There’s a bit of a green thing going on as I write this. Today, as is fairly normal for me, I’m working in the Green Library at Stanford University, named not because it’s painted green but after Cecil Green, a wealthy British-born geophysicist and philanthropist who was one of the founders of Texas Instruments.
As is my normal routine now, I got an early train from Redwood City to Palo Alto, then hopped on the free shuttle which delivers people all over the vast Stanford campus, and it was on the bus that I witnessed the second of today’s green phenomena.
Seated just across from me was a youngish man, fairly conservatively but fashionably dressed, and with a face you’d probably describe as friendly-looking, on his lap a book about children’s education.
And here’s the thing. All ten of his fingers sported bright green nail polish.
Now this sight triggered two related but quite different reactions in me.
The first was a ‘wow, that’s unusual – an otherwise fairly conventional-looking guy, but with green nails’ kind of thing, which probably says just as much about my own (perhaps a bit boringly conservative) mindset as it does about his decision to sport decorated digits.
But my second thought was maybe more interesting, more along the lines of noticing how very unbothered he seemed about being on the bus with (unusually for a man) brightly painted fingernails.
In short, he seemed utterly comfortable and at home with who he was, and that to me felt like a big lesson.
Let’s imagine, for instance, that you happen to be going through a patch of low mood or depression – just as I do from time to time. It’s easy to see why you might dislike yourself for being like this, and you could easily believe that others are also taking a dim view of it. And of course it’s bad enough feeling grim, without also having to go through the whole self-loathing thing.
The thing is of course, although you and I may not care to admit it our depression is simply part of who we are. So isn’t there sense in finding a way to be comfortable with this? Or if not completely comfortable, at least a little less uncomfortable than we currently are?
I’m not talking about the type of comfort which mindlessly accepts that things are awful and will never change. I just mean we could perhaps both be a little kinder to, and more accepting of, ourselves than we currently are.
Perhaps being comfortable about letting our low mood show in public isn’t really that different from being okay about sitting on the bus with green-painted nails?
A particularly fetching shade they were, too.