Christine Poling
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Fragile Contents

Handle with care.

Some things survived, some did not.

Wouldn't it figure?

I specifically included (in bold letters) the word "FRAGILE" on my box of items from around the world. I carefully bubble-wrapped each individual, delicate possession with utmost precision and said a prayer with each piece of tape enclosure.

The items (or as some would label, "knick knacks") have a story behind each one.

Porcelain that my brother brought me from Japan.

A memorial plate from 9/11.

An actual boomerang from Australia.

About a hundred shot glasses from any where you can think of.

Glass, porcelain, paper thin fans from South Korea.

Surely the movers will see the bold lettering on the box and treat my belongings with the same love and care. No doubt they will understand the individuality that each item has and that no dollar amount could replace the invaluable piece if it were to become damaged.

Five hundred-fifty miles and six months of storage later, my husband handed me this box from the storage facility. He'd found it underneath a box of encyclopedias.

With his head hanging and his shoulders slumped, he knew how I would react. In hindsight, I could see the gears of his brain synchronizing as they conjured up a way of preparing me for the emotional battering that I would receive the moment I laid eyes on that box.

My hand flew up to my mouth as I gaped at the crushed box in horror.

Isn't life a lot like the fragile contents encased in a weak box crushed underneath the weight of the world's expectations?

We have kids, spouses, loved ones, careers, activities, possessions, bank accounts, health, social media, friends, situations, mortgages, proms, weddings...I can guarantee that a book could be filled with at least one thing that you could point out as being a part of your life.

The amount of time and effort that we place on each pinnacle of our lives doesn't always equate to perfection. We work, perfect, and refine what we think we have control over in hopes of receiving fanfare or to result in the perfect ending.

But what if we go into this life not expecting perfection?

For someone with a controlling personality, like myself, the thought of anything less than perfect creates a bubble of anxiety in my chest.

Perfection is not always a strength of character. Perfection can be a weakness.

Ouch.

So what? If you've made it this far into the article, you're probably wondering what perfection has to do with a damaged box and its fragile contents?

It has to do with a lot, actually.

The contents are us. They equal our lives. Our kids, careers, bank accounts, band competitions, etc. That’s an easy one. We bubble-wrap and neatly place each item into a spot where we know they’re taken care of and entrusted with the handlers.

The movers are our handlers. The teachers, bankers, directors, and our bosses. Keep that thought in the back of your head.

That box represents our expectations. The strong, four corners with clear markings and strong tape hold our lives in place. We expect the handlers to know that the markings express our expectations for them and how they handle our goods.

Remember how the box became crushed in the first place? It was stored under a box of encyclopedias. Yes, we are that family who still read the print version of Google. Do you see where I’m going? The encyclopedias are the expectations of the world.

I’m not blaming the handlers in this situation. The fragile box was inadvertently placed under one of the heaviest boxes we packed.

The blame needs to be placed on the expectations. We value ourselves based on how the world sees us.

But I’m going to let you in on a little insider.

It does not matter how the world sees us. You are unique. You are not going to live up to the absolute perfection that the world expects you to.

And that is ok. You don’t have to.

You do not have to live up to the expectations of the world.

After the initial shock of seeing the crushed box, my husband gently set it on the ground. I dropped to my knees and in a frenzy began tearing away at the tape.

Quickly, I unwrapped the first item. It was a porcelain plate from Japan, part of a sushi dinner set. It went unscathed. The second item, however, was a commemorative shot glass from the 1996 Olympics in Sydney. It was shattered. And so went the pattern for a number of items.

No matter how much bubble wrap we put on our lives, sometimes things get shattered. Some things can be replaced, while others cannot. Some things just need to be let go of.

Hold tight to your loved ones and assure them that they are unique and loved. And that the world’s expectations are not where they need to place their self-worth and value.

Hold tight, but be willing to let them go.

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