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Sometimes, I find thought-provoking wisdom in the most unexpected places. From Wii error messages that state “Everything saved will be lost” to Hellman’s mayonnaise telling us to “Keep cool, never freeze,” I occasionally get my daily filling of enlightenment from inanimate objects.
But other times, sagacity comes from children.
I’ve actually never seen or read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, but I can’t imagine that my day could have been much better. A power surge during the night ended up resetting my alarm clock; I forgot to bring my lunch to school; My teachers piled on 3 essays and 4 tests due on the same day(I couldn’t believe this one wasn’t a conspiracy).
After classes, I was in the public library planning out the next issue of the school newspaper. A biased article had come up, and I was arguing with the editor about the slant of the piece. The conversation ended on bad terms, and I sat at my laptop, going through the rest of the content, trying not to think about the looming deadline or the fact that I might have just lost one of my most prolific colleagues.
Then a sound like a small gunshot made me jump. A small girl and her even smaller brother were over in the next aisle, staring forlornly at the remains of a clearly once-mighty balloon. The boy started to cry, and the girl reassured him: “Don’t worry, Felix. Sometimes balloons DO pop!”
And that’s true. Sometimes, balloons pop, editors leave, clocks reset, tests pile up, and stuff happens. What distinguishes the wheat from the chaff is the ability to deal with it and get on with the things at hand; often, the anxiety of all the upcoming tasks leaves me more paralyzed than the tasks themselves.
I like to romanticize myself as a machine, but I know that this is not the case. I am just as human as the next person when it comes to anxiety and stress. Most problems we can recover from-for example, missing a deadline, but the fear of missing a deadline is so puzzlingly incapacitating that it can take over our lives. The pint-sized Emerson that day helped me to realize that things outside our control only cause us distress if we let them.
I closed my laptop and started towards the exit. The staff were busy closing the blinds and turning off the lights.
As I passed by the aisle, I overheard the nameless girl piping up again, “We can always get another balloon!”
I smiled. Emerson had spoken again.
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