Osmosis… According to Merriam-Webster, osmosis is defined as, “a process of absorption or diffusion” or the less sciency definition, “a usually effortless, often unconscious assimilation.” It’s a sciency term most often used to describe the way tangible substances combine with and absorb one another. As a school librarian, I’ve often heard the phrase “learn by osmosis” comically thrown around when referring to the impossible act of learning content simply by being around it. As a Reiki practitioner and spiritual seeker with a passion for understanding human psychology, I’ve come to know of another “osmosis”: as real as the sciency type yet as invisible as the type referenced in the “learn by osmosis” quip. What I have both observed and experienced in my journey is the osmosis of PEOPLE.
Working in a middle school, I see this all the time. Developmentally, kids at this age are undergoing physical, mental, hormonal, emotional changes at a dizzying speed. The lanky, voice-crackly, teens filtering in from the 8th grade wing to return overdue books don’t even resemble the meek, tiny 6th graders they once were. Still adjusting to where their growing bodies fit in physical space, they walk the halls in awkward diagonals, ping ponging off of each other, the lockers, and occasionally, a straight-line-walking me. It’s no wonder they have no clear idea of exactly who they are. How do they find out who to be? Like shopping for the perfect outfit, they try on identities that they “absorb” from the people around them. During this stage of development, they take on attitudes, tastes, values, behaviors, and even mannerisms of their peers. Over time, the hope is that they keep what syncs with their truest selves and discard the rest.
Now how has this observation helped me on my personal journey as an adult? Well, looking back at my life, I have tried on many many hats (and shoes, and dresses, and accessories…). In high school I wore flashy clothing, big hair, and gaudy jewelry. I listened to cheesy dance music, and spent a lot of time journaling (writing for NO ONE to see…) while daydreaming about my writing being turned into movies that would make me rich and famous. I valued popularity. In college I wore Dr. Martens, ripped flannels, black chokers. I listened to dark, depressing rock music. I spent time doing… stuff, reading all sorts of classics, and had perfected my Academy Award acceptance speech for my screenplay. I valued all things anti-establishment (so hip at that time…)
At 45 I’ve settled into my most highly evolved incarnation. I’ve learned what is truly important to me. I can differentiate between what I really like and what is just painfully trendy. I behave in ways that I feel are appropriate and acceptable, regardless of societal expectations (within reason, of course.) I love being in nature, which I consider my church. Hiking a scenic trail is how I channel a power greater than myself and find peace. I love writing and have even gained the courage over the years to publically share, as I am now. I care less about the traffic to my site and more about sharing a cool idea with like-minded folk. I value mindful living and constantly strive to overcome materialism and superficiality (“Strive” is the operative word here.). I believe that experiencing all things new – locations, cultures, foods… is the best way to learn and evolve.
Since we are inherently social creatures and can’t survive in a vacuum, osmosis happens whether we like it or not. Even as fully-formed adults we inadvertently take on others’ “stuff.” So what to do??
Choose your company wisely.
The people you surround yourself with will rub off on you in subtle ways. The whiners at work who complain and never assume responsibility will turn you pessimistic. Stick with those who are passionate about their craft. In my case, the people who see the opportunity to teach and inspire children as a gift. Period. The friends who partake in anything to excess, be it crazy partying, risk-taking, slothful inactivity, or even excessive spending or toxic eating, will drag you below a healthy existence. I personally try to surround myself with nature-loving, mindful, spiritual, healthy, readers, who love to explore (or at least some variation of this. I am a realist. No one is perfect! Ha!)
Most importantly, the company you chose should both inspire and encourage you to be the best version of yourself, whatever that may look like. And remember that healthy competition should not be laced with judgement or sabotage. Find your tribe, dodge energy vampires, and live your best life.