For some reason – related to the annoying truth that we remember moments that have no real significance, yet become part of our own personal lore for the sheer fact that they are tenacious in sticking around – I have long associated the color orange with a conversation I had during my first year of college.
It was a blip of a discussion, initiated by a friend who lived on the same floor. “Did you know that it’s scientifically proven that people who say their favorite color is orange are the most unique people in the world?”
“Huh,” I responded. “I didn’t know that.”
“It’s true,” she said, waiting a beat before smugly delivering the kicker. “And, you know. My favorite color is orange.”
Though I no longer remember this detail, I imagine that I was eating some sort of late-night dining hall specialty as we talked (probably nachos or ice cream; in my life, blaming beer for the Freshman 15 was a serious miscalculation). I do recall lamenting that my favorite color has always been red, though basically every other hue is crowded into a broad, hypercolored-tie for second place.
Who, after all, doesn’t want to be unique?
Of course, despite all its scholarly ambitions, college is a time often marked by stupidity, and so I’ve happily let go of my orange-tinted glasses. But when two bloggers I like recently took the challenge to document the orange they came across in their everyday lives, I decided to take a walk on the unique side myself.
Turns out, there’s a lot of orange in the world. I found it in many different spots, from all corners of nature to all corners of the neighborhoods in my little town.
But as I looked, a funny thing happened: I found it so much that, in some sense, I couldn’t find it at all. Surprisingly, I started questioning what orange actually is.
As I started doubting my ability to name it, I’d lean in to take a picture, suddenly unsure of which color I was trying to capture. Sometimes the colors were like shape-shifters, turning pink or red before my eyes.
My beloved sunsets proved particularly troubling. Who knows where orange ends and its neighbor begins?
The closer I looked, the more I saw it – but, really, the more I saw everything. I started snapping pictures of all the various shades of purple and blue that popped up in flowers, on shoes, and decorating the bindings of books. Greens started to assault me, lining roadways and calling to me from bins of leeks and kale. And the grays (oh my lord, the grays!) paraded around like a dulled brass band, taking over the sky, the sidewalks, and even – on occasion – the untamable ocean itself.
It was fun to look for orange; it was more fun to find everything else, along with it.
I don’t know that friend of mine from college anymore; we grew apart and grew into whoever we became, or are still becoming. Only rarely do I think about her. I wonder, vaguely, if her favorite color is still orange. Given the chance, in the midst of this kaleidoscope world, I probably wouldn’t ask.
Because now, many years out of college, here’s what I know to be true: people who love orange are, indeed, unique. But no more so than anyone else; we are each built out of a complex construction of experiences, hopes, fears, and secrets, wild beyond one another’s imaginations.
I can follow other bloggers’ ideas, documenting orange; I can remember my friend from college and her perspective on color preferences. But even as I do, it’s comforting to know that no matter what, our strangely individual lives ensure we are each just as unusual, just as capable of surprise, as everyone else – no matter what color we claim as our own.