2) Learning how surprisingly different people are: Even when you’re young, you realize that people are different. I was probably a little ahead of most people on that score since I was a psychology major with a keen interest in human behavior. However, there was this cultural ideal that I bought into growing up that went, “People are people. They all have basically the same motivations, desires and rough thought processes.” In one sense, that’s true. Psychological tests like the Myers-Briggs and Helen Fisher’s Personality Test can tell you an extraordinary amount about any person with very limited data.
On the other hand, parenting, religion, culture, and life experiences can shape people in ways that seem almost inconceivable at first. You can take two people who are genetically identical and they can turn out to be utterly different in almost every way that matters. That could be said of two children raised in Israel and the Palestinian territories, Canada and China, or even Compton and Beverly Hills. There are universal truths about how human beings think and behave, but as a practical matter, it was surprising to learn how often those truths seemed to be almost irrelevant.