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“If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?”- T.S. Elliot

In over your head?

In over your head?

It was a quote for me to put in the newsletter for work, and my response was:

“My guy, T.S. Elliot?”, because it was such a casual quote set by a question. The question then posed in my head was, ‘what about the short people’?

The quote tells us we need to know how tall we are. What advantage do we have to measuring ourselves? In the case of tall people having some sort of advantage, it does make sense, as it takes longer for information to get from the limbs to the brain (even if it’s fractions upon fractions of a second) when we’re talking about response to pain. That’s the only thing I know about tall people, apart from that people ask them if they play basketball every day. Is it an advantage if your response to pain is delayed? That’s the real question, T.S. Elliot.

It also amazes me how shocked people get when children grow, as if they weren’t supposed to. “you’re so tall!” It’s all you hear growing up (I’m only 5’6”), so how can we forget how tall we are, ever?

The quote also sounds a lot like drowning, which is one of the only ways we can literary (yes, I used that one right) be in over our heads.  One of my earliest memories is nearly drowning as a child, but I didn’t swallow enough water to make things more than frightening. The thing I remember most is the blue underneath the water and the ladder. I don’t remember falling in. I don’t remember getting out. There is nothing in the quote about getting out of the water my mind makes up. It’s all about living in the state of being over your head and offers no solution of how to get out. If you’re tall or short, you’re still stuck in something that is over your head, and clearly this pit of things doesn’t discriminate, because it will always be taller than you.

How can you win over something that is taller than you? Does it matter your height when it will always be taller because you are in over your head? You don’t need to know how tall you are when you are in over your head because it doesn’t matter. The quote is telling us to know our limits.

I don’t want to measure myself by my limitations.

I want to find creative solutions and not dwell on the things pressing down on me. There will always be that pit of things. I realize that I’ll always have my ladder. I’d hate to think T.S. Elliot didn’t have his own ladder, and I’d hate to think he’s telling me I have no answers. I don’t want to realize how helpless I am in the pit of things, because I’m not helpless, not really.

What do you think his message is?

———

Romarin Demetri is a writer of fiction, and you can preview the first four chapters of her novel here.

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