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It’s an exemplary summer day out at the Shuswap. My skin temporarily cooled by the lake water it retains from my refreshing dip, the bottom of my feet still stinging from the hot rocks. As I sit down on my towel and put my sunglasses back on I’m treated to one of the delights of summer; a heaping plate full of sliced watermelon. I race the other children to the picnic table to try to grab the biggest, juiciest piece with the perfect amount of mouth ammunition. Half way through engulfing that first slice and the competition has already begun. A line is drawn in the sand and we all take turns seeing who can spit their seed the furthest. Few other foods, let alone fruits, are able to provide this mixture of refreshment and entertainment to a child, and you don’t even have to eat the crusts! This idealistic summer snack became a summer staple, and summers were nearly measured by how many watermelons I ate each year. This courtship has developed a marriage between the fruit and the season to the point that eating a watermelon takes me back to summer, and there are few better snacks to choose during the hot months than a juicy watermelon.

As I grew up this marriage carried on and pervaded other aspects of my life, I began seeing the watermelon as a model organism with which to study my own life. This became most prevalent during my adolescent years. The Japanese have mastered a technique of shaping watermelons to suit their shipping needs by growing them in glass boxes. The watermelon grows in every direction until it reaches resistance and stops. I’m certain that I’m not the only person who tried to fit in early on in high school, growing into the confines defined by people other than myself. Teens have the option of trying to fight against the resistance of peer pressure, or they can simply grow into a shape that their peers feel is acceptable. Like most kids my age I resembled the watermelon and avoided resistance, unknowingly growing into a box that wasn’t of my choosing. It was difficult to break out of the square I had grown into, but fortunately I found an effective tool to help me in this.

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Alcohol is a dangerous tool in that the tool can begin to control the operator, but fortunately I was able to wield it effectively and it became the hammer with which I broke down my box. Just as adding a mickey of vodka to a watermelon brings out some of the best attributes of the watermelon; my identity was not shaped by drinking but rather accentuated through it. The watermelon is unique among fruits. It is 92% water by weight, and because of this it is able to exchange a lot of that water for alcohol. There is still a limit to how much it can absorb before saturating and overflowing though. It did take some trial and error to find my maximum, and I “overflowed” more than once while experimenting. Oddly enough, both the average store bought watermelon and I can consume roughly a mickey of alcohol before over saturation. This experimentation awoke a new side of me though; life was full of experiences to be had, provided you were willing and courageous enough to pursue them.

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Many of these experimental experiences involved drugs, but not all did. One common thread they each shared though was that it risked your future in one sense or another. Jumping off a bridge with an elastic rope around your ankles is a much more obvious example of this trade off than the transcendental consciousness attained from marijuana or mushrooms. These do come with a price though, as marijuana has been shown to slow sperm down. This has rarely been a concern for me, and in my younger years it even seemed to be a benefit. The trade off between enjoyment now and fertility later seemed a no brainer. Once again I found watermelon mirroring my own life. Not every child had seed spitting contests, so scientists found a way to make seedless watermelons. Just like I was doing with my risky experiences, the watermelon was becoming more enjoyable at the expense of its future fertility. The watermelon was overachieving when compared to myself since I still had “seeds”, but they were just less mobile than before. I did enjoy seedless watermelons for a time in my life, but I found that while eating the seedless variety I lost that nostalgia for summer that watermelons used to bring me.

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This loss of nostalgia coincided with the next step in my maturation and development; introspection and analysis. Being where I was now as an individual, I was able to look back and see the folly in my early decisions. All that time wasted trying to be someone I wasn’t just to fit in with people who most likely would have enjoyed me anyways. How often did this happen in other aspects of our world? Change for the sake of change, wearing the mask of progress. Those seedless melons exemplified this better than most, what was wrong with the original watermelons that we felt they should change? We should have instead been embracing their uniqueness. The watermelon belongs to the family Cucurbitaceae, consisting of plants like cucumbers, squash, and pumpkins to name a few. Watermelon is one of very few in this family to be sweet enough that we eat it off the vine and consider it a fruit. The melon has been comfortable with being different from the other members in its family; it still shares defining characteristics but is the odd one out. We should all use this example in our lives. Rather than trying to be like the other individuals in our family, we should be proud to be the odd one out. It makes us sweet.

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