For a while now I’ve been including the little red balloon emoji into my social media posts (mainly on Instagram) as sort of a makeshift signature for the things I’ve created or as a way to positively respond to people. I’ve often used it in lieu of hearts or smiles or other commonly used imagery because it’s an underdog; not many people replace those societal tropes with the balloon. It feels exclusive in a way, and I like that about it. I’m sure I’m not the only one to do this, but it feels exclusive. The balloon can represent so many different emotions as well: positivity, loneliness, gratitude, fragility, and so many others. But there’s more to the balloon, I feel, that isn’t immediately obvious but makes it that much more interesting.
You see, the balloon is a terrific metaphor for the way I see life. It’s symbolic of a relentless upward trajectory to pursue its passions, but those passions rest firmly on a path to self-destruction if not grounded in reality. If it were allowed, the balloon would shirk the shackles of gravity and launch itself into the sky toward the heart of the sun with reckless abandon. That is its nature, its dream, its passion. It wants to fly free with the birds and see the world below from a new perspective. It flies as high and as hard as it possibly can while ignoring everything else that should matter to it. Then, when it reaches the invisible ceiling of needles, it ruptures and dies and falls back to Earth. It ignored what kept it alive in order to fully experience its passion to the highest degree.
The thing that keeps the balloon from ultimately dying is the string that keeps it grounded. The string is symbolic of the reality around the balloon. The balloon pushes the boundaries of the string, flying as high as it can within the limits the string affords it. Rarely do you see a healthy balloon with a beehive of loose string in its noon shadow. The balloon stretches the full length of string as far as possible to follow the passions it can at a safe altitude, an altitude short of the needles that would end its life. The string is the brain and the balloon is the heart. Their symbiosis is beautiful; the string without the balloon dies alone on the ground and a balloon without a string dies alone in the sky. Together they prop each other up to lead fulfilling lives.
It’s symbolic of the desire to rid oneself of responsibilities and basic human needs to exclusively pursue the desires one has but needing that voice of reason to bring one back to a sense of equilibrium within the real world. If I could, I wouldn’t work or sleep or eat and I would only paint and photograph and read about the things I’m interested in. I work and eat and sleep to survive, not because I just can’t wait to do any of it. I realize my body and life in general needs these things to maintain a healthy lifestyle. What I love is disconnected from those basic human requirements. If I only allocated my time to my passions, I would die. My string is the reality of being human and living as a human in a human world; my red balloon, the color most commonly associated with love, is my constant desire to pursue my passions at the furthest end of the string keeping me grounded and alive.
This is why the red balloon speaks to me so deeply. It’s more than an inflated bag of helium. I use it often in my posts and responses because, for that tiny moment in time, my life is spent publishing something I’ve created or responding to and thinking about a specific person. It’s my way of pictorially conveying the concept of, “Here, this piece of my life is yours. I chose to spend this tiny moment in time on you, and without you here as part of my story, my life wouldn’t have been spent like this. You are significant.”🎈