I make lists. It’s what I do.
I also take unsmiling pictures of myself. Shoot me.
I write a lot more journal-y stuff than poetry. But trust me: I’m a poet.
I have the binders. A degree. The tortured soul to prove it.
But back to this thing about lists.
I often think of young women; the lessons I think we fail to teach them and how we might better serve them and our world if we did. By we, I mean women who have been there and made it (somewhat anyway) through.
What ” to do” list could we give them to get them through that decade–what could I have told told me that would’ve encouraged me beyond my doubts? Probably nothing that I would’ve believed, but here’s a list I would’ve given my 20something self anyway:
I was serious most of the time. But the truth is: it ain’t that serious. And I’m sure I had heard that by 20, but I still didn’t understand just how serious it wasn’t.
2. Believe some things, like:
3. He’s not all that.
As cool—almost cold—as I could be with the boys I dated (and didn’t date but wanted to) I thought about them incessantly, painting horribly gilded pictures of them in my head and journals and lamenting like a bad love song lyrics when things didn’t work out. They clearly weren’t worth all that and even though publicly I said and pretended I knew that, I couldn’t convince myself that they weren’t.
4. You’re not as smart as you think you are.
You know everything at 20—all that you can know at 20. If you live longer you will know more. Too bad I didn’t know about that last part.
5. You’re not as dumb as you think you are.
I could not write a critical analysis effectively to save my soul. And I was an English major! I decided scholarship and research would never be my thing before I even gave myself an opportunity to get the hang of it. Telling myself that mediocre work was the extent of my capability made me produce a lot more of it than I probably had to.
6. Bagels are not diet food.
And why would you be on a diet anyway Miss Missy?! Treat your body kindly and it will return the favor. That is all.
7. MARTA is not the Road to Oz; paved with goblins and misfortune. It’s just transit.
I would not get on the city bus or train alone so I missed out on a lot of a great city by waiting too late to get the confidence to explore it. Alone. Which is probably the best way to explore anyway. Or that assessment may just be my Hermit showing again.
8. Read all the way through. Then read again.
That mediocre thing in number 5. Yeah.
9. Wear it anyway.
Your confidence is the one accessory that pulls everything together.
10. Back away from the Bible.
Anything can be a weapon—it just depends on how you aim it. I used the Bible like a gun, shooting and shutting down e’rything indiscriminately.
11. Dance like nobody’s watching.
The best dancers are not the most technically astute but those that give in to epoulement. I danced in a liturgical company and in a class, but I never really danced. Give in: you’ll like the way you look.
12. You’re beautiful.
And not just because your mama said so.
13. Every boy is a man on the verge of happening.
So just let him be a boy. You’re still a girl yourself after all.
14. Quality is better than quantity.
15. Read then write. But first, read some more.
The best writers are readers first. Period.
16. Black beans are good.
But when I saw them for the first time in the vegetarian line at our school cafeteria I unequivocally discredited them. Black beans after all? Now I love them. Lesson: An assessment based upon a single, initial impression is often wrong.
17. Speak up.
You have a story that no one can tell but you. And only you can tell it like you. If you don’t tell it, it won’t get told—not right anyway.
18. Make out. Make up. Make do.
19. Go away.
I wanted to study abroad. I didn’t. I regret it to this day. It’s usually what you don’t do that you regret—not what you do. Explore the world—it’s not the big scary Beyond you think it is.
20. Lighten up on the accelerator.
I had two speeds: fast and faster. And a guardian angel apparently.
21. The ob-gyn is not a perv nor is s/he Cruella.
S/he’s just doing the job that s/he signed on to do. So do yours: take care of yourself. Go.