What’s a Lemon? – Why Making the Best of Everything Isn’t in Your Best Interest

Jonathan & I contemplating our lemons

When I was 12 and, my younger brother was 9, we were wandering around a mall department store together as we often did, many times. Growing up in a rural area, malls were social centers and we were at them often. A lot of the memories blend together, but there are a handful we still remember so clearly either because they made us laugh, were so bizarre, or had a catchy jingle.

We were walking around and we came across giant display table of dancing hamsters doing various things. One was holding a lemon. In a moment that can only be described as a “brain fart”, he picked up the hamster walked up to me and asked, “What’s a lemon?”

Of course it took him about one second to realize what he had asked me and we both burst out laughing and have repeated this phrase to each other over and over again throughout the years. It’s a sibling joke, but as I was thinking about writing a blog I realized the question can hold a lot of weight. Really, stay with me.

How many times have you been told to make lemonade out of lemons? Or to make a drink out of lemons? Or my favorite, “Fuck the lemons!” There are so many versions based off of the original. The saying of course is asking you take the bad things in life and make them into good things. Or to avoid the lemons altogether.

But aren’t there things we shouldn’t make lemonade out of? Events and moments that happen to us that cannot and should not be made sweeter? Sometimes we have to suck the lemon. Sometimes you have to eat that lemon for a long time, but not forever. (Luckily, sour doesn’t last forever.)

For everyone the lemon is something different, our lives are all different shapes so, my lemons may not look like yours but I think of: a missed opportunity, an apartment flood, and a particularly painful break-up. The things I learned from those moments–from really sucking the lemon hard– have carried me further in life. I became stronger. Other fruit tastes sweeter as a result. (Have I killed the metaphor yet!?)

Sometimes, mixing up a big batch of lemonade is just avoiding growth. From the sourness of our lives we become resilient and capable of handling the next lemon that comes bouncing out of the sky. And, as you know, I am a BIG fan of learning how to be resilient. (That link will take you to my entire post dedicated to it.)

A resilient person is someone who is able to withstand and recover quickly from difficult conditions. Doesn’t that sound so amazing? To be that type of person? And I truly believe we can learn to be resilient by embracing the uncomfortable moments of our lives. In fact, I think it’s the only way.

So… what are lemons? Lemons are your path to growth and resilience. Lemons are also a funny yellow fruit juggled by hamsters.


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