All that I am resides within those three pounds of mushy, wrinkled, mess between my ears. I am not defined by the things I own, where I live, or how I look; not by the people I admire, music I listen to, books I read, or even how I spend my time. These things might give you a peek at me, but never the full picture. I am every experience and every memory of those experiences. I am every thought – no matter how deep or fleeting – how I view the world around me, and handle the situations I’m presented with. I am my mistakes, bad habits, and weaknesses to the same degree I am my greatest achievements and strengths.
I‘m not attached to the things I own the way I’m attached to my memories, aspirations, and emotions – I can’t remove these things from my life the way I can throw away a worn-out pair of shoes. All these things entangle themselves in my mind so that they are interwoven, knitting the fabric of my being.
I know that even thrown naked and confused into unfamiliar territory, these intangibles would stay tangled up in me. That gives me strength; it relieves fear and bolsters my independence. I’m reassured that if I find myself in an unbearable state of devastation, boredom, mediocrity, or suffocation I can always start over. It’s a sort of safety valve and undeniable freedom knowing I can carry everything I need to survive on my back – and everything I need to thrive within my mind.
The lessons of history have taught me human beings are much more resilient and resourceful than we give ourselves credit for. If a man can survive the torment and trauma of war, plague, disaster, exile, and oppression then there are no doubts in my mind I have the strength somewhere within me to endure whatever life throws my way.
I call it the dandelion principle – the rugged ability to thrive and bloom wherever the wind plants your seed. It’s what lets me push my limits with the assurance of survival. I take more risks knowing that if I get hurt the pain will be temporary, and no matter how bad the outcome I’ll manage to endure. It’s impossible in a world that never ceases to shift and change to be prepared for everything – so I make up for my lack of preparedness with confidence in my ability to thrive in whatever soil I find myself planted.
Unlike the orchids and roses of the world, hardy little dandelions sprout wherever they please with no helping hand – often against the odds of weed killer and lawn mowers. Any gardener worth his fertilizer knows the only way to kill a dandelion is to take it root and all; cutting it down only encourages it to grow harder. Fortunately, my roots are protected by much more than a few inches of dirt.
I doubt I’ll ever outgrow the childish urge to pluck those late-summer dandelions crowned with tufts of pappus and scatter their downy seeds with a lungful of air and a wish. But now I do more than simply marvel at the way those seeds move through the air; I wonder where they’ll land – and I wish for them to find fertile dirt.