Kids just get it. By moving a few years ahead in age, we’ve fallen a few steps behind in understanding. These kids though, they get it. Those coloring books aren’t just some random obsession. It’s not about deciding whether Crayola crayons or generic Walmart brand colored pencils are the best medium for brightening up the outline of your favorite Disney superhero; those coloring books are a lot more than that. Those coloring books prepare you for what is to come ahead; in some subliminal way, shading in that page is akin to foreshadowing the rest of your life, but sometimes we forget that.
We’re so caught up in our routines that we tend to forget a lot of things. The age old “what I do when I go to the Doctor’s office” routine is one of the few things I’ve managed to get down pretty decently. It starts with me opening the copy of “Better Homes and Garden” that every waiting room on the face of the Earth seems to have. Quickly, I find a page with an advertisement—preferably for a car or, at the very least, some new cologne. I take this page and fold my magazine there, so that anyone trying to judge me based on what I’m reading doesn’t figure out that I’m the type of person who’d actually read about which species of grass is safest for toddlers. Eventually, I make my way to the outdated newspaper with a coffee stain and then unto a copy of Sports Illustrated that’s giving projections for a season that’s already over. Sooner or later, I end up picking up one of the coloring books they leave out for the kids. From here, it starts to get interesting.
With a coloring book, you can flip to any page and not know what to expect. You might be looking at the work of a fifth grader who’s mastered all the tricks of staying inside the lines and using shading around the edges; sometimes, it even leaves you wondering if this was the work of a kid or some eccentric adult who’s enjoying finally living those dreams of being an artist. On another page, you might end up witnessing the work of the kindergartner whose weak grip over the tool of his choice is painfully evident in his vibrant work as the colors float carelessly across the lines. And, there’s always that scumbag who decides to impose one stray mark across the page and ruins that colorless outline for the rest of us. All in all, a coloring book is made up of all those pages. Each one of those personalities puts a stamp on it. And, each one of those individuals leaves a piece of themselves for you to enjoy.
A single life is much the same in that it too is made up of plenitude of experiences. Each moment is unique as each memory has its own distinct flavor. There are certain pages in this book of life where even as you’re working on coloring it in, you know you are working on a masterpiece. In the middle of those moments of acute vivacity, you come to realize that your life will not be the same afterward. This moment that you are experiencing and this experience that you are living is going to somehow change your life in a such an irrevocable manner that you find yourself unable to do anything but focus on finishing this page so that you too can come to enjoy it. And, then, there are other pages that are a little different. On these pages lie those moments spent piddling around—add that word to your vocabulary, it’s worth it—and engaging in the humdrum. These instances seem so menial that even giving them the title of being a “moment” seems superfluous. These are the moments that you begin to appreciate only long after they have passed. These are the pages that you come back to both laugh at and learn from. And then, there’s another type of page. This is the page that was cemented together with its neighbor, as hard to find as an abandoned dirt path that’s been overrun by weeds and leaves. The path is so secluded that it was not only closed to you, but you were unaware even of its existence.
It takes a special route to even get to this path. But, I think I found a small trail that worked for me. Being a college student, life sucks. You start the quarter still worrying about the grades you got last quarter and trying to figure out what classes you’re going to be taking this quarter.Next thing you know, you’re busy with midterms and projects and papers and application deadlines and bills and internships and then you have to go back and edit ridiculous run on sentences that totally ignore the rules of grammar. At this point, you’re approaching finals and it’s probably about time to go buy the book the professor has been assigning problems from for the last two months. Somewhere in the middle of this mess, you have to find time to actually live a little. And every once in a while, you get unpredictable cravings to do something completely random. Usually it’s the product of a lack of sleep and an unwillingness to accept the uncomfortable thought that you cannot hold on to the insouciance of childhood for much longer.
For me, I’m a simple guy. And for some unexplainable reason, I just wanted to watch Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. I’m not even into the whole Bollywood thing much, but I wanted to watch it. I don’t know if it was Amitabh Bachan being manlier than the Dos Equis guy, if it was Shahrukh Khan’s or Kareena Kapoor’s looks, or Hrithiq Roshan’s two thumbs, but something made me want to watch this movie again. The first time around, I had to watch it from one of the twenty some copies of movies the guy at my local Pakistani grocery store had made from the original copy that someone had sent from the other side of the world. This time around, instead of renting it from some resourceful merchant who made his money off of immigrant communities trying to hold onto to the world they left behind, I watched it on YouTube–by the way, you should check our “Before I Die” video the next time you’re over there. Welcome to 2010. It took me about a week of watching the entire sixteen hour film in short ten minute segments, but I got through it. And if I didn’t have finals, I’d do it again just to hear one particular line again. There was one line from the movie that made it all worth it. Rather than butchering the beauty of the language with transliteration, I’ll share my translation of it:
If you’re going to become something in life, if you’re going to accomplish something, if you’re going to win something, then always listen to your heart. And, if you don’t find your answer, then close your eyes and remember your mother and your father. With that, you will find ease in each challenge and only to you will belong victory.
Taken out of context and without the epic background music and the lingering suspicion that any moment everyone will break out into a musical number, that line might lose something, but the one thing that it etched into my mind during those early morning hours was the importance of our parents in our lives. Love, generosity, and kindness along with some pressure, cynicism, and peskiness… quite honestly, there isn’t a single thing our parents haven’t given us. They’ve brought out the best in us, and they’ve brought out the worst in us.
So many of the lessons we learn in life come from them. Even the lessons that we’ve forgotten amount to more than that we have ever learned from school, friends, and peers combined. Our parents, they are our first friends and our biggest supporters. And in this season of giving thanks, we need to stop focusing on “what” were are thankful and start focusing on “who” we are thankful for. We often forget about those that have done the most for us. They’ve provided us with more than we could ever hope to deserve. In spite of all that they have done, they are just simple individuals. Each one of us may have the “World’s Greatest Father” or the “Best Mom Ever,” but, at the end of the day, they are people just like you and me, people who have strengths and weaknesses. And in spite of their shortcomings, these individuals have had such amazing affects on our lives. They’ve been able to do so much.
Each one of us has that potential. We might not be parents. We might not even be guardians or even leaders. But, we have that potential. We have the potential to be influences in the lives of those around us. Sometimes, that means being there as an ardent supporter to push someone on or being a listening ear that can help someone through a trial. Other times, it’s something as small as holding a door open or giving someone a ride. But undoubtedly, each of our interactions with our friends, our families, and, lest we forget, the strangers we come across leaves both them and ourselves affected in some lasting way. Every interaction is a new page, a new opportunity to dab a little color on our coloring books.
So as we move on from this Thanksgiving week and delve deeper into this festive season, let’s equip ourselves with the traits that reflect who we are thankful for in our lives. Let’s try to take the kindness and generosity that we learn from our parents and take the loyalty and camaraderie we learn from our friends and use those lessons to color in the next few pages of our own coloring books.
And, while we’re at it, I want to try something new and try out the new comment box. What color(s) have you come to appreciate in your coloring book? Now that we’re all over the rush of the popular culture telling you to be thankful, take a second to actually think about what, or better yet, who you are thankful for in your lives. And, share it with us below.