This I Believe

Alex - Austin, Texas
Entered on December 5, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30

Early in my teenage years (probably, I was about fourteen or fifteen), my older brother took me to a Thai restaurant for lunch. For the first time ever, I ate coconut curry soup, fried lemongrass tofu, and red Panang curry. It was the most delicious food that I had ever tasted. What shocked me was not just how good the food was (and it was incredible) but how food like that could exist in a world of McDonalds, cheese whiz, and the Slurpee.

Most food is boring: simple, unassuming, mundane, comfortable, trite. Here was food that was novel: complex, bold, nuanced, intricate, fascinating. Most food is a delivery mechanism for carbohydrates, fats, and protein, wrapped in a neon package. Here was food that was unapologetic art. To eat food like that for the first time is to live in a world of mud huts and then one day stumble across the Sears tower.

I may not have realized it at the time, but that lunch was a turning point. I doubt that a meal can bring a person away from complacency and toward a life of adventure and meaning. But a new reference point can shift, sometimes seismically, a mental picture of what’s possible.

Sometimes—probably not often enough—I remember that lunch and remember what it’s like to experience something fresh and exceptional. This memory shapes my beliefs.

I believe that there are thousands upon thousands of people, places, and things that I’ve never met, never seen, or never heard of, all of which would amuse me, captivate me, or improve me.

I believe that the costs of having new experiences are often exaggerated and the benefits are often overlooked.

I believe that if I don’t consciously and actively seek new experiences, then I will become a zombie who lives in reaction mode.

I believe that there are more worthy obsessions than there are minutes in a day.

I believe that the human mind is devious and inexhaustible in its ability to invent excuses, rationalizations, and lies about why its better to stick with what’s comfortable.

I believe that in some literal sense, life is an inexplicable gift. To fill a life with the comfortable and the mundane is to waste the gift. To waste the gift is sacrilege.

I believe that there’s an enormous world outside my head; it contains novelty and wonder to fill a thousand lifetimes.