You built your box in Kindergarten.

When I was in Kindergarten Mrs. Forsage sat us all down on the carpet and asked us what our favorite color was. I remember sitting criss-cross applesauce on that brightly colored indoor/outdoor carpet with my hand raised as high in the air as it could go. My one hip was raised so I could raise my hand even higher while still obeying the rules and sitting on the carpet. My favorite color was purple and I couldn’t wait to see awe in Mrs. Forsage’s gentle brown eyes because my color was just so wonderful and I was so smart for picking it.

But she didn’t call on me first. She called on Bobbi Lee. Bobbi Lee would later become a deeply loved friend. A friend that I consider an actual sister. But on that day, I did not know Bobbi Lee and that meanie head picked my color.

My hip sank to the floor and my hand slowly lowered to my lap. As Mrs. Forsage did indeed spend time praising the color purple I sat on the carpet that had suddenly turned itchy and scratchy and tried to think of what my new favorite color should be.

greenBecause, for me, even at 5 years old it was better to be wrong than it was to be the same as someone else. By the time I was called upon, despite my lowered hand, my favorite color was green. Pink, red, blue and purple had been declared by my classmates many times over. Green.

I didn’t particularly like green and neither did my classmates if the looks of squinty eyed, cocked head stares were any indication. But the looks of judgment were much, much preferred to a disinterested nod that I was the same as everyone else.

I declared green as my favorite color when I was 5 years old and I boldly stuck by that outrageous lie for my entire life. My best friend Bobbi Lee would have items like a purple trapper keeper and her bedroom was painted purple and I would quietly gnash my teeth in unvoiced envy. I learned to like green, I learned to appreciate green, but it is not my favorite color.

But neither is purple. Not anymore. In fact, I don’t actually have a favorite color.

Because the entire Kindergarten-Favorite-Color-Debacle made me realize that the entire idea of favorites is stupid. In the words of my former 5 year old self, “If you like it so much, why don’t you marry it?”

But seriously though. The only thing declaring a favorite anything does is fill your world with obvious and astonishing limitations. It limits your entire life until you live in a nice little box. Ah! I found the mysterious box.

outside the boxA little box we build around children beginning in Kindergarten and then when we are ready to push them out into the world on their own we tell them, “Think outside the box!”

We don’t talk about how we all got in the box. Is it fair to tell them to get rid of the box when we don’t tell them what the box is or how they got there? What box? I’m in a box? How’d I get in a box?

The truth is we all put you in that box unintentionally. Oops. Our bad. Hey kid, you wouldn’t be in the darn box if we hadn’t shoved you into it in the first place. We shoved you there and taped the lid closed.

Why do we ask a 5 year old what their favorite color is when they only know about 8 colors total at that point? Why don’t we just ask them what color they like that day and then take that and show them all sorts of variations on that color and then talk further about how they are all beautiful and wonderful and how many can we see when we look out our window today? And then do it all again the next day with different colors.

I don’t have a favorite color. I don’t have a favorite book. I don’t have a favorite show. I don’t have a favorite song. I don’t have a favorite food. I don’t have a favorite vacation location. Don’t even get me started on having a favorite friend.

friendshipDeclaring that you have a ‘best’ friend might be the cruelest and meanest statement in the history of all oblivious and well meaning statements. When you declare that someone is your best friend, what you are really doing is telling all of your other friends that they didn’t make the cut and they just aren’t as special.

Which is a horrible thing to tell someone you consider your friend. It’s a horrible thing to think, actually. All of my friends are unique and interesting and they each bring something wonderful and enriching to my life. I would never diminish one of them by declaring that one person was my ‘best’ friend.

I don’t think it would have ever occurred to us to rank our friends value if we hadn’t been taught to live in such a small box. We shrunk our world until we can only have one of each thing. My favorite. My best.

PoppyCock! I refuse to live in the box. I refuse to put my children in the box. I vote we burn that stupid box. While we are at it let’s burn the word favorite from our vocabulary as well.

My oldest child approached me a few weeks ago and asked me if I thought her art work was better or her short stories she had been writing. I knew what she was asking. She was asking me which topic I thought she was more talented in so she could discard one and just focus her efforts on what she was ‘best’ at.

purposeI tried my best to burn that box into a pile of smoldering ashes. Sweetheart, you don’t have to choose! You can have it all. Every single bit of life is yours to explore and enjoy. The world is your oyster. Or it can be if you just stay away from the box. That stupid, small, limiting box.

There is no best, there is only the joy of the art. The joy in printing on paper the story in your head for others to read, creating an image for others to see, playing the music for others to enjoy.

Stupid box. Stupid, stupid box. Burn it to the ground. Or better yet, let’s just not build it in the first place.

Thank goodness Mrs. Forsage didn’t call on me first.

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