unoriginal

Now and then, when I meet new people, and talk to them for a while, I am reminded of someone I already know. This doesn’t happen with every new person I meet, but I’ve been noticing it happening more and more. I’m not sure if this is just because I’ve already met enough people that everyone has some sort of similarity to someone else, or because I’m just taking more notice of small details in how people communicate — both their speech and body language.

In general, it’s not usually (or ever?) an exact match between the new person and the person I already know. It’s more of a vague impression that this person acts similarly to the other person in some way. It could be the slightest thing — difficult to pinpoint and describe — but it is enough to make me think of someone else.

It might be as simple as their inflection or tone of voice when they talk about something in particular. It could be an air of confidence or nervousness or some other emotion in their words and the way they carry themselves. Perhaps it’s even just the way they tilt their head or move their hands when they speak.

What might be strange or surprising is that, more often than not, new people tend to remind me of people I haven’t seen in a long time, or people who I don’t interact with much anymore. I would’ve thought that those I see more frequently would be more accessible to my memory, and hence my mind would be more likely to find links between these people and new people. But, no, this is not the case.

I used to wonder if this phenomenon was just a trick of my mind — some kind of attempt to recall the comforts of the past by latching on to minor details; or some strange hope of reconnecting, not to the original person, but to the new embodiment of the original. But I don’t think my mind is that deluded or fervent or even that weird. Besides, there are people I miss who I’m never reminded of by other people, whereas new people might remind me of someone who was a friend of a friend who I haven’t been in contact with for ten years.

As I said before, not everyone I meet reminds me of someone else. However, I’m more likely to attribute this to my own inattention or not being in whatever mind-frame I need to be in to make these connections. Conversely, maybe there are plenty of similarities, but they are so commonplace that it doesn’t stand out as a unique thing that this one person I knew always did. I suppose it’s sort of like noticing someone’s eye colour. I already know so many people with brown eyes, so I’m not going to go around thinking, hey, that person has brown eyes just like so and so!

I have previously noticed that if I spend a lot of time with certain people, I will subconsciously adopt some of their behaviours. Not so extreme as forming habits or overt mannerisms, but I might occasionally use a phrase or speech pattern from them, or move my hands in a certain way like they do. I’m not always conscious of having copied this from them, but sometimes I am, and as long as it’s not anything bad, I reckon it’s kind of nice to feel like I’m an amalgamation of various people’s mannerisms and speech patterns.

And, I guess, everyone is a sort of amalgamation to some extent. After all, we don’t develop language and communication skills on our own. What if everyone who grew up watching some children’s show learnt to say or do things one way, or people who read a certain book in their childhood have a tendency of using one phrase over another to express the same thing? And, of course, there are families and neighbourhoods and cultures and countries — and these all influence us as soon as we can perceive anything (or even before then?)

So I’ve been wondering if maybe everyone is a mix of the same ingredients, but in different proportions, and maybe certain ingredients have been substituted depending on culture and upbringing and such. And then maybe it’s not so surprising that new people remind me of other people, because no one is really 100% original. Of course, I mean that in the nicest possible way.

4 thoughts on “unoriginal

  1. Interesting and thoughtful post. I wonder too, if as we get older, looking for or noticing familiar traits is a sort of expediency in sizing people up (and not always because they are positive or reassuring traits). If you flip it, and think about when you’ve been on the *receiving* end, it can seem that way.

    A lot of people want a shortcut when encountering someone new. I freely admit to a kind of generalized typing myself at times. It’s when someone isn’t easily labeled or recognizable that I become intrigued. Although, “kind, good, ethical, decent” familiar traits are always welcome!

    • Yes, since writing this post I have been wondering if other people do this, and if people I met thought I was like someone they already know. I guess it must be a time-saving thing for the brain.

  2. everyone is a sort of amalgamation to some extent

    I agree. I think the sooner you realize that the more easily you can adapt to and enjoy the company of people who seem different from you. It’s easy to see the similarities, but embracing the differences takes some doing.

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