I totally get what Forrest Gump was trying to say about life being a box of chocolates. Really, I do. It is completely true too; you don’t know what you’re going to get. However, my recent bout of Saturday night boredom provided me with a completely different revelation on the randomness of life…the occasionally annoying lack of predictability even. It was through this unexpected revelation that I found unlikely inspiration and insight in the strangest of places—at the bottom of a 800-piece puzzle pile.
Okay, so I’m not having the most exciting Saturday night this weekend. And maybe I don’t do anything notable on any given Saturday night…not these days, anyway. Given that I don’t have any friends or acquaintances in my new state of residence, I expect to spend quite a few more Saturday nights with extremely limited company. Just me, myself and Netflix, if I’m lucky.
Despite not having had much of anyone to hang out with for the last year or so, I usually find a way to keep myself entertained throughout the weekend. I usually spend time working on one of my many side projects, editing photos, playing PS4, creating something, reading, writing songs, shopping, studying Korean—I have so many fun and fulfilling hobbies. However, this move has put a serious cramp in my style. I’m currently (and temporarily) staying in a corporate condo, so 99.7% of my furniture and personal effects are still sitting in a storage facility back in Illinois.
The good news is that I will be reuniting with my stuff in just a few short weeks. The bad news is that I don’t have access to the tools I use to actually entertain myself. I do have a couple items with me, but after having been here for almost a month now, I’m getting rather tired of the same old, same old. As far as today was concerned, I had a bit of a rough time. My energy was super low and I had an awful headache most of the day, so I couldn’t workout, play games or do the things I actually wanted to do. That’s when I decided it might be fun to pull out one of the puzzles I’d seen collecting dust on one of the living room shelves.
I’ll admit; doing a puzzle on a Saturday night sounds a bit..lame. It’s definitely not as fun as checking out a new restaurant, going to see Black Panther or having cocktails with friends somewhere. You know, everything I’d rather be doing right now. However, I was dead bored. I mean, dead bored. I was so bored, the boredom became contagious and my cat caught it. Not only did I catch her playing behind the television, but she has just decided that being a “vase” on a shelf is 10x more enjoyable than being a regular cat on the floor.
Anyhow, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to revisit activities I once enjoyed back when I was younger. I thought doing so would help me to reconnect with the temperament I had as a child: more imaginative and uninhibited.That being said, I thought that doing a puzzle would be perfect. Although it wasn’t a major part of my life or my favorite childhood activity, it was something I used to do with my grandmother (on my mother’s side) when I’d go to her house on the weekend. She loved puzzles, so I thought it might be nice for me to bust one out and reflect on past memories, you know?
Looking for a bit of a challenge, I ended up picking the hardest of the two; a 500-piece gig featuring a picture of a boardwalk concession stand. Coney Island, or something similar. Dumping the pieces out all across the table, I settled into my seat. I was totally ready to put that thing together. I had some music ready, a candle burning, a cold drink—it was on. Of course, I started by flipping the pieces right side up, setting the edge pieces off to one area as I went along.
Two minutes had hardly gone by before I noticed something was wrong. Sure, the picture had a lot of different colors in it, but I shouldn’t have been seeing puzzle pieces that looked like an acid trip. Here and there, I started finding pieces that had strange psychedelic splotches printed on them. The pieces seemed familiar to me, but for awhile, I couldn’t figure out why. All of a sudden, I realized where they were from—the 300-piece puzzle that remained on the shelf. I went to grab that puzzle box so I could put the trippy mismatched pieces back where they belonged, but wouldn’t you know that it was ALL mixed up too?? There were pieces of both puzzles in both boxes!
I wish you could have seen my face. I was truly disgusted lol. Frustrated, I kept muttering to myself in disbelief, “Who would do such a thing? Who mixes two puzzles together and leaves them like that?!”
Who, indeed. It clearly had to be someone who had previously stayed here, as I hadn’t so much as looked at them until today. Still, I couldn’t understand why anyone would mix two separate puzzles into a 800-piece mess and leave it for someone else to sort through. No matter how bored I had been, I was instantly uninterested in completing the puzzle I’d chosen. However, I couldn’t just leave it a mess. No matter what, I simply couldn’t leave the puzzles improperly sorted.
Immediately, I began to rifle through the contents of both boxes. Concession stand pieces went in one box, acid trip pieces went in another.
All the while, my mind chattered away, “Isn’t this some s—? Here I have nothing else better to do and even this can’t go right. Now, instead of enjoying this dumb puzzle, I’m stuck cleaning up someone else’s mess! My life may as well be one big stupid mess of mixed-up puzzle pieces. Why am I constantly trying to sift through something I never created in the first place?”
And then it hit me. Why am I always trying to clean up and make sense of something someone else devised?
I don’t know if anyone else feels the same way as I do about life. All I can do is tell you how I see things based on the experiences I’ve gone through in the past or currently find myself up against. I guess for me, it sometimes feels like life, as a whole, is just one big joke. A video game. Something someone else sat down and thought up. Maybe they didn’t use the best blueprint ever, but it feels (un)intelligently designed nonetheless. I mean, sure, we have freewill and everything, but have you ever stopped to think about how little we, as individuals, actually control on a grand scale?
We live in homes we didn’t build (usually). We work for companies we didn’t start (normally). We eat food we didn’t grow (typically). We use technology most of us can hardly understand the inner workings of. We tolerate leaders we didn’t vote for. We inhabit a planet most of us will never fully see or appreciate. We are living out the consequences of wars fought before our existence. We are reaping the harvest from seeds of hatred and blatant negligence, which were planted long before we ever had a single breath of life coursing through our bodies.
How much of your life is truly yours?
The vast majority of what we do on a day to day basis has to do with us trying to navigate and simply survive in a cultural and world climate we never personally agreed to. Someone else causes the action. Our “freewill” is often just the reaction.
We are simply born…spat out into the world without a definite guarantee for happiness, success or wellbeing. There is no guidebook, no crash course, no new human orientation meeting. All we can ever do is take a hand or follow in the footsteps of someone else and hope to God that they know what the heck they’re talking about.
Other than that, we’re just scrambling through the pieces we’re given, hoping the next piece we pick up matches the one we’re already holding. Some of us have a perfect puzzle set with no weird mismatched pieces in it…smooth sailing. Other folks might be more like me… with an 800-piece mess they don’t quite know what to do with. We’ve got what the picture should look like, but it takes us longer to put our pictures together due to fumbling through the chaos.
However, if you are like me, and life has mixed all of your puzzle pieces up, that’s okay. It doesn’t mean your puzzle isn’t worth putting together still. It may take you longer and you may feel frustrated by the sorting process, but if you take your time, you’ll eventually get the picture you were meant to have. It may even be better than the person’s next to you.
When I thought of all this, I began to laugh. I was still grossed out by the alarming amounts of brunette hair that was intermingling with the puzzle pieces (still gagging), but I was no longer annoyed by the mixup. Eventually, I was able to sort out the majority of the pieces and return them to their rightful boxes.
Though I didn’t end up putting the puzzle together, I did come up with something (hopefully) interesting to post tonight. Maybe it will help someone, maybe it won’t. At least I know that the next person who tries to put these puzzles together won’t have to go through the hassle I did.
That’s certainly good enough for me.