I just had an intense craving for a vanilla popsicle I used to eat as a kid. We’d store it in the freezer in the building where we stored fish feed. I also liked the grape flavor, but the white vanilla popsicle had a distinct sweet creamy flavor I can still taste…with a hint of rock candy flavoring? Hard to describe. It was rectangular and I believe in paper packaging. I haven’t thought about it in over a decade. Closer to two decades really. Yet while working on my computer choosing between different instrumental tracks for a video I’m making, I suddenly had an intense craving for that popsicle and a crystal clear memory of eating one. Strange.
Someone recently sent me video and told me that it reminded him of how I think. Possibly one of the best compliments I’ve had. Here’s the link:
It’s about choosing how we decide to frame our life experiences. Basically choosing between being happy or being unhappy. It’s a topic I often think about and discuss with people, so I thought I’d share it here. I try my best to actively do this: keeping perspective, being sympathetic, realizing there’s no since in getting annoyed or upset with situations that are beyond your control. You might as well find a way to frame it pleasantly.
Take for instance getting stuck in traffic…I like to look at people and imagine their lives (which this video actually showed! so cool). And then I usually get overwhelmed thinking about how they are just as engaged in their own lives and have similar kinds of unique, strong, complex relationships with family and friends as I do. That every person has a life as complete and real to them as mine is to me…but that you’ll only ever really know your life. You have to remember that everyone else isn’t just a side character to your life, but is the main character in their own.
I like to look at the details of someone’s car next to mine…a bumper sticker, a car seat in the back, a bit of mess on the car floor, a rusty patch on the car exterior, or some fuzzy something or other hanging from their rear view mirror…and think about what kind of life they have. What kind of family might they have? What might their home be like? Where are they coming from and where are they going to? What sort of life trials have they gone through? Do they have a favorite sports team? It’s hard to get frustrated by people when they’re so fully formulated in your mind. And it makes me kind of sad that there’s no way I’ll ever get to confirm these conjectures or understand all these lives. I work so hard on analyzing one car, and then I look around and see cars on all my sides, and cars in front of them and again in front of those cars, and I realize I’m surrounded by a flood of lives and personalities and complex worlds that I might only be able to glimpse—and most that I won’t ever glimpse.
I feel overwhelmed and saddened by the fact that I’m missing out on parts of what life is. That I can never fully know all those unique, dynamic life experiences. But it also makes me kind of happy to know that everyone is out there doing their own thing, and that it is as real to them as it is to me. That we are all experiencing life in such a similar way. Little ants in a big ant hill all doing their best, often forgetting to glance at the ones beside us helping us get by. We do different things. We have different lifestyles. We come from different backgrounds and make a living in different ways. But we all experience life similarly. We have connections to other people. We have our comfort zones. We have our insecurities. We have our home bases— be it a physical location like a mansion, a suburban house, a tin-roofed barracks, or a collection of tarp and tree trunks on a beach, or a more ethereal home like being near family or near certain sights or smells.
And so, when I’m sitting in my car in traffic, it suddenly becomes an act of solidarity. Like I’m sharing a test with dozens of others. And together we will prevail! And in that moment, for this one point in time, our lives have intersected. We will go separate ways after. Some will go home and complain about it to their spouses. Some will go home and have a beer. Some are heading to the airport and will never be in that car on that road again. But for that moment, we were all collecting information to add to our personal bank of life experiences. For that moment, we were all equally helpless. For that moment, we were all equally challenged, supporting each other with our controlled breaks and our blinkers as we switched from lane to lane. For that moment, we were not as dissimilar as we might have thought before. For that moment, our diverse lives had led us into the same place and same situation.
It makes traffic a lot more amusing.
Buffalo + Mount Kenya
Giraffe + zebra