A few weeks ago, I posted an essay called “It’s Easy to Convince Yourself That an Opportunity Has Passed Forever, But That Doesn’t Mean You’re Right.”
In it, I write about about stumbling upon one of those DIY crystal-growing kits while I’m out shopping for presents and remembering how much I wanted one as a kid, asking for it several Christmases in a row but never receiving one (since my mom wasn’t that keen on giving me science-themed gifts). I’m hit with a wave of nostalgia about it, but as much as I want one, I’m hesitant to buy the kit, since in my mind that ship has sailed. I’m also worried that it’s silly to want it. And I suspect that the results will disappoint me.
But my shopping companion urges me to, and so I do. And a few days later, I prepare it:
I mix a packet of monoammonium phosphate powder in warm water. Pour it over a granite rock. Cover it with a lid for an hour, and then the lid comes off. I set the mixture aside in a safe place. In a week or two, I’ll have crystals.
I tried to follow the included directions as closely as I could. But it’s possible that I screwed up somehow. And it’s also possible that my kit is low quality, a dud.
It’s possible that the experiment will be underwhelming, a disappointment. I’m almost certain that it won’t look as good as the pictures in the box, and certainly not as impressive as what I imagined it’d be like when I was a little kid.
But I’m doing it. Even though I convinced myself it would never happen.
By itself, picking up the crystal kit is a tiny thing. Trivial. But it occurs to me that I likely have dozens of things that I’m telling myself I can’t do that aren’t so trivial. Ones that are much bigger opportunities that I’ve convinced myself have passed, that I think are lost forever.
And now that I’m looking for them, those opportunities that I’ve convinced myself have passed, I think I’ll recognize that feeling when it happens again. That angst, that conflict, that paralysis. And maybe the next time I feel it, I’ll be a little more likely to realize that I’m full of it when I tell myself that it’s impossible.
Maybe I’ll be a little more likely to realize that there’s still time.
And that nothing is stopping me but my own fear that I’ll screw it up or it won’t be as good as I hoped it would be.
The Kit Worked. I Grew Crystals.
A mere two days later, and things start happening. It’s subtle at first. Just a tiny ridge of crystals rising up from the tallest rock, looking a bit like the crest of bony plates on a stegosaurus. But as the days go on, the ridge grows and expands. By the end of the cycle, it’s a monstrous asymmetrical blob of crystals. It reminds me of the behemoth at the end of Akira.
Does it look like the box? No, not really.
But is it cool? Definitely.
I show the finished product to Justin. He tells me that the odd shape I’m seeing might be from other elements in the tap water. “Next time you can use distilled water or something.”
“Next time?” I say.
He nods. There are other kits I could try, he says. “Or maybe we’ll order the raw components and you can do something from scratch. Make your own special kit.”
“Wouldn’t that be silly if I started growing a bunch of crystals? As a hobby?” I say.
“Why would that be silly?” he asks me.
It’s Not Silly to Want Things
I don’t have a good answer. It occurs to me as I stand there without one that somewhere along the way I learned that wanting something for myself wasn’t a good enough reason to go for it. That I learned to dismiss my own desires as frivolous.
I always needed external justification to pursue things, especially to do something over and over again. A productive purpose.
I couldn’t do things just because they made me happy.
I could tell Justin this, but I know that he would find this truly silly. So instead I keep it to myself.
“You know,” I say aloud. “I guess it’s not silly.”
It’s easy for me to say, but it’s something that I hope with time I’ll come to really believe. Because I want to.
That’s always tricky, bridging the gap between something you want to believe and actually believing it.