Different Shades of Gray

Reality and PerceptionGlobal Beat

The day: September 8, 2007. The time: probably 1:00 pm (I could not actually tell the time at this age). The scene: two six-year-olds fiercely glaring at one another, crouched over a 48-pack of Crayola crayons.

My seat buddy, Maggie, and I were in a heated dispute over the name of the light orange crayon firmly gripped on either end by our teeny-tiny hands. We were the spitting image of Lady and the Tramp if they were not dogs in love but instead infuriated kindergarten girls in wrinkled plaid jumpers and pigtails still sagging from recess kickball. She claimed this crayon that was obviously peach was in fact “apricot.” Apricot. Unbelievable.

Mrs. Geer, our patient teacher, tried to teach us the art of civil discourse, but when she realized that the concept might be understood better with age, she asked Maggie and me to “agree to disagree.” Though enraged that the argument I was clearly winning had been ended prematurely, I was more confused as to how my seat buddy could not see that the crayon was peach. To me it was so simple: light orange was always labeled as “peach” in my Crayola box, but Maggie explained that in her box the color was always called “apricot.”

We had lived all our lives believing that our box of crayons was the only box of crayons, and all colors in all boxes were the exact same, regardless of which box it was and where it was from. This seemingly silly crayon fight illustrated for the first time that people see things in various ways. Maggie referred to the pale orange hue as “apricot,” her art teacher’s name for the color, but my mind instantly associated the same crayon with “peach” because that is what my sisters called it. Particular aspects of our lives dictated the way we saw this certain color, but neither name was invalid or incorrect by any means; each was just different.

Being six years old, I never grasped the impact this situation could have in shaping my perception of the world. Everything in life was not (and is still not) black and white, but I placed a great degree of importance on naming these unique shades of gray. I could not comprehend the value in letting arguments go, concluding in an agreement to disagree. I believed that fights needed to be settled because everyone needed to see eye to eye; however, this was completely unrealistic.

No one will ever be able to see things exactly the way you see them, and it took a silly kindergarten fight to teach me this seemingly simple fact. Our perceptions of the world are built upon our life experiences ― we believe what we believe today because of everything that happened yesterday. Instead of trying to argue about who is “right,” we should try to understand what led to someone’s beliefs and embrace the rarity of someone being brave enough to hold a belief different from the societal norm.

Megan Kelleher is currently a junior at Polytechnic School in Pasadena, California. Megan's hobbies include playing water polo, thrift-shopping, collecting postcards, and baking. She has a strong passion for writing and hopes to become an international journalist one day.