Be a Balloon

On a street corner in the middle of the city sat a vendor cart, adorned with bright balloons to attract customers. This cart sold balloons and eggs and was creatively named Balloons ‘N Eggs. (I’m not sure what the guy’s business strategy was with this pairing, but that’s not the point). The balloons lived life often wondering what awaited them in the world beyond the cart. Each time one was purchased and taken away, the other balloons imagined what wonders could await them in the world beyond. The eggs, on the other hand, lived a life filled with fear, watching their comrades get split open, cooked alive, and eaten. None of them had much optimism, living with a mantra of, “What’s the point? We either get murdered and cooked, dropped and killed, or thrown in the Pit of the Dead” (That’s what they called the garbage can). One day, from the sky, landed a deflating balloon, right between an egg and a balloon. The cart balloons had never met an outsider before, and one of the balloons spoke up; he had to know what was beyond the cart.

“It’s beautiful,” replied the new balloon.

“What is?”

“The world out there. I saw the city! So many new buildings! New people! There’s so much life out there! But then I started to float, and float, and float. Higher and higher until I could see the whooooole city.”

“You were above the buildings?”

“Higher! The air was so crisp and clean and I could see for miles and miles. I even made it above the clouds.”

“There’s no such thing as clouds,” a gravelly voice chimed in. It was an egg.

“The highest this universe goes is that umbrella above me. Don’t give the poor kid the wrong idea.”

“No, Egg,” replied the first balloon, “he’s right. I can see the clouds from here.”

“Just cuz you can see ‘em, doesn’t mean you should go tryin’ to float up to ‘em,” grumbled the egg. “Stay here on the cart with the rest of us where you won’t get hurt.”

“But I’ll be flying! I want to see what’s beyond the clouds!”

“It ain’t worth it, kid. Someone will probably catch you, break you, and put you in a pan somewhere. That’s the way of the world. Hate to break it to you…”

“But the new balloon-“

“-got lucky. You ain’t lucky. Why else you think you’re tied to this cart?”

“Trust me,” the new balloon interjected with a gasp for air, “It’s the most… glorious freedom you’ll ever know.”

With that, the balloon exhaled one final time and was quiet. The egg and balloon both took a moment of silence to commemorate the moment until suddenly that silence was broken by a small voice.

“I’ll take that one, daddy!” It was a young girl, about seven years old, pointing at the balloon and excitedly jumping up and down. Her father handed her the balloon, handed the vendor some money, and off the balloon and girl went together, grinning from ear to ear.

“Bye, Egg!” The balloon shouted back. “I’ll tell you all about the clouds when I get back.”

“I hate balloons.”

With that, the Balloon turned his gaze upward to the sky and disappeared around the corner.

Meanwhile, an overweight middle-aged man approached the cart.

“I’ll have two eggs. Scrambled.”

Are you an egg or are you a balloon? Not physically – I’m assuming all of you reading this are human beings – but mentally and emotionally, which are you? Are you worried about what could happen next, pessimistic about the present with fear about things that could happen? Or are excited by your future, optimistic in the moment, eyes set on goals you plan on achieving? Do you yearn to learn more? Expand your horizons? Be better? While a balloon may never be an egg, and an egg may never be a balloon, you can choose whether you think like an egg or a balloon. When an egg falls, it breaks. Whether you expect to break or fly, your expectation often fulfills your prophecy. If you expect to fail, you’re going to think, talk, and act differently than you would if you expected to rise up and succeed. Even if you don’t get exactly what’s expected, if you think like a balloon, you open yourself up to making the most out of the results you get. Then, knowing there’s a world of possibility out there, you can rise even higher.

People Are Awesome: How I Learned From Them This Week

Anger is Opportunity

There’s an intersection a couple of blocks away from where I work. At the traffic light, there is a left turn only lane, a straight only lane, and a right turn only lane. On the other side of the intersection, it cuts down to two lanes: the straight only lane, and to the right, a bus only lane. If you’re in the right turn only lane at the traffic light, believe it or not, it’s illegal to go straight, and if you do, you should probably get into the straight lane. Yesterday, on my way into work, I crossed the intersection in the center, straight only, lane to get to the parking deck where I park, which is about 100 feet beyond the intersection and on the right hand side of the road. Luckily, the bus lane allows me the opportunity to switch lanes just before getting to the entrance since bus traffic isn’t usually very heavy, so I can turn worry0-free. I proceeded to turn on my signal to merge into the “bus only” lane. With no busses visible, I began my merge, but at the last second, I noticed a speeding black Ford Explorer coming from behind in my passenger side mirror. Definitely not a bus. Already having claimed that lane to turn, I kept going. It wasn’t like we almost hit, but the dude definitely had to hit his brakes, probably a little harder than he wanted.

My bad.

I turned into the parking deck entrance and noticed a slew of middle fingers coming from the passenger side windows of my new friend’s car in my rearview mirror as they sped down the lane illegally. Hey man, I empathize with your anger. I have very few pet peeves, but one of them is when someone pulls out in front of me, then proceeds to drive slower than me. However, as you’re dropping all of the expletives, going out of your way to show me your middle finger, and adding negativity to your night, I’m trying to sing the high note of the song “Take On Me” by A-Ha. So, to the driver of that Ford Explorer, and to all you other drivers out there getting pissed at someone trying to figure out how to work their car in rush hour traffic, here is what I learned that we could all use:

  1. You can’t control the behavior of other people, but you can control your behavior. Though the other driver was in the wrong, I could’ve preemptively looked into my side mirror, just in case some jackwagon has trouble reading signs. Next time I drive that way to work, I’ll be sure to double check. Next time, Ford Explorer bro might not hit his brakes, so I have to be ready to adapt and respond accordingly.
  2. Focusing on what other people are doing wrong prohibits us from seeing the areas in which we can improve. No one is perfect, so when you’re confronted by other people behaving in unbecoming ways, it’ll be much more productive to take a self-assessment and review ways you can be better, rather than how others can do the same.
  3. Getting angry at others has no effect on the other person unless they allow it. When you get angry at others, it affects you, though. I saw the experience as an opportunity to learn, so when I saw that they were angry, I remembered not to allow them to make me angry too. I thanked them for the chance to create a self-teachable moment. When you’re angry at someone and they choose not to accept the anger, insults, and negativity, imagine a “return to sender” label being stamped onto their “gift” and it being sent right back to them. Let them figure out what to do with it. Getting angry back justifies their anger and takes away any opportunities to learn or come together and no one wins. Also, it’s humanly impossible to get angry when listening to “Take On Me.”

Oh yeah, and I can hit the high note in “Take On Me.”

Ask yourself: how can you create positive moments out of the anger of others this week?