Audrey Bowers is a junior English education major and writes "Adult-ish" for The Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Audrey at email@example.com.
The world’s largest ball of paint lies in the middle of the country, in Alexandria, IN, which is about a 30-minute drive from Ball State University. It’s a sight that I probably would’ve missed if I wasn’t looking for it.
Traveling to see this spectacle felt really weird and monumental at the same time. When I heard about this central Indiana landmark for the first time, I had this intense urge to go see it, even if it meant making my life a little less convenient. Seeing this enormous ball of paint felt like something I owed to myself for whatever reason.
As I see the impressive creation for the first time, I feel like a child, enthusiastic and giddy over this quirky landmark, not sure why I am so excited. The ball is a bubblegum pink, the color that the person before me chose. The walls of the room are covered with the signatures of those who came to see the ball.
Glenda, a nice lady who keeps the project going, writes the number 25,872 on the ball in black Sharpie. That’s my layer, I think, it’s up to me to leave my mark here.
I told myself that I would paint it yellow if they had that color. I couldn’t help but to beam with joy when I saw that they did in fact have yellow. The world could use a little more yellow and this ball of paint felt like a good place to start, even if it was only temporary.
Painting the ball wasn’t an easy task; its circumference was 10 feet and I didn’t bring any pals with me to help. I was tempted to give up halfway through because I was tired, my back hurt and my upper body strength was lacking. Upon learning that most people who visit cover the entire ball, I knew what I had to do. I couldn’t give up on the ball of paint. I covered every inch of it with yellow paint while my body screamed at me.
When everything was said and done, I felt really proud of myself, like I did something that mattered.
As I would run out of paint, Glenda would give me a new paint roller saturated in sunshine. While I painted, we talked about the ball of paint itself, where I’m from (Ball State) and where I’m really from (Southern Indiana). This conversation reminded me of my many different personas that I emulate for the world to see or that I don’t emulate for the world to see. I’d rather just say that I’m from Ball State rather than reveal where I’m really from, because it feels easier at this point. In some ways, you could say that I have almost as many layers as the world’s largest ball of paint.
Looking back on this event, I think about how the world’s largest ball of paint started off as a mere baseball. The reason why the baseball grew so large was because of each and every layer of paint added to it over time. Each layer becomes and is a part of the ball of paint, but the ball of paint is really just an average baseball deep down inside.
The baseball represents the core of who we really are, the human part, our vulnerability. The human part of ourselves makes mistakes, thinks weird thoughts in the middle of the night and is hidden so far within ourselves that we often aren’t even aware of it. It holds our secrets, flaws, mistakes, imperfections, weaknesses, fears, hopes and desires. It’s that part of ourselves that we often try to protect without even thinking about it.
The layers of paint surrounding the baseball can represent many things, like the labels we assign ourselves, the positions and job titles we hold, the roles we play in the lives of others, those moments we post online for the entire world to see and the things we can’t seem to stop bragging about.
Someday, I wish to feel content with as much of who I am as possible, even the parts of myself that I would never dare write a column about. The core of me. The real me. The me that is flawed but still is somehow always capable of becoming better while never really changing at all.
I wish I could say that driving 30 minutes west of Muncie and painting a layer of paint changed me, my life or the way that I view the world catastrophically. It didn’t really.
Maybe it’s too soon to tell whether or not it changed anything. Yet that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t worth it or that the experience wasn’t remarkable.
I remember sitting in my car and beaming with pride as I posted pictures to my social media pages. I remember smiling as I looked at my certificate that stated I went and painted that ball of paint, being a part of something so extraordinary in such a small way.
The world’s largest ball of paint is actually one of the places that Theodore and Marley visited in the book “All The Bright Places” by Jennifer Niven. I think it just might be one of my bright places, if only for a moment or so in time.