early what you want to do with your life ... and then be prepared to
change your mind a lot.
Jaymi was three years old, she proudly -- and insistently -- announced that she
wanted to be a "garbage mans" when she grew up.
world was very tiny in those days -- just Mommy and Jaymi, most of the
time -- and visits from people like 'the mailmans' and 'the garbage
mans' and the Puget Power lady, coming to give us our 24-hour
disconnection notice, were a pretty big deal.
career ambitions have changed many times in the years since then, of
course, but I'll never forget how adamant she was about it that summer
... how single-minded her three-year-old focus ... and how
pissed-off she got whenever anyone tried to talk her out of it.
"Wouldn't you rather be a nice BALLERINA?")
was a lot the same way. Seven-year-old Secra lay awake in bed at night,
planning who would guest-star on her future TV show. Fourteen-year-old
Secra had names picked out for her future children. Nineteen-year-old
Secra sat in her junior college Sociology class and composed the
"forewards" for her future novel.
year old Secra, on the other hand, is still trying
to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up.
I think that's OK. I think that unless you're, say, sitting in your
crib playing classical violin at age six months -- or unless you were
born in Buckingham Palace, maybe -- then it's OK to not settle too soon
on any one direction in life.
the first forty or fifty years thinking about it, first. What's the
hair is the boss of you: not the other way around.
sooner you figure this out -- and accept it -- the
happier you'll be.
at least 24 hours to answer any e-mail that pisses you off,
hurts your feelings, offends your sensibilities and/or might end up
costing you a buttload of money .
You're right. We
didn't even have e-mail when I was nineteen years
were all excited about CB RADIOS,
the basic principle is the same: if someone sends you a message, via any
means, that provokes an instant and intensely negative reaction in you
... wait at least one day before you respond.
not write back immediately, telling them how hurt and betrayed and
angry you feel. Do not forward the message to anyone else. Do not read
it over the phone to anyone. Do not post it on your website (or
anywhere else public ... like a bathroom wall). Do not call them names,
or *remind* them that they still owe you money, or threaten them, or
insult their dog or their meatloaf recipe or their taste in patio
furniture, or take this opportunity to mention that you always defended
them behind-the-scenes when other people were saying bad evil nasty
terrible things about them, but that you probably won't be doing
Turn off the computer.
Think about it for a day.
Talk to somebody neutral to the situation about it, if you need to.
it cook for a full day before you do anything about
it. And then, when you've had time to allow reason to overtake rage, compose a measured, thoughtful response.
may not be able to salvage the friendship, or get your money back, or
avoid the lawsuit ... but you'll be able to look at YOU
in the mirror with a clear conscience. And sometimes that's worth all
the rest of it put together.
there is a little voice inside your head whispering "This is wrong: I
shouldn't be doing this" ... pay attention.
is a reason you hear that little voice whispering
in your ear.
it's not your conscience talking. No, it's not God, or Great-Grandma's ghost,
or Mother Nature, or a *good angel* sitting on your shoulder quietly
pointing out the difference between right and wrong.
I'm not kidding.
It's ME! MOM!
you were born, I had you secretly wired with a special Two-Way
Long-Distance Internal Communication Device, programmed to
automatically self-activate on your nineteenth birthday. (Feel that
little bumpy thing, right behind your left ear?) From now on, every time you light a cigarette ... every time you go to
bed with your makeup on ... every time you tell a little white lie to
your boss, or forget to re-wind your videos before you take them back
to Blockbuster, or call your little brother a
"turd" ... that'll be *my* voice you'll hear, whispering in your ear!
that's cool? Just wait'll your
twenty-first birthday: that's when the *Two-Way MomCam*
that hooey about how "size doesn't matter" when picking a romantic
partner is just that: a big bunch of hooey.
size of his heart matters. The size of his intellect matters. The size
of his moral center, and his sense of humor, and his vision of the
future, and his hands (for backrubbing purposes, of course) ... all that
size of his hard drive matters, but only if you're going to be sharing
rest of it is merely personal preference.
you're young, and your brain is still all shiny and new, and all of
your *memory molecules* are still functioning the way they're supposed
to, it's easy to remember the names of every teacher you've ever had,
starting from kindergarten and going all the way through grade school,
middle school and high school, right up to graduation.
a cinch to look at a muddy Polaroid of a family picnic, taken ten years
earlier, and rattle off the names of all fourteen first cousins (plus
the two former sisters-in-law that nobody talks about anymore).
no big deal to pick up an anonymous black & white snapshot of
an anonymous pine tree in front of an anonymous cabin and say, "Wow!
That was taken at Camp Lyle McLeod on August 17, 1970 at approximately
4:18 p.m., just before archery practice!"
when you reach *my* advanced age, and everything sort of starts
collapsing in on itself, you need a little help. (More help than
ginko biloba provides, I mean.) That's why I am a firm believer in the
practice of documenting your photos the absolute instant
you get them back from the drugstore.
even fudk around. The minute you get home with your pictures, take them
out of the envelope ... flip them over ... and write down any relevant
information that you might be prone to *forget* in your old age.
names. And dates. And locations.
may be sort of a pain in the rear end right now ... but someday you'll
And so will your great-great-great-grandchildren.
people who are making your life miserable today won't even be listed in
your address book ten years from now.
for family, of course. *Family misery* is *forever misery.*
other than that, 99.9% of the people who are raising your blood
pressure/raising your rent/raising your hackles right now -- today --
this very minute -- will be a mere ketchup stain on the jacket lapel of
your memory, ten years from now.
some cases, you won't even remember their names.
if you've forgotten to document their photos.)
are never too old to play Barbies.
are never too old to sit down with the nearest available four-year-old
and discuss whether Barbie needs to wear track shoes or rain boots with
her wedding gown.
never too old for "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer," either ... or for
drawing pictures, or for The Chronicles of Narnia, or for sitting on
your front porch blowing soap bubbles. You're never too old to blow out
birthday candles. You're never too old to spin around and around, as
fast as you can for as long as you can stand it, before collapsing to
the ground in a dizzy heap. You're never too old for The Wizard of Oz.
You're never too old for afternoon naps, or for cookies and milk, or
for yellow rubber duckies in your bathtub.
-- as Grandma Vert always used to say -- "You're never too old for a hug."
you're coughing so hard you're peeing your pants? It's time to call a doctor.
it's still bleeding, four Band-Aids later? It's time to call a
it's turning funny colors and it hurts to touch? It's time to call a
little children on the bus are pointing at you and saying "Mommy! Why
is that lady blowing BUBBLES with her NOSE?" It's time to call a
it doesn't start when it's supposed to, or if it does start when it isn't
supposed to, or if it starts and then stops or stops and then starts? It's time to call a doctor.
if it just wants to sit around eating Pringles and watching football in
its underwear all afternoon on a sunny Saturday afternoon? It's time
to call your MOTHER. Because she's probably the
only one who's gonna want to hear about it.
passes even faster than *they* tell you it does.
I know is that five minutes ago I was laying on a gurney in a labor
room at TicTac General, hurling profanities at God and at my husband
and at the medical community at large ...
and now all of a sudden it's December 2000, and in exactly seventeen
hours and forty-one minutes I'm going to have a nineteen-year-old
how fast time passes. But I suspect that this, more than any of the
other *Semi-Useful* stuff on this list, is one of those things that you
can only learn the old-fashioned way.