Life Is Like a Salad Bar

I love a good salad bar, because it is not just about eating but about creating. You have all these ingredients– different flavors, different sizes, different textures, different colors — and you get to decide which to use and how much of each to use. No two salads are the same— they will all look different and taste different. What will be the perfect salad to you will be revolting to someone sitting right beside you. What fun!

So, what are the principles for making your ideal salad? First, know your ingredients– what tastes sweet, what tastes tangy, what is crunchy, what is syrupy. Second, know yourself– what are your likes, and what makes your tummy unhappy. Third, don’t get tied down by any supposed rules or what other people think– who says you can’t have pickles and beets on a Caesar salad? Fourth, experiment, try different things and different combinations, don’t be afraid to go back to the bar again and again until you have exactly what you want on your salad. And lastly– relax, have fun, and enjoy.

Now to me, life really is like a salad bar. There is all this enormous variety spread out before you– different jobs, different places to live, different hobbies and friends, and a million different ways to combine all those to produce your ideal life. You can live in an apartment or a country house, work alone or with a team, like reading or going to the movies, buying NASCAR box tickets or opera box tickets (or maybe both!), having a bust the house open party or just a few friends over. It’s all your choice as to how to create your ideal life.

And guess what? The best way to approach creating your ideal life is a lot like creating your ideal salad.

You have to know what “ingredients” are available, and what your likes and dislikes are. Do you need supervision and structure in your work, or do you need to be a free spirit? Do crowds drive you crazy, or give you energy? Are you a beach or a mountain person? Part of becoming wise is being able to take an honest inventory of who you are and what your needs and desires are, and what dreams and opportunities meet your individual needs and desires.

Wisdom is also realizing where you are limiting yourself by saying “Oh, I can’t do that.” You can’t go back to school when you’re 60? Who said so, why not? You can’t live on a South Seas island? Well, if you know what other things you have to give up and your heart still sings, why not? Oh, I can’t do (fill in the blank) because (fill in the blank) will think (fill in the blank) about me? Whose life are you living, yours or theirs? Take a hard look at where you’re setting limits in your life– do they really need to be there?

Wisdom also knows that life is a process, a journey. You will always be trying new ingredients, finding new things that are tasty to you, and finding that some things that were tasty ten years ago may not be a good fit any longer. You’ve been a marathon runner for ten years, so you have to keep doing it? No you don’t. Never run a marathon, so it’s too late now? No it isn’t!

Finally, wisdom knows that all this craziness we call life is not meant to be endlessly analyzed and brooded over, is not meant to be taken so seriously, but is meant to be lived— to be enjoyed, moment by moment, day by day. So look at your life and its ingredients— keep experimenting, keep blending, keep living, and enjoy your handcrafted creation of life every day.

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