Once, in a public speaking class I took in college, our improv speech assignment was to describe ourselves as fruits. One by one, my classmates went to the front of the class – there were apples, oranges, our local king the durian … whatever you could think of, there they were. Unlike them, I dreaded my turn and my anxiety grew with every minute that ticked by. While others were having a jolly good time relating their choice of fruit with their personalities, my mind went blank. I hated having to explain myself, hated it even more that I had to share a piecemeal of myself to this particular crowd, of all people. I’d never been able to fit in with them; not once. I didn’t know what to liken myself to – a mango? A watermelon? A rambutan? I can still remember my sweaty palms and rapidly beating heart, as I made my way to the front when it was finally my turn to speak. I tried rehearsing the brief spiel in my mind, but nerves took over.
“I…” I began. “I think I am a mango.” Oh gosh, why am I a mango? “Mangoes are soft on the outside, but underneath the softness are tough seeds. That’s kind of what I am.” I took a deep breath to calm my nerves. These people, they don’t know me – never did. “I look soft on the outside so people think that I’m a pushover… like there’s not much to me, but they’re wrong. I might look weak, but I’m strong-minded. No one can force me to do something I won’t. So I’m a mango – soft on the outside, tough inside.”
I went back home later that evening and recalled the day’s highlight to Eldest Sis, who laughed when I told her I’d likened myself to a mango. She looked at me and simply said, “You’re a watermelon. You think you look tough, but you’re actually a marshmallow. In reality, you’re such a softie. Anyone who knows you well enough will know you’re just acting tough.”
Now, another meaning of quotation marks is that what you see between them, what you read between them, is a quote from somebody else. And if what you see through your glasses is a quote, then you can start looking at things from different perspectives.
– Joost Swarte, on his recent design the Quotation Marks
“The other day I had this thought,” I admitted aloud to her, my closest friend here, “It’s like I woke up one day and realize I am twenty-three. Suddenly I am twenty-three and I am nothing like what I thought I would be, where I’d be … who I’d be, you know? When this hit me, I was… disappointed. At myself. That surprised me.” I paused, rearranging my thoughts. “More than anything, I think it’s ego. Bruised pride. I’ve always had too much of it cos I… I’m used to being the best, you know? I don’t know what to do with my pride, where to place it, when I realize that others can call my bluff here.”
“You’re egoistic?” She asked, surprised. “I’ve never thought of you as that – maybe other things, but not full of pride. You’re always so open with your struggles and weaknesses, not hiding the less-than-pleasant bits of yourself. You’ve always seemed egoless to me. You’re not at all full of yourself.”
I stared back at her, surprised. All these years… all these years… thinking I’m a snob, too full of myself. Huh.
At one point in the conversation she said, “Think about it this way. Would you rather be a big fish in a small pond, or would you rather be a small fish in a big pond?” I smiled at the analogy; I never thought of it this way. “Would you rather stay within your comfort zones, thinking you’re big and great and becoming increasingly complacent there …or would you prefer to grow? Thrive in a setting where you’re constantly challenged and have to keep defining yourself to keep up?”
“You got me there,” I responded with a laugh.
“flowers happened when the first plant saw the death of the jurassic period and began to giggle with uncertainty.
flowers stretched across the earth on the whim of,
‘why not, let’s see how far we can get.’
green to red, to purple, to blue, to orange, to yellow, to paris,
to your doorstep, to your nose.
you crinkle your nose when you smile; the roses i got you last week know that almost as well as i do.
i like that i can smell them on you after you hold them to your face.
if something can spread so far from home without the slightest fear of what it’s leaving behind, who’s to say that you can’t too?
let the cactus on your windowsill be your guide
to growing: prickled and comforting and young.
you can go as far and wide as your legs can take you,
and though your stomach will not burst to spring forth thousands more,
you have bones that move and grow with you,
and you should use them.”– Ishani Jasmin, You Are So Much Bigger Than Your Roots | ishanijasmin
Last Saturday I shared the analogy with my old buddy, the medical physicist. We were in the car, at some gas station two hours from Yosemite. Our other friend was filling the tank, so it was just the two of us in the car. “My friend said something interesting the other day,” I began. “She asked if I’d rather be a big fish in a small pond, or if I’d prefer to be a small fish in a big pond-”
From her passenger seat, she turned back to face me in the backseat. She looked me directly in the eyes, making sure our eyes met. I swear I saw hints of a grin forming on her lips as she coolly said, “Or a big fish in a bigger ocean. Widen your playing field, why don’t you?”
Huh, I thought, completely taken aback. I have some great friends, was my next thought.
Your sacred space is
where you can find yourself over and over again.– Joseph Campbell
Disclaimer: the awesome comics are by Grant Snider at incidental comics.