We often say that we feel like a fish out of water, but do we really? It's possible. In certain situations we could be filled with anxiety and fear to the point that we may feel like we are suffocating, but that seems more extreme for day-to-day interactions. More likely we feel like a fish without a school, like an oddity in an ocean of everything we think is more beautiful than we could ever be. The ultimate problem with this thinking is that, while we see the world through our eyes, we cannot see ourselves within the world. Are we really a fish out of water? Or are we just something new, something that doesn't quite fit in? That one glint of color caught out of the corner of an eye that makes the reef a little more magical?
I met Peggy Brown this afternoon at Wannamaker County Park, a little oasis tucked off a busy thoroughfare in North Charleston. Sitting at a picnic table, shaded from the sun we had the type of conversation that I love almost more than anything. It is the talk where nothing is off limits, where you bob and weave in and out of topics and current events, eventually ending up in some existential discussion of philosophy while kids run through sprinklers, swing on playgrounds and laugh.
Peggy is another welcoming spirit. Her presence is kinetic, with topics flying through the air in a sort of ordered chaos that, by the end, you are happy you went through. She speaks with great passion on topics that are close to her heart, topics she has also taken the time to learn and develop her thinking on. In the midst of all of that passion, of all of that potential conversational fire, is one of the warmest smiles and most welcoming looks you may receive.
Peggy came down here from New York. There are lots of times she feels out of place, given her beliefs and politics. I can't lie, I felt very much the same way when I first came down here. Culturally, this place is so different from where I grew up that it was hard not to feel somewhat isolated, to think that maybe I was a fish out of water.
Peggy and I talk about labels, about tribes, about trying to define ourselves and fit into the boxes that we build for ourselves. When you get right down to it, this is how we avoid feeling like the outsider, by creating our own definitions and boundaries for who we are. Doing this allows us to dictate the terms by which we are accepted or rejected, but it ignores something so very important. It doesn't actually take much to reach out to a person, to take a moment to get to know them, so what does the opinion of another person matter. Much like we discussed yesterday, the opinions of others only have power if you give it to them. The only thing you do by placing yourself in a box, is give others that power by providing them the definition of you beforehand.
Peggy has a wonderfully wide array of things she enjoys. You cannot call her one dimensional. She tells me that people should accept that one day she will want to watch a football game, the next she will want to go to an art museum. The world is full of bright and vibrant characters like Peggy, people who cannot be so easily categorized. It leaves me wondering how any of us can ever actually feel like we fit in. Maybe we don't. Perhaps we spend our days trying to checklist ourselves into the greater group around us, never really lining up, but getting close enough that we can believe we belong to a greater collective.
It's not the checklists or the trying to fit that makes me sad, it's that we don't know how much we give to the world by being the strange and imperfect little creatures we are. The world needs fewer clones, less automation and more people like Peggy. We need those wonderful characters that will disagree with us, will loves us anyway and will help show us our reflection so we can see ourselves in the world and not just our lenses.
Time with Peggy was way too breif, but there will be more. My life needs more people like Peggy in it.
Favorite Dinosaur: T-Rex/Velociraptor
Why: They were fierce, in control, ruled the jungle. They were the boss, and remember there were females, not just males.