If you were a teen in the 80’s you know about a video game called Frogger. The object is to negotiate a pixely little frog across a pixely little pond that is laden with pitfalls and traps. Your little frog must jump from lily pad to lily pad and log to log while avoiding the open water and lurking alligators.
The convenience store across from my school had a Frogger machine and kids took turns trying to high score their way into initials-on-the-screen stardom before first period. It wasn’t much compared to today’s hyper realistic video games. It was a simpler time when a buck could provide a Big Gulp, a Slim Jim and enough change to give Frogger a go. It is in the spirit of that prehistoric Frogger game that I have created the following story about a little frog.
Hint: if you are trying to get your shit together then I might be talking about you, not a real frog. In my head, the frog is a girl called Michelle. The reader may internalize the frog however they choose. For the dudes reading this, imagine a ripped bull frog, ready to kick ass and take names. It doesn’t really matter, it’s a metaphor.
Imagine Michelle, col’-chilling on her lily pad without a care in the world. Michelle is comfortable there. She’s insulated in a warm and comfy bubble of familiarity. Little known fact: frogs can be resistant to change. Terrified of change, in fact. It’s scary to try and jump to the next lily pad. Michelle might peer over the edge from time to time, because she knows that there is some cool stuff out there, but she also has it good right where she is. Even if a little frog knows there is something better waiting, it is tough to change. comfort and familiarity are strong forces. Much to strong to override for the potential for something better. Even though destiny is across that pond on a lily pad so dynamic and exciting that it’s hard to imagine in its entirety, there she sits. Michelle knows in her heart – someday all she dreams and desires will be hers. She will get to that lily pad, but for now, she’s content where she is. Little frog Michelle has friends, Thai-Food and Netflix. It’s all good.
As in the human world, there are some annoying frogs that dive in without looking. They race so many lily pads over in the pond a normal frog doesn’t even know them any more. They are getting on with their lives, creating, producing things and driving a cool frog car. Michelle might even feel a little sorry for them because it doesn’t seem like they will ever be content – all the lily pad hopping to the top and all. It may not even seem like they have a plan, suckers! They are so busy doing how could they? A cautious, methodical frog might bump into this kind of frog at the lily pad club and while the bass thumps and the strobes, strobe, convince themselves that big-time frog’s not that big of a deal. A normal frog might rest in the fact that they always thought the over-achiever frog was kind of douchey, anyway.
Some other little frogs dip a toe… flipper… (whatever frogs have) in the water and scan the horizon for trouble. They give give a head nod that means: I’m out and then scurry furiously over the edge to find the next safe haven. These kinds of little frogs are close enough to not get a little frog like Michelle’s anxiety up too much or make her feel bad. This is especially true if they fail. It serves them right for being hasty and leaving the lily-pad, after all. Michelle will take them back with an I told you so grin and a lesson learned.
The frogs that do make it a lily-pad farther, can holler over the side and report the differences in the new lily pad. Those differences are barely noticeable, if a little frog was to squint a little and rationalize a bunch. A frog might think: why bother risking my relative safety for that! It’s a stressful endeavor for sure, it’s the great unknown! In fact, not all of these little frogs and frogettes make it. Some do. Some get comfortable in their new digs, set up shop and eventually repeat the process in the direction of their destiny.
What about you, reader frog: maybe you dipped your little webbed foot in the water once, counted 1, 2, 3 and went for it. Maybe you encountered resistance, or failure and hauled frog ass back to your lily-poo (lily pad of origin). Maybe a new job didn’t work out, or the college you wanted didn’t want you, or maybe you just weren’t ready. This experience might lead an individual to become a member of the next group of little frogs. These little frogs are slower to action and methodically plan every detail. They sit at their Ikea desk they still have from college with a legal pad and a steamer trunk full of what-ifs. There are enough “if only’s” and “when the time is right’s,” to fill a swamp boat. Honing, perfecting and hammering out every detail waiting for the gold leaf invitation to the lily pad across the pond. “It’s going to happen,” frogs convince themselves, “it’s going to happen!”
Maybe it is possible to get to the lily pad of one’s dreams, way across the pond, with out spending time on any in between. Marrying rich – into old-frog-money, Frog NBA draft, Frog-Lotto… it’s possible, but unlikely. Essential tools and life skills are collected along the way. Character is built on the intermediate lily pads. Grace is learned, accepted and given there, as well. The lily-pad journey is little frog proving ground and sometimes a trial by fire. Relationships are made and love is won and lost there. The deep water is where really living is!
It’s never too late for the timid little frogs. The ones waiting, in a holding pattern, in shallow water. For them to catch up though, they have to get wet. It isn’t as easy as a series of blind leaps of faith equaling wildest dreams coming true.
I am going to bring the reader back into the land of mammals, but stay in the swamp with my metaphor. Like the alligators in Frogger, anxiety, fear and failure are all out there, lurking. People wind up insulating themselves from them by fortifying their lily-pads, and surrounding themselves in whatever protection they can. The safety provided is a false one. Bumps and bruises aren’t being avoided, they’re being back-loaded. They will be faced; they’re waiting and they are growing. At some point a lily-pad, no matter how snug, will be left for another.
There are as many reasons for lily-pad bailouts as there are insulated little frogs. When forced off of a lily-pad, one not only has to deal with what has been avoided, but now it has to be dealt with it in crisis mode. The irony is that the risk of the unknown is now faced to the power of 10.
Unlike the folks that have been in one spot, way too long, the frogs – and people – that “do” in this world, have learned to operate through anxiety and fear; not without them. They aren’t immune to them. they have learned to function in their presence. While the lily pad homesteaders choose to live a life full of low level anxiety worrying about might happen if they took a chance, the doers learned that working through a short burst of anxiety, instead of delaying it and hoping it went away, moved them forward.
Get your floaties on little frogs, it’s go time.