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  • Writer's pictureJerri Lynn Sparks

Life As A Card

Life As A Card

"Gambling: The sure way of getting nothing for something." - Wilson Mizner

There was this game we played in a UCLA Psychology class where everyone had a rubber band put on their forehead and a secret card from a poker deck was placed under the band facing out so others could see its value but the wearer could not. The goal of the game was to find the highest match that would accept you in the least amount of time. When the timer rang everyone began running around the room desperately trying to find a mate. Cutthroat rejections were rampant and I felt so rejected for at least 2 minutes. We all did because everyone was trying to trade up, based on what we thought our intrinsic worth was. We had about 3 minutes to find our "best match" and then whoever was not paired up in the end lost the game. It was a social gambling experiment in social psychology. Interestingly, the males in class were the least likely to try and pair up early on whereas the females would assess the card value and say “Good enough” thinking that the timing mattered more than the ultimate pairing value. More on that later…

(Photo Credit: Jerri Lynn Sparks)

I've always loved this experience because it is so memorable and it is also analogous to real life, which was the entire point. You don't know your own worth in life in terms of physical attraction, intellect, skills and other values until you put yourself out there and try. You get rejected on superficial things right off the bat without others even speaking to you. We all do it. You know within a few seconds if someone gets your juices flowing or not and you also know whether you get theirs flowing as well. Take a walk around any public venue to test this out or flash back to the moment you met a significant other: you knew right off the bat most likely, even if you’re not willing to admit it or consciously aware of it.

We make snap judgments and I’d say most of the time those first impressions are spot on. The human brain is adept at quickly sizing up things, whether they are safe, threatening, valuable to you, attractive to you, boring, benign, friendly or a love interest.

It made me wonder, how often have my first instincts been wrong? And what has happened to me when I’ve ignored those first instincts. (Hint: not good things.)

A young child looks to its mother primarily for confirmation that the steps he or she is about to take are safe. A questioning look shows up on their little face as if to ask “Is it safe for me to touch this?” or “Do I get in trouble if I do this?” But once we’re adults there is no hovering approval entity (unless you’re in a Steven Spielberg movie and a mini drone is following your every move). We have to go out there and size up the world for ourselves and consequently see how the world sizes us up.

But then something wonderful happens: there comes a point where you just *know* your own worth and you no longer need or care what the world thinks. That is beauty. That is freedom…that is where the wild things are…

I have taken off my card and slung that rubber band as far as it will fly. My thought-filled forehead is no longer bound but is instead glistening with happiness and spunk and my value is imprinted on my mind and my overflowing heart. I don’t seek approval and I’m not running around frantically trying to find my best match. (I don’t even know if that is a real *thing*.) If it happens it happens and if it doesn’t I know how to value myself.

I just know that my life is good, interesting (oh, holy hell is my life interesting), and valuable. I have goals and I accomplish them. Some might say I have a “system.” I have wonderful children and friends. I have a meaningful job that helps fulfill me and gives me a sense of purpose along with raising my kids.

My life card is valuable to *me* and my children. Our worth is inherent and specific to each other. From the day I first discovered I had a little life inside of me and from now on, we intrinsically “get” each other and are a very well-matched set. That is not a game, that is real life and for that there is no searching for the right match. We’re the entire, complete, wonderfully matched deck.

As for the males in the college classroom experiment, one guy had an Ace on his forehead and somehow he seemed to know this. All the players ran up to him early on and bombarded him with offers of pairing up. Quickly he realized he could have anyone in the class so he refused to match up. When the 3 minutes was over, guess who was all alone and lost the game? Yep, Mr. Ace On His Forehead. See? I told you I’ve always loved this experiment.

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