just before your weekend begins in earnest...

brittan claire posted about an article she found on mighty girl. and i fell in love with brittan'sideas about it all. so i followed the link to the mighty girl website where the full article is posted. and then i fell in love with the author: maggie mason.

20 things she wished she known at 20.

the whole thing is so spectacularly perfect. the freedom of judgement she encourages, the importance of failure.

i wish i could say i'd already checked several of these things off my list--been there, done that. but alas, i have yet to learn (i mean really know in my bones) most of them.

i'm nearing the twenty-five mark. and that seems like a big something. but at the end of the day i suppose what it really means is that i still have five years to enjoy my twenties.it's not too late to be young and carefree! five years to revel in mussing things up.

so my hope is you enjoy this as much as i did...

20 Things I Wish I’d Known at 20

A couple weeks ago, in my letter to 20-year-old me, I was congratulating myself on not having been photographed topless. A few days later, I realized that wasn’t strictly true.

My roommate Jen Rector was a photographer, and she took a whole book of very reserved pinups. I’m amazed that I lived in an apartment with a photographer and a full bar and we still only managed to do 1940s-style damage.

It’s a testimony to how cautious I was, which is a shame because your early twenties is a great time to revel in stupidity. Play beer pong with bourbon. Pierce your tongue. Climb on the back of a motorcycle in Indonesia. What the hell.

When you’re young; you don’t have to make smart decisions to make sound decisions. You’re still mapping the territory, so failure is the quickest route between idiocy and enlightenment.

These are a few of the lessons I wish I’d started learning a little earlier. I haven’t mastered them yet, but now you get a head start.

1. Consider the source. If you’re worried about someone who dislikes you, first ask yourself whether they’re an asshole. If you don’t like them, and they don’t like you, that’s not a problem. That’s a mutual understanding.

2. Get off the couch. If you find yourself playing hard to get, don’t pretend to be busy. Just be busy.

3. Don’t waste your time. If you have to play hard to get, move on. You’ll know when you’ve found a healthy relationship because it won’t confuse you.

4. When in doubt, shut up. Silence is a smart negotiation tactic, the best option when you’re processing how to respond, and always more productive than lying about what you’re thinking.

5. Don’t complain. Maybe venting makes you feel better, but letting off steam can also lull you into maintaining the status quo. Unfortunately, the status quo is pissing you off, which is why you’re whining in the first place. If you’re frustrated, turn that energy toward fixing your problems, not bitching about them.

6. Don’t obsess. Worrying is complaint’s ugly cousin. Either use that energy to change your situation, or relax.

7. Find an age-appropriate style. No one wants to see a 20 year old in beige slacks and a wool blazer. Buy trendy clothes, wear the slutty dress, do something ugly with your hair. Be part of your generation, so you can laugh at the photos later.

8. Be polite. It keeps doors open, lessens the potential for misunderstandings, and increases the odds of getting invited back to the beach house.

9. But defend your boundaries. When someone isn’t taking no for an answer, clarify what you want, and then respond forcefully. Being polite to someone who isn’t hearing you is naive.

10. You look good. There’s no such thing as the hottest person in the room. Everyone is attracted to something different, so just take those odds and run with them.

11. Being nice is overrated. In fact, “nice” is the least interesting thing someone can say about you.

12. Keep it to yourself. “She seems nice” is an excellent thing to say about someone you don’t like. Particularly in the company of people you don’t know.

13. Know your audience. When you’re telling a story and someone interrupts you, let them.

14. Let your passion shape your profession. You know that thing your dad says? “If work wasn’t hard, they wouldn’t pay you to do it.” Please. There are professional rock stars, astronauts, puppy trainers, and bloggers.

15. Sex is personal. Don’t bother with one-night stands if they’re not your thing, and don’t judge people for enjoying them (or not). Waiting to sleep with someone doesn’t make you an uptight prude, and jumping into bed doesn’t make you a spontaneous adventure seeker.

16. Focus. The saying, “what you’re thinking about is what you’re becoming” isn’t just chilling, it’s a universal law. Be aware of how you’re investing your attention – including your words, and your actions.

17. Cut yourself a break. Don’t offer a running commentary on your own faults. When you do, the people around you listen. Give yourself space to change your character.

18. Don’t be intimidated. World travelers are just people who bought plane tickets. Pulitzer Prize winners are people who sit alone and write. You can break the most profound accomplishment down to a series of mundane tasks.

19. Choose good company. Ask yourself if a person makes you better or drains your life force. If the answer is B, you’re busy next time they call. And the time after that.

20. Enjoy your body. Odds are you’re more beautiful now than you will be again. Ask your roommate.

fresh air.

this morning found me in central park with little zoobie (my very dearest sixteen-month-old friend).

we pointed out all the ruff-ruffs (dogs) and made fish-faces upon coming to the pond. the carriage horses elicited long neighs which led to a detailed discussion of all other animals sounds. both of us noshing on our bianca (pizza bread) all the while.

and when my phone rang little zoobie looked up and asked, mamma?

i laughed, looked at the screen and said, yes, but my mamma.

i spoke briefly to my mother, aware of the little girl in front of me.

we spoke of oscar dresses. and who we thought looked best. and work. and guys. and how tricky that can be. and somewhere in our oh-so-brief-but-all-encompassing conversation my mother gave me the best advice of my life.

let me preface:

you see i've been a bit batty of late. working extra hours. and trying desperately to survive the last throws of winter and the inefficiency of the mta (ny's mass transit system). and feeling the need for a change but not knowing what that change need be. and if i haven't said it before, let me say it now, i do not. deal well. with uncertainty. and i suppose that's what i've been feeling: uncertainty. winter becoming spring. paying jobs taking back seats to pipe dreams. new adventures and necessary good-byes.

so my mother in her infinite wisdom said... (are you ready for this?)....(wait)...okay:


she chuckled and told me to relax.

and with that one word i felt my entire chest open up.

the tight coil sprang loose and my shoulders fell into place and i could breathe. and laugh.

and not take myself too seriously.

and space arose where before there was none.

perhaps it was the weather. and the little girl in front of me. and the trees overhead. perhaps it was all those things. because this morning that one word was like fresh-air in some damn tired lungs.

the egg-carry.

field day circa 1995

so you want to know what i remember about my childhood?


we lived in a house. that we built ourselves. with the name fee scratched in cement on the upper-right-hand corner of the driveway. 

it was on a half-acre-lot covered in bermuda grass with no back fence. just barbed-wire and a pasture that stretched to the other end of paradise. every once in a while there were horses. and always there were cardinals nesting in the trees. 

our neighborhood consisted of only two streets and a series of water ponds and canals. 

i walked to school. down three houses. past the pond. up some stone steps. and through the gate. into the school yard i traipsed with a story on my lips and my mom at my side.

i played softball. and soccer. and did day camps and college for kids. there were play dates and pool parties and gymnastics and a children's theatre downtown.

odyssey of the mind? my dad coached the team.

my parents let me pick my pre-school. i went to the one that had the rocket-ship slide. and safari murals painted on the walls. 

and i went to public school. and i really don't know how i got so lucky, but it was as all public schools should be.

we sewed dinosaur pillows and had "live" wax museums. i was marie curie.
we hatched chickens and learned to hula dance. 

and of course...there was field day. and this was not just any field day. this was field day as it should only be done.

a full day affair. with painted-class-t-shirts. and yummy treats. and hoola hoops and balloon tosses. and races. short races. long races. it was a day in which childhood itself blossomed. 

and do you know what else i remember?

the egg-cary race. you know, the race where you balance the egg on the spoon and walk from one point to the next. passing it to a friend, who you are sure cannot do it as well as you?

that's what i remember--being sure, as i watched my friends precariously balance the eggs, that that egg was only safe in my hands. 

back and forth. back and forth i watched it go. and i watched my friends watching. watching the egg traverse the lawn. and i realized. i realized, they too thought the egg was safe only in their hands. even as i carried the egg, they too doubted. just as i doubted. and it became clear.

the egg was just as safe in their hands. and it was perfectly safe in mine. but we can't know what it feels like to be someone else carrying the egg. we can only know what it feels like when we ourselves have hold of it. 

this life of ours, well, it's our egg. and we're each responsible for our own. and those around us, watching us (parents, friends, and the like), sometimes (actually, often) they want to pick up our egg and carry it for us. because they think they can do it better. but they don't know the egg as we do. they don't know the soft spots and uneven surfaces. they don't know it's tendency to roll to the left, or wobble just before some version of a finish line. they have to trust us. and we have to trust them. and okay, sometimes it's best to let them hold our egg. or move it a few paces ahead. but at the end of the day we are the egg-keepers. all of us. lords of our own eggs. 

and it's never safer than when we grab hold of it (gently) and feel for the soft spot and note the flat surface and walk confidently into the future based on nothing more than what we're feeling.