What kind of vegetable would you be? My 17-year old friend Emily visited Seattle a few weeks ago to meet with a college admissions officer. While sitting in a cafe waiting for her meeting to start, we discussed possible questions she might be asked. A friend of hers had met with an admissions officer from this same college the previous year and said she might get asked which vegetable she would be.
It turns out that Emily’s thinking took the line of “Which vegetable is least likely to be eaten?” Our answers to these kinds of questions can say so much about us. The last thing on my mind was the rate of survival of certain vegetables. Our answers to this simple question highlight how different Emily and I are in some ways, not just because she is 17 and I am 43.
My line of thinking gravitated more toward the kind of life a vegetable has while growing and how many different forms it takes in the process. “A green bean,” I said. It climbs, which is totally fun, it has super cute flowers and it can be eaten early and whole or allowed to ripen and dry to eat the beans inside. Neither of us understood the other’s answers to the question.
Looking back, I think my choice of vegetable at 17 might have had more to do with how it tasted and how much I loved it. Probably green peas straight off the vine. I remember answering the same question at 22 years old while working as a baker in the middle of the night with other college students. My thoughts centered around beauty. “An eggplant,” I remember thinking. I was enamored with its shape and color, although not its taste.
Life as a green bean never would have entered my mind back then. My thinking had to do with the qualities of the vegetable, not how it experienced life. But now, knowing how much I prioritize freedom and versatility in my own life, I can see how my choice of vegetable is a reflection of what I value and want for my life. I love adventure, freedom in both work and play, trying new things and climbing. I test my limits and question beliefs. The green beans in our back yard have climbed all the way up the fence and are now using the neighbors tree to climb even higher. Up, up, up.
As I write this, I am remembering that a focus of my past year has been to move from a state of doing to a state of being. Maybe I actually had it right when I was younger. Maybe eggplant, in its simple, lovely beauty is where its at. It doesn’t have to strive to get anywhere or be anything else other than itself, starting as a gorgeous flower and ripening into a beautiful fruit.
I hope that Emily won’t always use survival as her main criteria for choosing which vegetable she would be. She would probably just say I think too much.