Think of all the ways something can be measured. With a ruler. Measuring tape. Thermometer. Pressure gauge. Scale. A calculating gaze, as if at a crowd to determine the size. Stretching out your arms (the fish that got away was THIS big). Or your thumb and forefinger (I only drank THIS much wine).
Children stand against the wall so their parents can make marks on the wall to measure how fast they’re growing. We stick our heads out the door to decide how cold it is, and how many layers of clothes we need to wear. We heft a box filled with books to determine if it’s too heavy to carry.
But there are other, more subtle measurements. We look at the car someone drives, the clothes they wear, the job they do. How they speak, eat, live. What their habits are, who their friends are. But these are subjective measurements. It’s hard to measure an inch incorrectly. It’s easy to judge someone incorrectly.
But it’s what we do, to decide our place in the world. If we have a grasp on what’s around us, we know where and how – and if – we fit. Sometimes I wonder how a person can live in the same place, do the same job for months and years and decades. It would be easy to say that they’re stuck in a rut, not adventurous, not creative, too scared to live.
But there’s another way to look at it. Those people know where they fit. They’ve measured the world, and found their place in it. Remember the Desiderata? “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” (That’s a great poem. I might have to post it tomorrow, for those of you unfamiliar with it.)
It all comes down to your measuring stick. You really shouldn’t measure anyone else with your yardstick – at least to criticize them. And vice versa. My life looks insane to many of you. But as hard as I try to measure up to your yardstick, I always fail. Because my yardstick looks different than yours. What is normal to me is completely out of the realm of your experience. And vice versa. If someone told me I had to do the same job for the next 20 years, I’d run screaming. Then again, if someone told you you were going to move every 6 months, YOU’D probably run screaming.
Anyway, to those of you who accept me for who I am, thank you. I love it when you shrug and say, “That’s just the way you are.” I wasn’t always this way. And I won’t always be. But right now, it’s me and Popeye. I yam what I yam. Always growing, always learning, always looking around that next corner, or toward that distant horizon.
Thanks for taking this journey with me! And for leaving your yardstick in the closet…