As a historian, I spend a lot of time with political cartoons, particularly when discussing time periods before widespread use of photography in newspapers and other printed materials. I’ve always been a big fan of Jeff MacNelly‘s Pulitzer-prize winning cartoon, illustrating the complicated process of filing federal income taxes.

Why does the federal income tax form have to be so complicated? Why do they need to know seemingly unnecessary details? Why are there choices that seem identical?

Fortunately, for many of us, we can use software to compute our taxes. And, all else failing, we can always read the tax manual that the IRS so kindly provides.

But in a conversation with Dr. Leo today, I realized that health and well-being can be just as frustrating, if not more. Human beings are so incredibly complicated. In addition to all the processes going on within my physical body, I also have to take into account my emotional well-being and the impact falling behind in school can have on how exhausted I am. Every decision with regard to medication, activity, and perspective seems to require composing pro and con lists that make deciding on a college seem miniscule. There’s no manual for these decisions. Even if I was willing to spend hours poring through a table of contents, there simply isn’t a manual.

In this context, I feel like Jeff MacNelly filling out his income tax form. Really? You expect me to spend time figuring this out? Can I just pay $500 and call it done?

In the journey of life, I’m coming to terms with the fact that life is complicated, and it can be very hard sometimes. But there isn’t always an easy way out, and it’s not always in our best interest to run really quickly in the opposite direction. I’m very grateful for people in my life like Dr. Leo who take the time to walk with me down this journey. At the same time, sometimes, I just sigh.

with a genuine heart,
Abigail Cashelle



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