Are You In A Salad Daze?


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"Some days you can be on top of the world ... and then feel like the biggest flop, the scrunge of the earth, the piece of gum everyone scraps off the soul of their shoe." The Wise Woman's words echoed across the room and transported me back to my adolescence.

I started to feel that way again ...

Soulless, unloved, lost.

"And then something happens, and the world looks brighter, things might just work out." Her words brought me back.

"What's going on? Why is life like that?" I asked.

"Well, these are the salad days ... the ones the old saying of 'Did you just fall off the turnip truck?' refer to. And far too often the salad days tend to mean you are in salad daze ... unsure of who you are, where you are going, and what you want out of life." Her voice made it all the way across the room.

"You know you are no longer who your parents see you as ... the baby of the family, their little league hitter, the kid who needs a night light or the one always sneaking into the cookie jar when no one is looking.

"You are outgrowing your clothes, your friends and old ideas of who you were supposed to be. As you learn more about the world, it looks different. If you are smart, you notice that a lot of people around you seem unhappy. And there are a lot of problems with the world. There are people who go to bed hungry most nights and there are millions of people in pain all over the world.

"And the grown ups want you to sit in a classroom all day and memorize famous dates in history and be able to calculate the area of a triangle or shoot a basketball.

"They tell you .... Be normal. Get good grades. Work hard so you can get a decent job. And the culture repeats these ideas over and over again, setting up a drumbeat you are meant to dance to."

Her words made sense. I had felt that silent, insistent pull to become useful, make something out of my life ... but that something had to be what my parents wanted, my peers would respect and my culture valued.

"But there is more to life ... things school never touches on ... like figuring out who you are and ..." my voice trailed off.

"Yes. There is more to life, if you want to go looking for it. And all it takes is for you to open your eyes ... and your heart. To start listening to the call within you and to let the things that stir your heart and ignite your imagination ... take hold of you."

"Like a tractor beam?" I asked. "That is what it felt like."

"Yes, exactly. A gentle tractor beam that beckons and pulls you ever so slightly in the direction of your* dreams. But following it means you are moving off the normal path of time ... of focusing on achieving* .. and instead following the things that give your life meaning. And that can be unnerving for some and feel downright dangerous to those who want everyone to follow the same highway and stay with the herd."

"Why do they care so much? It is my life, not theirs." I asked.

"They care because you are choosing a different life goal ... and anyone who makes a different choice challenges the status quo ... what is considered normal and right in a culture. To do it successfully, you need to be able to do it in a way that still fits within the culture and makes sense, rather than threatens, the culture." The WIse woman put down her pen and came closer.

"People are frightened that they are going to be rejected, made insignificant, become useless and unwanted. So many want to make the safe choice, the right choice ... and ensure it is right and remains right ... by having everyone else choose the same thing, follow the same path. In that way they can feel like they have a place in life, a place in line on the path of life. And like any grazing animal, it feels safer to be in the center of the pack."

"When you choose something different, it throws those that want to be safe .. to make the right choice ... off balance and into chaos. And even if it is just a tiny bit of chaos or uncertainty ... your choice runs counter to conventional thought .. and throws doubt on their choices ... on they way they see the world and their place in it."

Her words made some sense ... and could explain why I got such resistance to wanting to focus on finding myself instead of joining the herd going off to college and getting a good job.

"So everyone goes through these ... salad daze?" I asked.

"Not everyone. But a lot of teenagers ... and adults. It is a daze that forces you to fall asleep .. lulled by the culture into a deep cultural sleep where you follow your generational highway .. or wake up and find your own path. But some people get caught ... and are stuck in the daze for more than just a few days or months or years. Some spend a lifetime in a daze. You probably have run across a few, stranded between cultural slumber and waking self discovery."

Her description brought up a few people and they suddenly made more sense to me. "I had a teacher once who ...." my voice trailed off as her laughter caught up with it.

"Yes. Teachers are sometimes lost as much as the students they teach which is why some of them never seem to make it out of high school." Her smile softened her words and I had to grin.

"A fate worse than death? " I asked.

"To be caught in limbo and forever in high school ... yes, I would say so. Which is why they graduate you even if you do not know who you are or who you want to be when you grow up. If that was a requirement of high school ....

... some people would never escape ... and others would find themselves a lot faster." Our voices finished each others sense-tense-s, like a pong ball bouncing off the walls of some electronic cave.

I looked up and she placed a bowl of sooup in front of me, fishing out the extra oooos with a spoon. I chased the rest of the letters around for a moment, and then paused to ask ..."What kind of soup is this, anyway?"

"Why, don't you like what it is spelling out for you? Some people don't you know," she said.

"Know what?" I asked, watching the letters still moving around in the bowl.

"Like everything spelled out. Some people like to guess at this .. and that."

"Reely?" I asked ... and saw a fish swim past dragging a question mark.






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