Zest evokes, for me, a fresh lemon, the act of grating off its aromatic skin in preparation for a yummy dessert or lemony sauce that will follow. In a way, that’s what the more figurative form of zest — great enthusiasm and energy, according to Google — does in a life: it makes every interaction taste a little fresher, every experience feel a little more exciting.
Zest is allowing yourself to find joy in even the most perfunctory moments of your life. It’s enjoying the sound your pencil makes as you write, or letting yourself strut down the sidewalk because you like the way your heel taps the pavement. In New York City, it’s the mere act of smiling, unprompted, in public.
There was a time when I was practically the human embodiment of zest. My freshman year of college, I regularly skipped across crosswalks and was constantly looking up, marveling at Boston’s architecture. But over time, the realities of the world we live in started to set in. It became harder to smile up at the day ahead knowing what an unequal world we live in, knowing the certain doom humanity was facing due to climate change, knowing that enough people supported our current U.S. president to put him in office.
These are things I still regularly feel sad about, but I’ve also been trying to reclaim my instinctual zest. Because if we let ourselves get too beaten down and miserable, we’re letting them win. So I don’t rush through life, and I try to appreciate the little moments, like the pleasure of zesting a lemon.