In My Element

Well, I think we are offered a great many elements.

Just yesterday, a science-y (the technical term, I’m sure) friend was attempting to explain to me the various compounds that exist when we mix atoms from the Periodic Table of Elements. (By the way, if you ever failed to assume how non-scientific I am, you will do well to know I also, just yesterday, learned that the terminology is not, in fact, the Periodical Table of Elements, as in the dimly lit newspaper section of the library. Pity, I think.)

I nodded throughout most of his conversation, attempting to disguise the fact that I was not at all following – raised eyebrows can only take you so far – but then the conversation turned. You just never know when a life lesson is hiding in electronegativity, it seems.

What happens when you mix all of the atoms? a nearby 12-year-old asks.

Well, my friend smiles. I think all hell would break loose. It would be a disaster, a great explosion, lots of igniting, a bit of radioactivity but then, get this — in a moment, everything would return to normalcy. Rusts and salts would form, compounds would stabilize. It’s just time and thermodynamics, man. Equilibrium once again.

A few weeks ago, I flew to St. Petersburg to celebrate the first appearance of HP on HSN (if you missed the live show, you can still catch the sale here!). My favorite gals were hosting a few segments and I was enlisted to help style bold, colorful outfits inspired by the computers themselves.

We clapped at Wendy Williams, toasted in the green room, dined on calamari, sat in make-up chairs under bright, shining lights. I felt a bit out of my element, as if I were wearing someone else’s pants. (I was, actually, and if you are in need of a great denim jumpsuit, this little number is crazy comfy. But I digress.)

And then, the whirlwind was over and I flew home to an element that I’d convinced myself was truer, more stable. I opened the front door and found a tornado of mismatched shoes and a balance bike, and when I closed the door there was a bit of sticky banana residue on the handle.

Ah, yes. This is where I belong. Here is my element. Here is the initialed, colored square on which I plant my feet. El, mixed with Kl2, compounded with a dash of Bl for good measure. These are my building blocks.

And yet, this is not how I am told the Periodic Table of Elements works.

Oxygen and Hydrogen make water.
Oxygen and Carbon make carbon dioxide.

Oxygen makes both, yet one heals and another destroys.

And so, if Oxygen can exist as one building block with a great multitude of purposes, I believe we can, too.

The mixture sometimes explodes. We sometimes feel like we haven’t anything else to give, offering our very breath to the compounds around us. We scrape burned eggs from the pan and forget to let out the dog and our mother-in-law calls – Can we come get some basil from the garden? – and the UPS man knocks on the door and wakes a very, very grumpy toddler just as you’re settling in to meet an afternoon deadline.

But just as my friend said, equilibrium is reached. The explosion simmers and the compounds calm, and sometimes, thermodynamics mean sitting next to your toddler as she works on her laptop and you work on yours. You turn on silly songs and she plays with your touch screen and soon, a decidedly off-balance balance has been struck.

We are Oxygen, after all.

Let’s breathe.


This essay was written for HP in honor of the new and brilliant multi-tasking Pavillion. Thanks for reading!

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