Fill in the Blanks

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I signed up for a Google email right out of college. 

Until then I used my Hotmail account for almost everything — high school assignments, applications, emailing professors, internships, correspondence with friends. 

But it got to the point where signing into various platforms with Gmail almost became expected. Almost everything could be accessed through a google account so I kept it. If I had to sign into some random website and I could use my Gmail, I absolutely did.

I also kept it to sign up for newsletters and promotions I never wanted to look at. 

I’ve never given Gmail much thought until I started using it more for work. I started and ended my day in Google.

Like most people who use email for work I send out a lot of emails. After the first couple of weeks I started to notice a peculiar phenomenon. I would start typing a draft and then, like magic, the rest of my sentence would appear in faint gray lettering. 

“I hope this email finds you well today….

I’m sure I say the same 12 sentences in every email so it makes sense that the algorithm has picked up my easy, repeatable, sentences. I’m sure we all say the same 12 sentences, which is how Google was able to roll this feature out on the platform.

I enjoyed having this little shortcut in my life. I’d hit tab, chuckling about how the computer knew what I was going to type and kept on drafting. 

But after a couple of weeks of filling in the blanks, I started to feel a little — curious about this “easy to use” addition. Instead of becoming a time saving measure, it became a life line. I started to depend on Google’s sentencing ending magic. I started to get frustrated when those little gray words didn’t appear. I started to ask myself, “really? I have to think of the next few words?” 

When I heard that internal voice get frustrated, I knew my habit of filling in the blanks had become a problem.

I took a back seat to choosing my own words.

I allowed myself to glaze over sentences because they seemed right

I never looked back or double checked because I trusted Google to think for me. 

It seems negligible — a few words at the end of a salutation. No one ever wrote back to me in a rage. Clients weren’t emailing me demanding to know why I wrote “Hope you are having a great day”. In fact, I bet they glazed right over that sentence like I had writing it.

The thing is, external consequences aren’t the problem. The problem is the mentality I adopted by doing this. I was allowing myself to approve content because it looked right and something else, that I trust, created it. 

I realized how dangerous this can be. How often have I approved of a person, an activity, a relationship, because it looked right? How often have I allowed my mind to take a back seat and hit “tab” because I trusted the source? 

How often have I dismissed a person, activity, relationship because it looked wrong and I didn’t care to take a closer look?

I’ve done this more than I care to admit. 

The raw truth is I know this mentality is damaging because it puts people in a small, simple, pre-created, sentence. I’m allowing my mind to default to judgment rather than focusing on being open, even though I know better.

I acknowledge that as humans, we have to allow ourselves to follow patterns and trust our gut about situations. If we didn’t we would be constantly paralyzed by choices. But what I’m working on is taking a closer look at those patterns. I’m trying to identify the words in the sentence. 

Going forward I’m not letting someone, or something, think for me — no matter how convenient it may be.

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