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.