I believe in licking the slug.
The time I licked a slug has become a story I tell over and over again to my friends. Even though we laugh about it, it’s actually become my guiding life philosophy, which is: if you’re curious about something, find out. If you want to try something, do it. Licking the slug taught me that curiosity is one of the best traits humanity has, and we should use it to its full potential.
Starting when I was eight years old, I spent a few weeks of every summer at a Girl Scout camp called Camp Redwing—a place where the scenery was beautiful, the songs were loud and fun, and the campfires were warm in the cold night air. With all the time I spent living in tents, I learned a lot of facts about the outdoors—some cool, some weird, and some gross. One of the more memorable facts I learned was that licking a slug could make your tongue go numb.
The morning I licked the slug was like any other. My friends and I were all excited for the day’s creek hike. Since we had done the hike before on a previous trip, we knew what to expect: beautiful scenery, maybe a salamander if we were lucky, and lots of slippery rocks.
When one person in the group found a slug, we were all thrilled. We gathered around, pushing each other to be in the front with the best view. And that’s when one of our counselors told us that when you lick a slug, your tongue goes numb. I remember a flurry of arms and voices before the counselors restored order and began passing it around. When the slug made its way to me, my curiosity took over and I decided to lick it. It was slimy and cold, but not as disgusting as I expected. Unfortunately, it did not numb my tongue; the numbing chemical must have been gone by the time it reached me.
In retrospect, it’s gross that I licked that slug, especially after 20 other people had. But the sheer enthusiasm I had to try it out and learn something new is a feeling that has stuck with me since.
When we’re kids, we want to know everything. We bother our parents with endless questions of “why?” and we try everything in school. But, as we grow up and reach high school, then college, that curiosity seems to dwindle a lot.
It’s easy to get caught up in the stress of tests and papers in college, but it’s important that we channel our inner child who wanted to do things like lick slugs. We shouldn’t lose our natural, childlike curiosity because it drives passion and discovery, and it makes the world a better place.
Now, when I feel myself losing that passion for learning, I remember to lick the slug—whatever the slug is in that moment. I’ll do anything that ignites that same enthusiasm in me, and I ignore what other people think about it. I know that my childlike curiosity is something I don’t want to give up, and I try to bring it to the surface as much as I can.
I believe in the joy of human curiosity. I believe in licking the slug.
Rachel Stofanak is a rising Penn State sophomore majoring in biological engineering.