The Happy Life of a Sedentary Stone

You know those expressions that have been used to the point of incomprehension? The ones that possess an intrinsically potent message, but are often obscured by unclear analogies or metaphors? Let’s take: A rolling stone gathers no moss. When I first heard this expression, I was at a loss at what it meant. I imagined a heavy, gray boulder thundering down a steep slope at full speed, trampling whatever vegetation it came across. Why people constantly obsessed over its destructive path was a mystery to me. Like the boulder, was I expected to quash whatever obstacles that came before me? Would I then be a rolling stone?

After years of wondering about the meaning behind the expression, it occurred to me that I could simply look it up. And so I have: The expression, “A rolling stone gathers no moss,” refers to the idea that a person who does not settle in one place will not accumulate wealth, status, responsibilities, or commitments.” In essence, the moss is representative of worries, promises, and stressors that plague individuals who have chosen to settle in one place. In contrast, those who are constantly on the move don’t allow external forces to burden them with various commitments or responsibilities, leaving them free to do as they please. Hence, the idea: a rolling stone gathers no moss.

However, upon considering the implications of this well-worn expression, I’ve realized that I’m not cut out for life as a rolling stone. Perpetually tumbling down a steep slope, the hefty boulder is sure to live a life full of freedom, excitement, and movement, one without a moment of dull pause. And yet, such a glorious lifestyle does not come without a cost. For in their constant efforts to propel themselves forward, these individuals can never appreciate what is before them because they’re always in search of something else.

Whether it be loyal friends, loving family, a beautiful sunset, or a garden at full bloom, all will be nothing more than a pleasant and dizzying blur for the perpetual traveler. After enjoying a brief respite for several days, the rolling stone’s mind will once again become restless.

Where to next? Where to next? the troubled rock anxiously thinks to itself. Alas, it is doomed to seek the evanescent happiness that comes from unfamiliar places.

This place is nice and all, but I gotta get going. It’s starting to get boring. Same faces. Same trees. Same scenery. Maybe I should move to New York. That’d be interesting. Or maybe California. Oh, Florida sounds nice!

And while the rolling stone is sure to have a great number of adventures in its harried path forward, it will always find itself in the same conundrum-agonizing boredom with the friendly familiar and a burning desire for the unknown. But the rolling stone doesn’t know that longstanding contentment does not arise from exploring the external, but appeasing the internal.

What do I mean by that? The source of our fatigue with the familiar is not the shortcomings in our environment, but a void in ourselves. A void that we strive to fill with glittering distraction of the new and intriguing. But once the sheen of the exciting unknown is replaced by the dull coating of the ordinary, we again fall into despair.  We are unaware that this void has been generated by unrealistic expectations and the misguided conception that there is always something better somewhere else.

In contrast, those of us who have chosen to forgo the bustling life of the rolling stone have chosen a place to settle. Sure, we’ve collected the heavy moss of commitments and responsibilities over the years, but look at our stability! While we also enjoy the new and unknown, we take heart in the fact that there is always a home waiting for us. That we are always tethered to a place that’s safe, welcoming, and familiar.

In essence, while the life of a rolling stone may seem glorious and enthralling to some, it’s certainly not for me. Regardless of where I roam, home is my distant anchor, always providing a sense of security and substantial support. Looking back at my discourse, it seems that I’ve embraced the happy life of a sedentary stone.

Spicy Stereotype- PART I

Ring of Fire
Many of us view stereotypes as profoundly negative, viewing them as largely offensive or derogatory perceptions of a certain class of individuals.  But the official definition of stereotype is, “a widely held, but fixed image or idea of a particular type of person,” which could be positive, negative, or neutral. While I’m sure you’re aware of a number of positive and negative stereotypes, what about the neutral ones? The ideas that are associated with a certain group of people that don’t necessarily cause offense or self-satisfied pleasure? For instance, take the neutral stereotype that all Indians enjoy immensely spicy food.

As an Indian who doesn’t enjoy incredibly spicy food,  I must say that this perception does not apply to the entire Indian demographic. Don’t be too surprised. Perhaps it’s because my parents never induced me to build a resistance to extreme spice, consistently feeding me the milder of Indian cuisine as a child. But I don’t really blame them.

I’ve never enjoyed unreasonably spicy food, finding that it obscures the taste. Indeed, my aversion to hot and spicy food has only been strengthened with multiple visits to Indian restaurants and the homes of well-meaning relatives.

I remember once my parents and I were drawn to Paradise Biryani Pointe, an Indian restaurant that unsurprisingly specialized in biryani. In spite its simple nature, a mixed rice dish filled with vegetables, spices, and meat, my father’s colleagues were all abuzz for it.

“Oh really you must go with your family!”

“Their biryani is incredible!”

“Yes, yes! The rice! The vegetables! The spices!”

Not one to shirk the experience of excellent cuisine, my dad took my mother and me to the illustrious restaurant the next weekend.

Excited to finally try the evidently heavenly mixture of rice and vegetables, we ordered a plate of vegetarian biryani to split amongst ourselves. Aware of my painfully low tolerance, my parents had even asked for the “Level 1” spice option. Slightly embarrassed for my chronic aversion to heat, I shrunk in my seat.

In spite of my own insecurity, my parents and our waiter thankfully took no notice of me. Taking a few quick notes, the waiter promptly nodded and rushed to the kitchen.

Will the biryani be as good as Anusha’s father’s friends say? Will the food set her heart or tongue on fire? Find out tomorrow. To be continued…

Fruitless Endeavor- PART II

Well, I Never…
Previously on Fruitless Endeavor: Young, impressionable Anusha has her heart set on growing a mango tree in the colder climate of the eastern United States. Will she finally succeed? Will her wish for an enormous, fruit-bearing tree finally be granted? Let’s find out…

The next day, I woke up especially early to plant the mango seed. As I gently placed it into the soil of a flowerpot, I realized that this would be the start of something beautiful. A great and long lasting friendship between girl and mango seed. I imagined me several years from now as an adult, standing at the base of an enormous tree and looking up at in pride.

After several weeks of daily watering, singing to coax the sapling from the ground, taking the flower pot on walks with me, and a whole lot of other nonsense, a bright green shoot burst through the crumbling soil. I was thrilled.

My little mango seed has begun its growth! Now it is only a matter of time before it becomes a tree, I thought excitedly.

I continued to love and tenderly care for the juvenile sapling for the rest of that summer, until I realized that the days were getting colder and shorter. I found that my little plant was wilting in spite of the fact that I had kept it indoors for warmth.

As the days went by, it continued to droop further and further, until it finally hit the ground. My lovely, little mango sapling had died.

Unable to withstand the loss of my little plant, I wept for countless hours, burying my face into my mother’s shirt.

How could this happen! He was so young! I was doing everything right! A fresh burst of tears broke from my eyes. Like most tragedies that occur at a young age, however, the wound has healed with time, and Harry the hairy mango seed became nothing more than a distant memory.

In terms of learning from this tragic experience,  I would advise my friends to never try to cultivate a tropical plant in a colder environment. Do not get emotionally attached to your plants. And don’t count your mangoes before your sapling grows into a tree. It’s a fruitless endeavor.

Establishing a Monopoly

Competition
Preferring diplomacy over victory, I’m generally not very competitive. You know the type of people who turn as red as ripe tomatoes from participating in a certain activity or sporting event? The ones who are filled with the burning desire to crush their opponents into the ground? The ones that will not rest until they return victorious? Yeah, not me.

Most of the things that I enjoy doing don’t require an aggressive display or quick wit to best my opponent. For instance, I don’t need to wrest a pencil out of someone’s hand to write my thoughts down. Or when I’m at the library, I don’t have to race to the nearest bookshelf to ensure that I secure the highest-quality literature. Like I said, doesn’t really happen.

In spite of my generally easy-going nature, there is one activity that gets me particularly fired up. What is it? Something actually hardcore? you may be asking yourself. Is it boxing? No. Far too much blood. Wrestling? Eh, doesn’t really appeal to me either. Football? In spite of all of the hype it receives, I can’t bring myself to sit down and watch it. Then what?! What could possibly inspire a competitive streak from you! Monopoly.

No really, I’m being entirely serious. Monopoly, the popular board game that promotes the expansion of monopolistic firms on several colorful squares, is enough to make me shout over other players, tauntingly wave my Monopoly money in the air, obsessively hoard property cards, and secretly confer with some of my opponents to gain a monetary advantage.

My intense zeal for Monopoly started innocently enough. Striving to establish a sort of game night, my parents and I had gathered around a classic Monopoly board one evening. We picked out our silver coated pieces and immediately started a game up, each rolling to see how far we would go.

As a novice, I made numerous mistakes that would make a seasoned player groan in exasperation. For instance, in efforts to amass a large quantity of Monopoly money, I obstinately refused to purchase whatever estates I landed on. Reading railroad? Wow, that’s expensive. Who needs it? I tossed the opportunity to make an extraordinary amount of money aside. The Electric Company? Nah. Waterworks? Someone else can have that.

It was only after I had paid my parents a fortune in Monopoly dollars did I begin to understand the concept of the game. In order to be financially successful and collect from other players, I would have to invest in public property. I would have to sacrifice a little money in the present in order to receive greater returns in the future. Investment! The notion struck me like lightning.

From that moment on, I began purchasing property like a fiend. Boardwalk? You’re mine! Marvin Gardens! New York Avenue! St. Charles Place! I felt the Monopoly bills flying from my hands in my mindless efforts to reimburse the bank.

Just as I was on the verge of declaring board game bankruptcy, something miraculous occurred. My mother landed on my electric company.

Wide-eyed and grinning, I asked her for my $120, which she grudgingly handed over. I’d just had my first taste of financial success, and that was something I wouldn’t let go of very easily.

About an hour later, I had made a surprising comeback, having piles of Monopoly money at my feet. While I did feel a little bad for taking money from my parents, wasn’t the entire point of the game to establish a monopoly?

Perpetual Fatigue

Finite Creatures
Whenever I consider the metaphysical concepts of death and aging, I like to think of the story of Buddha’s enlightenment. Residing in Northern India from the 6th to 4th century B.C., Gautama was once an opulent prince of South Nepal (“Buddha.”). As such, he lived a life of tremendous luxury and personal comfort, completely oblivious to the trials and tribulations that lay just outside the palace doors. One day, however, the young prince decided to become better acquainted with his future subjects and visit the capital city. As he made his way through the bustling streets, Gautama came across an elderly man, withered by age and disease. Having never grasped the concept of mortality and the inevitability of death, Gautama was shocked by his appalling discovery.

However, upon being suddenly seized with a passion for knowledge, Gautama left the comforts of his palace, choosing instead the perilous path to enlightenment. While I could never claim to know more about life’s inherent truths than Gautama, I’ve never been a stranger to the concept of mortality. I’ve never shrieked at the sight of a wrinkled visage, nor I have I been stunned by the presence of the ill. As a child, I was often exposed to the presence of the elderly. So the idea that all life has an expiry date has never been very new to me.

And yet, the potency of this knowledge has only grown stronger with time and experience. The evanescent, but beautiful nature of youth and life really struck me when I began volunteering at the dementia unit at a senior assisted living center.

As a volunteer, I perform a variety of helpful tasks to make the residents’ lives a little bit easier. This includes gentle back massages, engaging in conversation, solving puzzles together, playing board games, doing their nails, reading to them, using the hand-under-hand technique to feed them, and fetching them things from their rooms.

One day, Miss Ester was shivering slightly from the full blast of the air conditioning. However, being bound to her wheelchair and unable to communicate, she couldn’t express her evident discomfort. Recognizing the situation, one of the caregivers gently touched my shoulder and asked me to run to Miss Ester’s room to get a blanket.

Glad to oblige her, I quickly made my way to Miss Ester’s room before pausing at her front door. What I saw nearly knocked the breath out of me. It was a collection of Miss Ester’s pictures from her youth.

Having only seen Miss Ester with glazed eyes, fixated on a distant oblivion, I was startled to see them suddenly bright and in focus. Wearing a stylish sunhat and hefting a cherry red purse, she must have been around twenty in the photograph. I looked to the photo right beside it to see a young Miss Ester standing with her church choir, grinning broadly as she did so. Although I couldn’t confer with the woman in the image, I knew that she was intelligent, genial, and independent. I knew that she was the kind of woman who was invited to all sorts of social occasions just for her presence. Observing the lustrous black locks that tumbled to her shoulders, I was suddenly shocked by the image of the few gray wisps that now remained.

At that moment, I thought about how any of us might share Miss Ester’s fate. In spite of how invulnerable, exuberant, and immortal we may feel at present, it is all but a happy illusion. A  fleeting virtue of youth.

When I first had this existential revelation, I was plagued by a sense of grief, anger, and apathy. What’s the point of it all if we’re all destined to go at some point? Why bother dreaming about attaining a certain profession or bettering my status in life? How does it matter anyway if it’s so short?

But after several hours of agonizing introspection, I came to a new conclusion. It is because of the immense unpredictability and brevity of life that we must strive to achieve and better ourselves. We have to make the most out of whatever time we’ve been given, so that when we’ve reached the perpetual fatigue of old age, we can say we’ve done it all.

Candid Conversation

P.C.
Political correctness is similar to smearing thick face paint on a grotesque visage, failing to obscure the offensive in a polite guise. The definition of political correctness is “the practice of using speech that conforms to liberal or radical opinion by avoiding language that may cause offense to social minorities.”

While the idea behind political correctness may be to eradicate speech that contains offensive or pernicious implications, it only perpetuates it in a euphemistic guise. Not only that, but by constantly being enforced and practiced by “polite” society, we make it far harder for individuals who aren’t acquainted with the “appropriate” speech to participate in the discussion.

In my efforts to convey my frustration with political correctness, I will discuss the linguistic treatment of the elderly, or the old,  or the senior citizens of our community. At the moment, I believe “seniors” is the politically correct term.

With this in mind, imagine the following circumstances. You’re at work huddled around the water cooler with your fellow colleagues, discussing your views on current political, social, and cultural issues in hushed tones. Then striving to express himself, Frank expresses a rational view but accidentally inserts, “old people” and stops himself, painfully aware of the fact that he has just uttered something politically incorrect. Now this wouldn’t be such an issue if your coworker, Jerry, who is well over fifty years of age, is also participating in the same discussion. All of a sudden, there is tension in the air. Fearful of the fact that he has offended Jerry, Frank awkwardly gulps and changes the subject.

Looking at this painfully awkward discussion, I’m not saying we should be insensitive in our daily discourse, but we certainly should be given the freedom to be honest. By constantly updating the list of words that are socially taboo, we are increasingly hindered in our conversations.

I sincerely wish that the subject of the elderly were the only topic that were censored by political correctness, but it’s not. There’s a whole slew of controversial issues that people struggle to discuss for fear of using the incorrect terminology: Affirmative action, illegal immigration, the United States’ relationship with Middle Eastern nations.

As the intelligent and sensitive individuals that we are, I ask that we be allowed to discuss profound social issues in an open and sincere manner. Why can’t we tolerate politically incorrect speech for the sake of candid conversation? In essence, we should place more emphasis on what we’re saying as opposed to how we’re saying it.

Little Beyoncé

Always Something There to Remind Me
Cringing at the thought of makeup, despising dresses, hiding under baggy T-shirts, and seething with insecurity, I was a terribly unglamorous child. As a matter of fact, I still struggle to fathom cosmetics and how to correctly apply them. Sure, I could simply Google makeup tutorials, but not without becoming lost in the various maneuvers I must make to paint my face.

Luckily for little Anusha, she had two incredible and worldly cousins, who were only a few years older than she was. Having no immediate siblings of my own, these two very quickly filled the void. In fact, I have such strong emotional ties with them that I struggle to refer to them as “cousins”, feeling more comfortable with “sisters”.

More than knowing a thing or two about makeup, singing, and style, these girls were all about confidence, something that I distinctly lacked at the time. Not ones to simply lecture about the subject, they actually put it into practice.

How might they have done that? Well, they put me in one of their finest dresses, gave me a stunning makeover, and had me lip-sync Beyoncé’s “Listen” while they recorded my performance. While that may sound like a creative form of torture to some, they actually had legitimate reasons for making me do it.

By having me adopt an extravagantly glamorous appearance, they encouraged me to think and feel like a superstar. Whether I had makeup, my hair done, or a lovely dress on, they taught me to always carry myself with confidence, dignity, and respect. As the little Beyoncé that I was, I was reminded to never let myself succumb to crippling insecurity and self-doubt.

Why did they film my performance? Well, it makes great footage. Honestly, I had a difficult time keeping myself from smiling as I watched an eleven-year-old version of me mock belting the lyrics to Beyoncé’s “Listen”. With my eyes passionately closed throughout and my mouth open far too wide on some of the words, I truly looked hysterical.

Years later, upon fortuitously hearing the song on the radio, I was overcome by the memory of passionately lip-syncing it. I remember my crippling self-doubt as an early adolescent, and the strange, but effective way my sisters eradicated it. So thank you, Beyoncé, Priya Didi, and Shubha Didi. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Too Great of a Price

Advantage of Foresight
As you’re stumbling through your dusty attic, scouring for valuables you could potentially market on eBay, you come across a withered monkey’s paw. But before you begin screaming and hurl it out the nearest window, something stops you. You remember your grandparents telling you that there was something magical about this frightening artifact; it could grant wishes.

Skeptical of its power, you hold the grotesque object for a few seconds before whimsically wishing for something. Certain that it would be a useful gift, you whisper, “I wish I could predict the future.” A loud clap of thunder echoes across the sky, and you realize that your wish has been fulfilled.

But the vile monkey’s paw does not operate without a price. Indeed, for every time you peek into the future, you lose a day of your life. Pretty awful, right? You probably should’ve thrown it out of the window when you had the chance.

If I were in this absurd and confounding situation, I’d strive to forget that I had the power at all. Alas, this would be the best way to prevent my future use of my destructive power in a moment of anxious weakness. What exactly do I mean by that?

Suppose I was on the verge of taking a major exam that could dictate the course of my academic career, let’s say the MCAT. But just before, I could eliminate whatever anxiety I was experiencing by simply looking into the future. If I were to receive an excellent grade, I would confidently take the exam, knowing that success was to be the only result. If I received a dismal or average score, I would take the exam in hopes of improving or reversing what was to be.

But alas, the result of such an action would be a day less of my life, something too precious to lose. While it may be very self-important to say so, every day my heart beats, my eyes open, and my brain processes reality, is invaluable. To me, time is the most valuable commodity, not mineral riches or the evanescent praise of others. While I could get tremendous global recognition and fame for my ability to predict the future, just imagine the mortal cost! My reasoning lies in this: How am I to enjoy material pleasures, such as diamonds and gold, if I’m not around to see them?

In spite of my tremendous power, I wouldn’t be able to forfeit a day of my life to use it. Because every day is an opportunity for change, betterment, beauty, and love. And quite honestly, the ability to predict the future is vastly overrated.

Though at times we may be frightened or perplexed by the future’s uncertainty, we must continue moving forward, always hoping for the better rather than worse. If one claims that he could reverse some catastrophe that is to occur using preventative measures, I’d quote, “A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.” Not one to plagiarize, I must say that was from Jean de La Fontaine.

Yes, it’s a pessimistic outlook, but it’s also realistic. Why strive to lead ourselves away from a potential future when it’s coming straight for us? That being said, if we know that we currently tread a dangerous path, we should take preventative measures. But we don’t have to look into the future to have an idea of where we’re headed.

In essence, after having been granted the ability to tell the future, I would never use it if it meant losing a day of my life. It’d just be too great of a price to pay.

Timed Writing Assignment

After spending twenty minutes analyzing James Joyce’s confounding use of the English language and its overall literary purpose, I held my throbbing head in my hands. What does it all mean? Why doesn’t he connect his ideas and anecdotes with transitions? What is a “moocow”? As my muddled peers and I struggled to find meaning in Joyce’s work, we looked to our teacher in pleading desperation.

“What he mean by all of this?” I asked bewildered, gesturing to the pages of my open book.

“Actually, I was hoping you could tell me,” she said in a voice that instilled panic and fear in the hearts of students.

At her ominous words, I felt my pulse begin to quicken. No, no, no. She can’t be doing this. It’s a Friday. There was no way we were about to do a-

“Timed writing assignment,” my teacher beamed as she said the vile words.

A collective gasp issued from the class. Those of us brave enough to question the system immediately objected.

“But we haven’t had enough time. We hardly understand what Joyce is saying. How could we write an essay-”

“You have forty minutes starting….now,” she hit the timer button on her phone, effectively silencing all cries of protest.

I stared at the prompt she had just passed in front of me.

“How do Joyce’s use of rhetorical strategies, such as metaphor, point of view, syntax, and imagery, contribute to the meaning of the work as a whole?”

“How am I suppose to know what Joyce was going for?” I muttered under my breath.

In spite of my initial reluctance, I managed to organize my chaotic thoughts into a fairly cohesive essay. As always, I was writing until the very last minute, struggling to add a strong concluding sentence with only fifteen seconds left.

With just seconds to spare, I finished the essay and slammed the pencil on my desk with resounding finality.  I had done it. Although the veritable quality of my writing and ideas had been questionable, I had something to show for my efforts. I held the loose-leaf paper that I had furiously scribbled on with the utmost reverence.

At the sudden beeping of the timer, several students lost in their essays jumped in their chairs.

“Time’s up,” my teacher resolutely called.

Eager to forget whatever drivel we had just written, we quickly passed our papers to the front, muttering amongst ourselves about how difficult the prompt had been.

Having amassed the fruits of our labor in a plastic bin, our teacher briefly turned to look at the clock before saying, “Class is almost over. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Anxious about the essay she’d just written, a girl in the front asked, “When will you have them graded?”

I cringed. Teachers despised being asked that question. What was she thinking?

As I had expected, our teacher grimaced a little before answering, “I was actually planning on starting now.”

Although she was still smiling, her voice had taken a cool, steely tone, one that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

Her eyes still fixed on the student, our teacher drew a small match from the inside of her purse.

She grinned at all of us, showing off her perfect teeth.

“This should be an enlightening experience for all of us,” she said with an unsettling laugh.

With a flick of her wrist, she struck the match and produced a brilliant flame. After admiring it for several moments, she quickly tossed it into the pile of essays we had so arduously written.

We watched in horror as the brilliant white sheets of lined paper quickly blackened in the flames.

“How about this? Whichever one burns the brightest gets an A!” she asked us frenziedly, her head turned at an unnatural angle.

I was at a loss for words. Someone had to do something. Call the police. Put out the fire. Get a psychiatrist. Something. Our teacher had just gone berserk. But I was so shocked at what happened that I found it hard to move.

“What’s the matter, Anusha? Something wrong?” my teacher asked in a derisive, patronizing tone. Once smooth, beautiful, and kindly, our teacher’s face contorted into something grotesque and ghoulish. Her eyes glowed an unnatural yellow, becoming two venomous orbs that demanded. A forked tongue darted in and out of her mouth.

Unable to withstand the intensifying heat, fear, anxiety, and abject terror I was experiencing, I awoke with a start. Wiping the cool perspiration from my forehead, I breathed a sigh of mingled shock and relief.

I knew writing essays had been difficult before, but I’d never known it could be deadly.

Nightmares

Hippopotamus Dreams- PART II

Ballerina Fireman Astronaut Movie Star
Previously on Hippopotamus Dreams: Young, impressionable Anusha has just revealed to her parents her burning desire to become a hippopotamus.What will they say? Will she finally succeed? Let’s find out…

At my startling confession, there were a few moments of stunned silence.

“A hippopotamus?” they asked, cocking their heads at me as if I was the strangest child alive.

“Yes.” I answered timidly, afraid of what they might be thinking.

“Why?” my mum pressed.

“Well-they’re big and strong and can fight off crocodiles!  They also don’t have to worry about school like I do. And to top it off, they live a whopping forty years in captivity. Forty years!” I stressed, striving to impress upon them the beauty of life as a hippopotamus.

My parents quickly looked at each other before bursting into laughter.

What? Why are they laughing at me? I have just discussed a profound and legitimate desire with them. What brings them such amusement?

At my indignant confusion, my parents laughed even harder, making me all the more incensed.

“What is it?” I asked, confused and angered by their sudden mirth.

Realizing that her child could not see her own folly, my mum’s laughter briefly subsided.

“You said hippopotamuses could live up to forty years in captivity?”

“Yes,” I replied resolutely.

“But couldn’t you live up to one hundred years as a human?” she asked me, straining to conceal her smile.

I was taken aback by her logic, and struggled to find a fitting response. Sixty extra years. Wow, I really hadn’t thought about that.

“But hippos’ lives are simple and easy. They do whatever they want,” I answered after a few moments of introspective pause.

“Yes, but hippos can’t see the beauty in little things. They can’t solve trying problems. They can’t build warm and comfortable homes that protect them from the elements,” my mum answered, gesturing outside to the drizzling rain.

They would just have to sit in that,” I muttered pensively.

Sensing that she had finally won the intellectual battle, my mum finished grinning, “Wouldn’t you much rather be a doctor?”

Realizing the futility in my endeavor to become a hippopotamus, I grudgingly nodded. Becoming a doctor did seem to be vastly more realistic.

Looking back on it, I realize that my fleeting fantasy of becoming a hippopotamus was untenable for several reasons. The largest one being my inability to shape shift into different species. I was born a human and so I shall stay a human. The farthest I could have gone with my obsession would be to become a hippo enthusiast or to form an interest group.

The physical impossibility of my dream aside, I also don’t believe that I’d ever come to truly enjoy life as a hippopotamus. They can never hope to be more than what they are, hippopotamuses. Their lives are so simple that they can’t aspire for anything else. They can’t hope. They can’t dream. Their primary goal in life is to survive another day and put food into their systems. They only satiate their immediate needs. Whereas humans are full of promise at every stage. We can become doctors, engineers, lawyers, teachers, scientists, artists, anything! We have so much potential, and I couldn’t even see it when I was blinded by my fantastic hippopotamus dreams.