I’m trying to make sense of the depressive cycle I am currently experiencing. I was talking to Sarah (best friend//roomie) about my thoughts. I’m not where I thought I’d be in life, I told her. I feel like a big loser with a Master’s degree collecting dust in my closet somewhere. This isn’t what I had planned! I hate learning to live with chronic illnesses (like I couldn’t have just one! No, I get multiples). Why does it seem like God uses everyone but me? What did I do wrong?
Sarah thought for a moment and wisely summed it up like this, “It’s like this. Everyone has her role and every role is important. Like in a school—there’s the principal, teachers, lunch people…you’re like the cool playground lady.”
“What?!?” I scoffed. “I don’t want to be a playground lady. I mean, anyone can be a cool playground lady.”
“No, they can’t,” Sarah continued. “Everyone does their part to keep the school running and every part is important.”
“I want to be the principal!” I protested.
“You can’t be the principal. You’re the cool playground lady!”
“Fine. I don’t want to be the principal anyway. At least I’m not the lunch lady or the janitor.”
Conversation veers off in another direction.
While the conversation may have changed topics, I’ve had the “cool playground lady” label on my mind. Not only that, I’m a little disturbed that I instinctively wanted to be the principal because that’s the power position. In retrospect, who wants to be the principal? I don’t want to discipline bad kids and deal with hostile parents. The only good thing about being principal is the title (and talking on the intercom, but I’m sure the cool playground lady could do that, too).
I want a title to feel important, to show people I’ve actually made something of my life, to feel like I matter. Yet a title can’t do all that. A title is a superficial job description for a person, who can only pray to be worthy of that title. I believe if I truly had the heart and the strength for a “title” right now, then God would hook me up. There is still so much I need to learn until I can handle that type of responsibility.
So we’re back to “cool playground lady.” At first I thought, “Our playground ladies were anything but cool. They were mean banshees who did anything they could to keep the good children of the playground from having fun.” I remember days when some of the kids in the cafeteria were too loud or wouldn’t listen. Instead of punishing the offenders, at recess we all stood in straight lines as punishment. We weren’t allowed to talk, move, breath, and so on. Meanwhile, the playground ladies watched us like hawks waiting for any sign of movement so they could pounce on us and rip apart our fragile self images.
Therefore, being a cool playground lady is very special indeed. She can hand out the playground equipment, teach kids how to share, resolve arguments, take down the bullies, comfort the lonely and help the injured (bee stings and skinned knees—that’s what recess was all about). Not only that, but she gets a whistle—an authoritative instrument used to call the children to order. I am convinced that everyone—no matter what his or her job—wants a whistle.
If I’m the cool playground lady, I guess that’s alright with me. Of course, it’s a completely metaphorical role for the larger theater of life. I can spend my time teaching the world to play fair, fighting injustice with words, and comforting the lonely and brokenhearted. I won’t pretend that it’s my “dream comparison,” but I can think back to how many life skills I learned on the playground. Life begins on the playground, and at least I get a whistle, right?