When I was in high school, I wanted colored contact lenses. Green. There was no logic behind how badly I wanted green eyes. It is not that there was anything wrong with my blue eyes, but oh, to have green eyes. It would have made me so….well, I don’t know what it would have made me, but I wanted to be something different! I vaguely remember asking my parents for colored contacts. I’m pretty sure their reaction fell between bewilderment and laughter. Why in the world would I want to change my eye color? I didn’t wear glasses, much less contacts – what possessed me to want green contacts?! I’m pretty sure there was also a lecture in there about being thankful for what I had, what I was born with, you know…all that old parenty advice that no teenager is willing to admit they may have listened to.
But want green eyes I did. I researched how much they would cost, figured how many babysitting jobs it would take to pay for them. I imagined myself going to the doctor, receiving the contact diagnosis, and triumphantly walking out of the office with green eyes. The want for colored contact lenses became so strong that I actually began to think that I needed colored contacts.
And that’s a scary transition. When want stealthily slides into need. Most of the time, it happens when we are obsessing over the coveted object. Sometimes, we’re lucky enough to snap out of it. I don’t know what made the green eyes disappear off the Christmas wish-list. But they did. And now I look back on that as a silly teen-obsession.
But I remember that feeling. That desperate longing for something material. I have felt that desperation over non-material things – over the need to be with family or Kris, the longing for a sense of home, justice or joy. Yet, to know that I am as equally capable to ascribe that much longing to something as trivial as green contacts is a little scary. Stephanie raised a difficult question about wanting and sharing, of gathering and giving. Where is the line? There are times that it is easy to distinguish the line. Obviously, justice trumps green eyes. But what about when that line isn’t as easy to define. I say that I need internet access at home – in order to feel connected to friends and family so far away. But honestly, isn’t that really a deep want that has made the crossover? A ticket home to see my best friend get married, or use that money and time in my community? Two things I want just as equally. But which do I need? I could argue that I need to experience the joy of that special day, to be there for my friend who has so often been there for me. I could also argue that I need to show my community that I am invested in my short time here. Where is the line? Or what about when one person’s line erases another’s line? As raised in David’s brave post, a young man’s need to feel accepted in his community by following a script, versus a family’s need to return to their homeland.
One of the greatest lessons my parents ever taught me was the value of prioritizing. Because really, what is prioritizing but separating the wants from the needs? I’m not offering any answers here. Nor am I asking for any. Like Stephanie said, its a tight line. I’m just trying to find some balance.