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On looking beneath the surface and world records


Since it came into being in 1955, the Guinness World Records continues to document great feats in human history. The weird and wonderful, the awesome, the surreal, the things that make us humans feel unique. 


Being the most tattooed person in the world. Being a part of the world’s biggest pillow fight. Being the world’s fastest typer with your nose. Holding the most amount of Guinness World Records. It seems our imagination knows no limits. 


On the surface, some might look upon the records as frivolous: trivial ways to pass the time, to get your 15 minutes of fame.  


Yet every record tells a story. 


One such story is that of Diana Armstrong, who you may know as the woman with the world's longest fingernails. 


How does one manage with nails that are 42-foot long? And why? What would make someone grow their nails to a length that makes everyday life inconvenient? 


The answer may come as a surprise: grief. 


Her 16 year old daughter had manicured Diana’s nails every weekend before her sudden death in 1997. As a way to remember her while she battled depression for a decade, Diana vowed to never trim them again.


It’s impossible to understand someone's life experiences in a glance, and know what they're thinking and how they're feeling without asking. We can only make assumptions, and later down the line find out how wrong we were.


Things look a certain way to us on the surface because of our own mental models, our assumptions of how the world works, and the experiences that have shaped our own selves. 


But there is always another story beneath the surface, and looking past it to find out what lies beneath is a choice.


We just need to open our eyes, lend an ear, and look for it.


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