It was the first day of kindergarten. The room was filled with a flurry of emotions. Some students were excitedly playing with toys in a corner of the room. Others were stretched out on their tip-toes trying to hang their fall jackets on the brass wall hooks. Still others were being forcefully pried from their parent’s legs as they cried and begged to go back home.
It wasn’t until the bell rang, that we all eventually cascaded into our preassigned seats. All our beady eyes stared with anticipation at our teacher, while our fidgeting fingers already began trying to peel our name tags off the corner of our miniature desks.
We were all excited and eager to pull out our books and begin our first lesson. Until the teacher told us to open our books and turn to page 12. Everyone immediately did so and began reading the first sentence together out loud; except for me.
I remember it was at this very moment, my eyes began to grow puffy and uncomfortably warm. The tears began to sting as they streamed uncontrollably down my cheeks.
I only knew how to count up to the number 10. I couldn’t fathom or recognize any number larger than that, since I only had 10 fingers. And I only learned how to count using my now tear-soaked hands.
Feeling overwhelmed by this abstract and unrecognizable number, I mentally shut down. After slamming the book shut and burying my face in my hands in shame, I cried until a teacher’s aid came scurrying to my side.
In the same way that I shut-down and mentally checked-out when confronted with a strange and unfamiliar number, there are so many people in our world who still display this same exact reaction; except they are now adults. And instead of reacting to the number 12, they shut down and are overwhelmed by emotions that they do not recognize or understand.
However, just as the number 12 is a mixture of adding the number 10 with 2, complex emotions are also a combination of multiple basic feelings. Instead of shutting down and naively pretending that all emotions don’t exist, maybe it is finally time to begin expanding our color pallet for emotions.