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Nibbling on Someone's Joy

Today, I texted my son a photo of a package that arrived for him. Adam responded promptly, “Oh my God! Yes, yes, yes! Open it and show me please. I just got out of Chem final btw.”

Inside was a very, very large white sweatshirt with the image of a dog at the center. Hmm, another obscure Adam purchase. A few months ago, I had to talk Adam out of buying a pair of jeans, peppered with holes and cow footprints throughout…very expensive btw.

As Adam and I texted about his latest purchase, I was on the verge of messaging, “But this sweatshirt is extremely large; will it even fit you?” Before injecting my opinion, Adam texted, “I can’t wait. I’m so excited and happy.”

I paused. Here is a good, studious college kid holding a part-time job, majoring in Chemistry and tackling finals week. Who am I to poke holes at a moment of jubilance, even if it is over an oversized funky sweatshirt? Oh boy, I was seconds away from nibbling on my son’s joy. And this would not be the first time.

Whether as parent, friend, relative or co-worker, we all tend to form opinions about the decisions of others. In some cases, constructive criticism or opinions might serve well. But in lighter moments, perhaps we can pause before raining on someone else's parade.

Every day, life stands ready to stir our impulses. Many of us will lean on a little bit of change; be it a new hair color or style, a new colorful outfit, a random ticket purchase to a concert or football game, or taking on a new hobby. I suggest that we do not always have to express our opinions or reservations about the inclinations of others; even if a friend were to sign up to be a contestant on a gameshow.

According to, sometimes we can project our fears and hesitations on others. An article on its site tells us that projection is an unconscious defense mechanism stemming from the ego. “In projection, you take an unacceptable part of yourself, such as your feelings, thoughts, tendencies, and fears, disown it, and place it onto someone else.” The article points out that projections contain our blind spots. Although almost everyone has engaged in projection at some point in their lives, it's often difficult to know when you're doing it.

I am aware that my initial reaction to Adam’s sweatshirt likely came from a financial concern, a tinge of fear perhaps. Did he just spend his hard-earned money on a purchase that would not be a good fit? If he did, that is his problem to navigate; perhaps he intended to buy a super large sweatshirt, who knows?

Today’s package delivered a reminder…be mindful of when it is time to mooove over and let others guzzle their joy.


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