones. The guy who just walked in has lots of piercings. The couple by the window look dark, intense, content. I think one of them might be a man. The girl with the earbuds wears a black tank top, black pants and combat-ish boots. Her face is turned toward the window, but her eyes are closed. She sits alone. I look towards the door and just know that any minute, Neo and Trinity are gonna walk in.

I look at Faith sitting next to me. She’s wearing pastel. I have on pink lipstick. We do not blend in.

She realizes this the same time I do. One of us says, “Do you get the feeling that everyone is so extremely unique that they end up all looking exactly the same?”

I agree with us. And if you walked into a Starbucks in my hometown, you would say the same thing. Our collective same-ness would look different from this Brooklyn cafe, but you could draw the same conclusion.

I thought of that scene in Brooklyn last week as The Man and I drove up the Pacific Coast Highway in California. It’s like a different country over there. The trees look freakishly strong, like they worked really hard to grow and they have the twisted, gnarly trunks to prove it. I had to keep reminding myself, water on the left means we’re headed north. My head was spinning by the time we got to LA.

But there we were, on the whole other side of this huge country we call home, and I couldn’t stop watching the people. Same language, different life. It’s tempting to fill in the blank of their identity with just one label. The less we know about a group, the easier it is to do that.

We do it all the time in lots of areas.

We are complicated and multi-layered. They are just one thing.

We are deep, thoughtful and ironic. They are cheesy and irrelevant. 

We see things the right way. They are narrow-minded and small.

So where do you fall? In the “we” or in the “they?”

Guess what? You don’t get to say. Because no matter what, you are someone else’s they. And there’s nothing you can do about it. So just be you. Do your thing, rock the cheese, drop the labels, and dare to see.


  1. says

    “Because no matter what, you are someone else’s they. And there’s nothing you can do about it. So just be you. Do your thing, rock the cheese, drop the labels, and dare to see.”

    I am going to cry now. Oh my word, girl. I am going to just have you ghost-write my book. M-kay? Good. Glad we settled that.

  2. eloranicole says

    There’s no way for me to describe just how much I needed this post as a reminder. Thank you.

  3. says

    Thank you. Its good to have a lense shift into seeing others more like He does. Boatloads and Truckloads of gratitude for a nice lense shift this day.

  4. says

    Yup. Here in a new country, even though I’ve been here over 5 months now (wow. Did I just say that?) we will always be very much in the middle of the we-they thing. We are always trying to figure them out and I know they are having as much trouble trying to figure us out. God has reminded me many times not to be frustrated that they don’t understand us and what we’re going through when I don’t truly understand them either. And as much as I would LOVE to go to the mercado (market) or even the mall and not stand out, God has blessed me with this extremely bright skin that leads me to believe he smiles a bit every time I think of blending in because he very clearly did not make me and bring me here with that purpose in mind. : )

    : ) Glad you got to enjoy a bit of our coastline there in CA. CA is such an incredibly diverse place – from the coast to the mountains inland to the deserts, from the hip, crowded places like San Francisco and LA to the dusty migrant farm towns where the produce that feeds the nation is picked by the hands of people who mostly don’t speak English but do work nobody else wants (oh my it’s a hot topic!), all the way to our own little plot of land in Fresno and my parents and nieces and nephews that I miss oh-so-much… I can’t say California is THE most beautiful place in the world (as if just ONE existed), but it’s up there… and for me it will always be one of the places my heart calls home. So I’m glad you got to visit a part of it.

    And thank you very much for allowing me this little space to exhale just a bit of my own nostalgia. It’s so much better to share it than to keep it all inside… : )

  5. Melissa Newport says

    “Alike enough to be compatible; different enough to be necessary.”
    I love how my pastor Joel Hunter describes married couples or any relationship, really.

  6. says

    I am me. They are they. We are all different and it’s wonderful to be this way! How boring it would be if we were all the same!

  7. says

    I love when I read a post and my soul just smiles… My favorite part? “Guess what? You don’t get to say. Because no matter what, you are someone else’s they. And there’s nothing you can do about it. So just be you. Do your thing, rock the cheese, drop the labels, and dare to see.” Perfectly done. :)

  8. Lea says

    A lot of truth here! Also, I recently went to LA for the first time. I have traveled internationally and covered the East Coast, but this southern girl has never felt so foreign as when I was in Southern California!

  9. says

    Yep. What she said. And for the sake of being redundant {because it is the most popular line!}: “So just be you. Do your thing, rock the cheese, drop the labels, and dare to see.”

  10. says

    Rock the cheese. That is great, and it just might have to be the new way to say “do your thing.” And the rest of the post? So very true.

  11. says

    My husband and I were just talking about this. We’re serving at a satelite church in H Pt. that is so culturally different from what we’re use to – refugees and low income, but we keep finding out how much we actually do have in common. It’s been eye opening and God is certainly teaching us much …

  12. says

    Love this. The idea that we are all trying so hard to be different that we end up the same. We all have issues, we all have stuff. “Do your own thing, rock the cheese!” Gotta love it!

  13. says

    We seem to constantly get ourselves into this comparison thing, don’t we? Will I fit? Do I fit? Am I ‘too much’ or ‘not enough?’ Rock the cheese, wherever you are – that’s the ticket! Sorry you feel like an outsider here in CA – we’re just folks here. I’ve been here almost all my long life and I keep wanting to say to people – take a drive in a neighborhood – get off the main drag, ignore Sunset Blvd., check out the people who live here, and work here, and raise babies here. We’re not all that different, I assure you. Yes, the geography is unique (and I love it – I’ve got a post about the coast and a post about the desert just in the last 4 months), but underneath it all, we’re people – flawed and imperfect, frightened and brave, lost and found. You would be most welcome in my home anytime, Emily. And I’m betting it might feel a whole lot like yours.

    • says

      I agree with you, Diana. I actually spent most of my time in Carlsbad with a group of the most lovely women from El Segundo on a retreat. We had a lot in common. Honestly, the main reason why I felt out of place wasn’t the people, it was that coast! West felt east and east felt west.

      But seriously, I really enjoyed my time there.

      • Adeline says

        And it was so lovely to hang out with you and to hear from you, Emily! Come back and visit us in California. More In-N-Out awaits. :)

  14. says

    I grew up in the sixties and this shy, conservative girl wanted so badly to be one of the “free spirits.” It took a little time before I realized that all of the nonconformists were conforming in their own way. This brings me back to that time Emily. I have finally just gotten comfortable in my own wrinkled, old skin! :-)

  15. says

    I love this! It so true, some places we are “normal” and blend in. Other places we are the “unique” ones and are considered different. Under the skin and our attire, we are all uniquely God blessed individuals.

  16. says

    Another wonderful post that is truer than true! I really identified with your thinking that everyone at the coffee bar striving to be “different” ended up looking all the same. I equate that with the whole “you are special” thinking. If everyone and everything is “special”, then no one is.

    Laughed out loud at “rock the cheese”! And I really enjoyed your comparisons, especially “we are complicated and multi-layered. they are just one thing.” That’s an easy trap for me to fall into and I appreciate posts like this to challenge my thinking. Thank you!

  17. says

    is that the same faith from your book? I’m reading it for the 2nd time and just read that part. I shared the dynamics of your relationship with a friend last night. We are both good girls. We both will ask and ask and care and care about the other person, not wanting to be a burden to our friends. We sooo get that.

  18. says

    I love this! I live in Brooklyn, and this is so, so true. I have to fight the urge to categorize constantly—thanks for the reminder to shrug off what other’s think and just be.

  19. says

    I had those same feelings of looking oddly out of place when I was in Seattle this last spring. Coming from Arizona, we live in pastels and bright colors and we had certainly upped the degrees of those colors by June. So I flew into Arizona in my bright pinks, neon oranges, and desert southwest turquoise. But in Seattle it was still in the 50s in the day time. Oops. And everyone was still in their winter grays. I felt like a neon sign everywhere I went!

    You’ve made some fascinating observations here. Makes me wonder how others see me…

  20. says

    I used to long to fit in so bad. And there are times now when I have that whisper in my heart, but over all, I’m comfortable with the person God made me to be.

    This post was lovely, Emily.


  21. Laura says

    I think “Rock the Cheese” would be fabulous as subway art! Even when we’re rockin’ our cheese, it can be so many different things. Soft cheese, hard cheese, subtle, stinky, a meal in itself or just a tiny bite cheese. A unique cheese for each stage of life. And what seemed to me to be a stinky, icky cheese when I was younger, just may turn out to be incredibly delicious when I am older and taste it in the context of a well-prepared dish! (That being said, I just can’t get on board with feta. I got throw-uppingly sick from it once. But I digress!) Thanks for letting me ramble cheesily on here. You have given me much “food for thought”!

  22. says

    Many moons ago, as an NYU film student, I wondered at the “individuality” of all those “kids in black”. I was a hick from the burbs in Massachusetts, very “uncool”. Now it so doesn’t matter…your post made me remember, and laugh. How God must smile at all our silliness!

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