My 4th grade science teacher, Mr. Armstong, was always trying to get us kids to think outside the box and look at the world through creative eyes.
A favorite memory of mine is when Mr. Armstrong read Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax aloud on Earth Day. His eyes got a little teary, and I learned that there could be something deeper behind a simple story.
One day he stood at the front of the classroom smiling in a mischievous way.
“What color is the sky?” he asked.
“BLUE!” shouted all the students. A few chucked at being asked such a silly question.
“Wrong!” announced Mr. Armstrong. “It’s every color but blue.”
“What color is the grass?” he continued.
There was some hesitation before the students answered, “Green…?”
“No!” said Mr. Armstrong, his eyes wide and excited. “Grass is every color but green.”
That day Mr. Armstrong taught about us about the properties of light, prisms, and refraction. We learned that light is made up of all the colors; it’s not clear.
But when light touches an object, that object “absorbs” the colors within the light that are on the same wavelength as the object. It reflects the color that doesn’t match its wavelength. The color our eyes see is this reflected color.
So, Mr. Armstrong was right. The sky is every color but blue. Grass is every color but green. All things show us the color they are not.
I already understood this concept, but not in the way we were taught that day. At 10 years old, I understood that something at its core could be entirely different than what is reflected out into the world.
I was achingly lonely and depressed, but I pretended that my life was fun and normal just like everyone else’s.
If the sky was every color but blue, then I was every emotion but happy.
Over time, I became quite good at picking out others who were reflecting emotions that they didn’t really feel. People who have been hurt can recognize other people who are hurting.
I generally don’t like comedic movies, but I absolutely love movies where comedians take on dramatic roles. The performance feels so raw and real to me, even though most critics pan these types of movies.
Not every comedian is secretly depressed, but there are a few that remind me of myself. I can watch them acting on the screen, and I just know. And I’m never surprised when they have a nervous breakdown, get divorced, or end up dead in some hotel room.
There are times when I’m chatting with a client, and she’ll tell me how she wants to get organized or productive, and suddenly the phrase “every color but blue” will pop into my head. She might seem calm and focused, but I’ll know that something deeper and uglier will bubble to the surface soon enough (usually by the third call).
My life has changed so much since the time I used to sit in Mr. Armstrong’s class. Every day I feel like I reflect more and more of what’s really inside me and not that fake happiness I used to show.
Check in with yourself and how you feel right now. Are you every color but blue?
Is your reflection to the world accurate of how you feel inside?
In the comments below, share a time when you felt you weren’t being completely authentic.