My father is one of the most confident people I’ve ever known. When I was younger, I thought he was an expert on everything because he always spoke with self-assurance and seemed to never second-guess himself. One of my favorite childhood pastimes was sitting in my father’s lap, while he rocked in a rocking chair, smoking a cigar (no judgement – it was the 80’s), while he told me random facts about stuff. It didn’t matter what the topic was – my father was the smartest man on the planet.
It wasn’t until Middle School that I started to think perhaps he wasn’t an expert on everything. By this time, I had started to ask him questions he couldn’t answer. Like what’s it like to be a woman? But my admiration for him never waned.
One day in my early thirties we were at a family brunch and I was talking about Chorizo. I don’t remember why I was talking about Chorizo, only that it was relevant. There was a lull in the conversation and someone, I don’t remember who, asked openly to no one in particular, what Chorizo was made out of? My father didn’t hesitate and blurted out; “Chorizo is just salty eggs.”
Over half the table was comprised of people who had worked in the food industry. No one had to waste one second of thought to know unequivocally that my father was wrong. Between my brothers and I, we were quick to correct him and explained that it was a type of pork sausage. He listened, shrugged, and said he knew he had eaten it with eggs, so he assumed it was salty eggs, then, with ease admitted he was wrong and moved on from it.
The salty egg conversation was over a decade ago and it still brings tears of laughter to any one that recounts the story. I’ve even heard the story repeated by people who were not there. It wasn’t the fact my father made a mistake in identifying or explaining chorizo, rather it was the confidence in which he did so that was hilarious.
My father has given me a lifetime of advice that has guided me to be the best version of myself. It would take volumes to write down all his invaluable stories on how to thrive in the world and live confidently. One of the main themes of my father’s legacy is that it takes effort to connect with others and often you need to just jump in with both feet and see what happens.
The other day I was at a recovery meeting, the same meeting I’ve attended dozens of times in recent months. I know most of the people there by sight and a few of them by name. We reintroduce ourselves frequently during the meeting so admittedly, I’ve become quite lazy with putting in any actual effort to remember names.
It’s important to note, but not to focus, the fact that this is a meeting of recovery, meaning the people attending are often disconnected from society and are struggling to regain their footing. We all show vulnerability by simply being there.
However, there is a great deal of happiness and laughter in these meetings. There is no judgement. It is simply a community of people trying to make their way in the world without drugs or alcohol. So, when I recognized a fellow, who I had chatted with at great lengths a few weeks prior, I was eager to say hello and hear how he was doing.
This fellow must have had the same idea about me because the moment the meeting went on break, he came to greet me and stuck out his hand while calling out my name. He said that he “didn’t know if I remembered him” and I quickly cut him off. “Of course, I remember you! Jim, right? How are you?” I loudly exclaimed, feeling proud of myself for remembering his name. I extended my hand to shake his and he paused. He looked me dead in the eyes and said that wasn’t his name. That his name was Greg. Then he quickly disappeared into the crowd as the break was concluding.
In my breakout group, I said to no one in particular, that I was embarrassed that I was wrong about Greg’s name and regretted calling him Jim. Then another man in the room spoke up announcing that his name was actually Jim so he understands why I was confused. Then another man spoke up, purposely calling me the wrong name, and started laughing so hard he couldn’t finish saying whatever it was he was trying to say.
For about three minutes, jokes filled the room about how confident, and how wrong, I was about Greg’s name. For a fleeting moment, I thought about my dad and his “salty eggs” comment and imagined that he must of felt similar to how I was feeling, which was amused by my ability to confidently make a mistake.
About thirty minutes later, I set out to find Greg to apologize. For all I knew, I was the only person he recognized, saying hello to me was difficult, and me forgetting his name was the final straw. Greg was easy to find, he was sitting comfortably chatting with several other people. He laughed as he saw me coming and said he loved how confident I was about his name. Then he said that an easy way to remember his name is that it is Gregg with three g’s. We chatted about how people will ask if it Greg(g) with one (g) or two (gg)’s when in reality the question should be two or three g’s.
The conversation flowed easily and there was much laughter in the air, so we collectively decided to go out for a bite to eat down the street to continue the camaraderie. About halfway through the meal, a woman came up to Gregg and confidently called him “Jim.” She had been present when I initially called Gregg, “Jim” and must of only heard my loud exclamation that of course I remembered Jim’s name. My confidence was shining so bright that bystanders had no choice but believe me. This set-in motion another ten minutes of laughter and jokes.
Today, I reflect on the importance of confidence and self-assurance and remember that confidence does not equate correctness. However, confidence coupled with the ability to be wrong is a power combination. If I speak up and I am wrong, someone will correct me. If I sit in silence, I risk missing many opportunities. My dad now knows for sure what Chorizo is and I know with a great deal of certainty that Gregg’s name is not Jim. However, as I write this, I’m wondering if it was really three g’s, maybe it was just two.
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