Circus ElephantFor my high school senior project in architecture, I designed a multi-use indoor arena. I wrote a letter to Mr. Donnaparia, the manager of Madison Square Garden in New York, asking if I could tour his facility.

Surprisingly, he said yes.

Mr. Donnaparia met me at the back entrance of the Garden and we took the elevator to the fifth floor where the Garden stage is located. They were setting up the basketball court for the Knicks, who were to play the next night.

I was amazed how they could have roller derby in the morning, basketball in the afternoon, and ice hockey at night. Madison Square Garden, rich in history, is an amazing facility.

While walking around the outer ramp that allows trucks to bring the various stage performance hardware into the Garden floor, I noticed four-inch plastic caps about every twenty feet around the perimeter.

Trained Elephants

Asking why did they have holes every twenty feet, Mr. Donnaparia said they were there to tether the elephants from the combined shows of Ringling Brothers Barnum and Baily Circus.

Years, ago I had seen the elephants tethered by these posts and knew that if the elephants wanted to, the posts couldn’t possibly stop them from breaking free.

Asking how this works, Mr. Donnaparia said that only baby elephants are brought into captivity, when they are too small to break free from the tether. They are tethered immediately with an ankle bracelet and chained to a post.

So as an adult elephant, they don’t know that they are strong enough to break free.

The question has always stuck with me, like the elephant in a circus, how many things have I been told or experienced that I couldn’t do when younger that I could do today?

How much of my past is holding me back?

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