It is a cliché phrase, but when we say that someone has a zest for life we usually understand it to mean they are enthusiastic and energetic. It’s a compliment, and for some it is a goal – to have a zest for life is to be full of energy and to have a sense of optimism that ensures you’ll try anything, be spontaneous, and have a go. Or maybe you’re just one of those happy, positive people who gets a kick out of life in general. Go you!
Sometimes I like to think I have a zest for life. In fact, I’ve been told that I do, though I wonder if my open-mindedness is sometimes confused for enthusiasm. Let’s face it, there are some days when I’d rather curl up in a ball and hide under the covers than confront life. I will confess, however, that – despite my occasional hermit tendencies – I am willing to try most things once before I make a decision on them.
I know I do not like capsicum, though if it makes an appearance on my plate I’ll give it another go and usually confirm the fact that I don’t like it before picking the rest out. Raw onion doesn’t stand a chance. Ever. It’s discarded before the plate is centred on the table before me. Yuck! I’ve eaten haggis (tastes like sausage), alpaca (delicious), pigeon (gamey and tough), partridge (divine, though it might have been the lemon sauce I loved most), sting ray (fishy), and an assortment of other interesting culinary delights. I have a particular like for duck and rabbit, no problem eating part of my national emblem (kangaroo), and found snails and frogs legs to be nothing too challenging when served up alongside a view of the Eiffel Tower.
OK, so I’ll eat anything.
I’ll also decide – rather spontaneously and without logical processing of exactly what it might entail – to hike the Inca Trail. I’ll bend over backwards to kiss a stone from a great height despite having a terrible fear of heights that sees me far, far away from the balcony rail at lookout points (I refer to Blarney Castle in Ireland, not just any old stone – and that’s another story). I am sometimes startled by the things I’m about to do, am doing, or have done – but something doesn’t quite tweak in my head to not do things. It’s not that I put myself in dangerous situations (intentionally, anyway) but sometimes I take a step away from myself and gasp at what I’m doing.
“He isn’t worried about you,” one of my co-workers said in reference to one of the more senior staff. “He says you’re a risk taker,” she laughed, “and you’ll be the one who handles the change of being here best, because you know how to take risks.”
While I took this as a great compliment, I was also terribly surprised. A risk taker? Me? But I don’t jump off bridges or scale mountains or parachute out of planes! I just … Oh. Right. The whole “You want me to move to a country I’ve never been to in seven weeks? Sure!” thing. Yeah, I guess it’s a risk, a gamble … a challenge!
It would be very easy for me to get a cushy job in a city I know surrounded by people I love in a country that doesn’t require I get visas or fill out special forms upon arrival. Oh, who am I kidding? It wouldn’t be easy for me at all – remember? I tried it. It didn’t work. I can’t do “normal” like some people do. I tried having a five year plan (several times) but it just didn’t work. A zest for life? Maybe … How about a zest for new experiences and a good challenge? I think I prefer that.
When I hear the phrase “a zest for life” I cannot help but think of citrus fruit. Citrus fruits have some of my favourite flavours, particularly lime and lemon. I love a good lime tart and lemon pudding – and a good citrus dish gets its flavour from the zest of the fruit. This is the part that might be discarded when you’re snacking on an orange or squeezing lime juice for your mojito, but it is the zest that gives flavour – more than what just the pulp or juice will give.
For me, having a zest for life (or anything) means getting the most out of everything; you have to use every part so you can get the most intense and delicious flavour.