Someone once told me I collect challenging people. It’s true. And I’ll be honest – on occasion, that’s burned me. Often “tough nuts” is code for limited social niceties or an intellect that has trouble connecting to normal. As social as I am now, I was awkward and uncomfortable for many years of my life. I still feel that way sometimes. And the more people I talk to, the more I believe we all have those moments. The “tough nuts” just say the wrong thing or get too excited about something other people don’t get more often. They’re deep thinkers, innovators, and often lose patience with those who can’t zoom ahead with them.
As I look around at all of the brilliant characters in our life, I have to acknowledge how much richer life is when it includes people who see the world differently. I’m so grateful that our kids’ world encompasses so many perspectives, accents, spices, stories, and salty people. Our kids are surrounded by artists, entrepreneurs, authors, dancers, doctors, performers, gender benders and macho men, deeply religious and agnostic perspectives, and ALL of them respect everyone else’s right to choose how to live a life. That’s the glue around here, and a trait I value above almost all others.
On the business side (opera is a business!), we’re having a lot of deep conversations about presenting pieces that were written under social norms we now find despicable. And yet – the stories are touching, the music is glorious, the multi-generational appreciation remains. So how do we separate viewpoints we find distasteful from the piece or the art form at large? Truly, I find we face the same challenges when surrounded by a wide swath of people and personalities. My take? Take the good despite the bad, where it becomes intolerable sever ties, and look for opportunities to help shift someone’s perspective while admitting their right to disagree with you. Whether an opera or an individual, it’s amazing to see how much we can accomplish with our minds open.