Sometimes we do things for reasons unknown even to us. 

I remember when I bought this t-shirt 10+ years ago in Minnesota. My brother in law and his family had just moved up to a small town outside of the Twin Cities. We were visiting them in their new place and our son had forgotten his swim trunks. In an effort to make us useful the three of us were tasked with heading to Target to get him a new swimsuit. As so often happens, when you send a guy to a store for one thing, strange and sometimes wonderful purchases are made. We came home with the swimsuit but also picked up this gem and a pair of camouflage shorts for my brother in law.

Now, when we left neither of us “adults” intended to buy anything. We were just along for the ride. My brother in law Bart went so I wouldn’t become hopelessly lost and I was just the wallet. I picked up the t-shirt because it made me laugh. I didn’t really know why then and I don’t really know why now; there’s just something funny about it. Bart bought the shorts because I think somehow he sensed in a way he couldn’t quite put his finger on that he would eventually love them and his wife would hate them. In fact she would hate them so much that somehow the initial pair would mysteriously disappear, a point that is still a matter of contention in their household. No matter, he would just go buy another pair. But I digress from my main point here which is: Why do we do anything?

Not anything as opposed to nothing, mind you, but what are our motivations for buying a t-shirt we don’t understand or shorts that are hideous? And why do we hang onto some things and cast aside others? I imagine if I knew the answer to those questions I might very well be a marketing gazillionaire.

I can’t speak for Bart. As near as I can tell he truly loved his camo shorts. Again, I don’t know why but he did. The irritating-his-wife part was just a fun side benefit. For me, the t-shirt was amusing because it was kind of stupid but it hit home. I mean, who hasn’t wanted to nail a board to their forehead because they’re so bored, right? I always wondered if it would have been funnier if the board would have said “I’m board” but maybe that would have been over the top. That would have made the labeling an overt rather than covert act. As it is, it’s funny and it made me laugh when I saw it because of its absurdity, However I’m sure I wouldn’t have kept it around all these years if it hadn’t made so many other people laugh too.

Aside from my new “Testicle Festival” shirt which is quickly amassing comments this old plain, now woefully tattered, t-shirt has elicited more smiles, laughs and commentary than any t-shirt I’ve ever owned. I know it’s because of the happiness it has brought so many others that I’ve held onto it. I realize some may say it’s also partly because I, like Patrick, want to be noticed and far from the bold stroke of nailing a board to my head this grey t-shirt does that more effectively. And there may be truth in that. I believe we all want to be seen as unique or interesting. We all want to stand out from the crowd. But I’ve stood out in other, more objectionable ways (the ear ring comes to mind) before and believe me the humorous route is definitely preferred.

So why do we hold onto things? Why does my daughter have an Instagram full of pictures of meals she’s eaten? Why do people collect things? Why do they hang onto them when they’re as “eeewww!” as kidney stones? (A real thing I’m afraid) I don’t know other than to say it’s what makes them, them. It’s what makes life interesting (and frustrating if you’re my sister in law). It’s what makes people those strange and mysterious creatures that we question as being related to us. It’s all a mystery that we live in every day and it’s why you never send a guy to a store on an errand. That, like life, is an adventure. And you never know how it’s going to turn out.

What’s surprised you lately? If you know someone who is working through the twists and turns of life and this might help them see things in a different light, please share it with them. The social icons are below. 

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