I have the guy who sold me kale one time in college to thank for one of my more important personal growth moments. Here is the progression: I interviewed him as part of my responsibilities for a club I was a part of. He talked about the fact that he grew vegetables on a farm. It was November, and I needed vegetables. Kale is one of a few vegetables that grows in Michigan in November. I do not particularly love kale, but when I texted him for veggies, and he said he had kale, I did not want to be the ungrateful person who won’t accept that, miraculously, something green has grown in Michigan in November. I bought some.
I met him at the university coffee shop to pick up the kale I only kind of wanted, and he stayed to chat for a while. I asked good questions about his interesting farm life, his interesting interest in books, etc. I successfully got him to stay and talk about himself for half an hour, after which he paused and asked/stated, (paraphrase) “I haven’t really learned anything about you. We’ve been talking about me this entire time.”
Which, of course, was my exact plan for the conversation. Not consciously, but at the time that was my move. I’d ask questions, nod and make good eye contact, thus fading myself out of the conversation because I thought that’s probably what people wanted. I have my kale guy to thank for being the first person to explicitly tell me that I was allotted a whole half of a conversation, and I wasn’t taking up my fair share, and that someone wished I would.
I found that I couldn’t find something to say, and the conversation quickly fizzled. The whole thing unnerved me. I mean, really – a complete stranger asked me to tell about me and my mind went blank. I don’t think it was for lack of knowing. I think I was aware of some things that I liked and that I didn’t, of what I believed about some things, and who my friends were. I think the issues was that I was out of practice when it came to acting on those things in front of people. Somewhere, I had picked up the idea that I, and what I thought and loved and did, was about as relevant and important as an automated telemarketing call, or something equally bland and ineffective.
(This is a lie.)
It feels healing to do things that remind me that things about me matter. These things are very small: doing what I like for simply that purpose (not because it’s useful, helpful, logical), saying what I think to other people, making a decision, saying no to things and saying yes. In one way or another, being who I am in front of people, on purpose. It’s empowering.
I’m lucky to have picked up a new belief, too, through various books and podcasts and parts of the Bible that I’ve found myself thinking about since the kale guy conversation. Being who I am in front of people, on purpose, doesn’t only make me feel confident and empowered; I believe it’s sacred. (Let me acknowledge, for a second, that it feels bold to declare THIS IS WHAT I BELIEVE IS SACRED from my kitchen in my pajamas with only my bachelor’s degree in psychology to officially back up my Bible-reading authority. Regardless,) Here’s what I know: if I believe that God made me on purpose, and made me the way I am on purpose, and is powerful and in-charge enough to understand and coordinate the world, it makes sense for me to trust that he was on to something when he made me.
I mean, imagine being God and having made someone the way you wanted to – and knowing you’d gotten it right, and having it all laid out as far as what would happen to and around them that would just fit with your plan for who they were. I imagine so much joy as he watches the times when I embrace that. And I picture a sad-tinged voice saying “If only you knew” while I hide out thinking that things about me don’t matter, or are really all wrong. I think that finding out who I am, and being that person in the presence of God, is an act of worship and trust all by itself.
Which, by the way, is exactly the point I think the kale guy was trying to make.