A crack in the egg
Last week I was in beautiful Boulder, CO for a business trip and visiting my cousin. There are dozens of high end eateries and restaurants, but each time I’m there I have always gone to the same greasy spoon joint for breakfast, the Walnut Cafe, which dubs itself “The Funkiest Place in Town”. I sit at the bar and I’m greeted with friendly faces and some kick-ass coffee (seriously, this place takes there coffee, well… seriously). I tend to order the same thing, with only slight variations (e.g. fruit vs. toast if I’m feeling too gluteny), except for my eggs. I order them “over easy”, which means they are fried on both sides, but the yolk is still runny so you can sop it up with your toast (wheat, of course).
As the eggs arrived last week, I realized that I’ve ordered them this way since I was a kid having them at the NCO club on the air base that my Dad would take my brother and I to. They always had lots of choices there and I usually started out with either pancakes or french toast with Donald Duck orange juice in a can. I still remember the smell of the place and the paltry decorations of the seating area. Dad always ordered his eggs over easy with bacon or sausage. I never understood what this meant at first and thought maybe they were just being gentler with the eggs than if you scrambled them… which in fact you are. OK, sometimes my assumptions are correct.
Sitting at the Walnut Cafe, looking at the eggs on my plate and going on a brief memory roller coaster, my mind wandered off and I began to consider if I even liked the eggs this way. Maybe I wanted them sunny side up! Maybe I want pancakes and not eggs! I was having an eggsistential crisis. (oh, come on! live a little)
I began to ponder what else I might be taking for granted because “I’ve always done it this way”. What else had I picked up from my parents that I just did because I assumed it was the right way? What things had I picked up from life, that I just do because I assumed it was the right way?
I began to see a crack in the egg.
This is no simple matter and I believe it is not an area that many people examine. We find something that works, replicate it with success, and fall asleep for the rest of our lives content with the outcome. Content, not happy.
What other mindless habits do we keep? Even those that serve us well? What are some rules that we live our life by that we’ve grown up with?
- Milk builds strong bones
- OJ has vitamin C so it is good for you
- Say no to drugs
- Nice guys finish last
- The early bird gets the worm
- Curiosity killed the cat
- Don’t quit your day job
For each of these idioms, it’s easy to come up with an alternative that disproves the rule. And yet I’ve lived my life by most of them (and many more!). Enchanted by their simplicity, I’ve used these rules as guardrails making navigating life easier; with a feeling of more control. The rules help the world make sense and more navigable.
Q: Should I stick my hand into this dark hole in the tree?
A: Curiosity killed the cat
Question answered. Done. Go about your business.
Q: What do you think about me chasing my dream of being a _____________?
A: Don’t quit your day job.
Question answered. Done. Go about your business. WAIT! Not so fast. Because I have another question to ask:
Q: When does playing by the old rules limit your potential and keep you playing small?
The answer is left intentionally blank. It’s not so easy to answer this one. There are repercussions. You have responsibilities. Commitments. And there are multiple solutions to this question.
Ultimately, we know the answer to the question but it is buried under a whole-hell-of-a-lot of “what ifs” and old rules. The opportunity that is being presented to us is to acknowledge the beliefs you have had up to this point and are continuing to receive, and asking yourself if they serve you or not. To be awake during your day instead of sleeping through a barrage of questions that have pre-programmed answers. What would the world look like if the list went something like this?:
- Milk has a detrimental effect on your bones
- There is more sugar in OJ than in soda
- There are tremendous benefits to plant based medicine
- Nice guys finish first
- Getting up early has no bearing on what it takes to be successful
- Curiosity is what life is all about
- Quit your day job
Quite a difference, huh?
Mr. Keating jumped and stood on one of the desks in his class and asked: “Why do I stand up here!?” One boy answered sarcastically: “to feel taller”. Mr. Keating replied “No! I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way”.
Time to change the perspective.
Coffee, to go
My eggs are gone, only a little bit of the yellow runny yolk is left on the large white plate. I finish my coffee and without the blink of an eye, they give me a hot coffee to go at no additional charge (I really like this place). I walk out of the door into the crisp Colorado air and stare, mesmerized by the Flatirons that pierce the impossibly blue sky to the West. Adventure. Fear. Energy. There’s just something about this area.
The flavor of coffee in my mouth. A full, warm belly. The buzz of caffeine and thin air.
In the end I realize: I like my eggs over easy. Sure, I’ll eat them fried, or sunny side up, deviled, whatever. But when asked the question, the answer is simple and satisfying:
Q: How do you like your eggs?
A: Over easy.
Question answered. Done. I go about my business.