"I could take the colour of your hair," she said, "or all your memories before you were three years of age. I could take the hearing from your left ear -- not all of it, just enough that you'd not enjoy music or appreciate the running of a river or the soughing of the wind."Most of us say we would never give up such things to obtain some relatively worthless bauble, and perhaps we would be right to say so. And yet I wonder what things we really do want, and what we end up giving for them in return.
What things do I want, for instance? Well, I want to be attractive, slim and healthy. I want to finish my degree. I want to travel to England, and to many other places as well. I want to meet some of the people whose work I admire: Jane Yolen, Ray Bradbury, Robin Williams, Gerald McDermott, and half a dozen others (I've already missed the chance to meet Trina Schart Hyman and Lionel Davidson; Death is apparently an autograph hound). I want to gain a better understanding of how to make friends, since that skill has largely eluded me. I want to vanquish my fears, to become less concerned about what people think of me.
Some of these things can be bought with money (including the upcoming trip to England -- AW YEAH! WOOHOO!
*please hold while Soozcat has a five-minute spaz break*
ehem, back to business), but I tend to forget that the other wants, those that can't be bought with money, have their price as well. That price, more often than not, means giving up part of who I am right now in exchange for becoming who and what I want to be. And it's a price I too often seem terrified to pay, even when I'm being offered the better part of the bargain.
I don't think it's just me, though. If you've ever clung tenaciously to a crappy job, or stuck with a boyfriend/girlfriend even when you weren't sure you were really in love with that person, or failed to reach out for a longshot opportunity even though you had nothing to lose by trying, you know what I'm talking about. You want to be safe, even when safety means settling for mediocrity or worse. It's a very human tendency to want to keep to the known quantity, the tried and true, the status quo.
Recently I had the chance to look at a few pictures of people with whom I attended high school, and to compare them to more recent photographs of the same subjects. It's clear just from the photos that they're not the same people any more. Oh, you can see some things haven't changed -- the particular curl of a smile, the color and brightness of an eye -- but as they've moved through time in all different directions, the merchant of each new day has exacted its particular fee, has changed them incrementally into what they have now become.
So I ask myself: OK, Soozcat, of the things you want, what price are you willing to pay to obtain them? (Can't just wish to be thin, for instance; trust me, years of personal experience there.) What are you willing to give up in order to get what you say you want? Are you sure you want it that much? How will it change you, and will it be for the better?
What will you choose from the merchant of this day?