Familiar with the six word memoir? The story goes that a magazine editor challenged Ernest Hemingway to write the shortest narrative possible. He submitted “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.” Six words. Six words that provided character and conflict, that told a complete story. A simple Google search returns this version of the tale along with 1.24 million more hits confirming or denying its veracity. Whatever the truth, SMITH magazine supports a website dedicated to the six word memoir and its role in creative writing and self reflection. Click the link above to check the Six Word Memoir site.
At the close of my big kid’s College for Kids Young Writers’ Academy a few weeks back, we audience members were invited to participate in a challenge much like the students had been doing all week. One of the instructors threw down the six word memoir challenge. I froze–instant writer’s block. Not everyone did, and from the room came a handful of charming mini-bios. Among my favorites:
I found you; I found me. (And the “awwwww” went up from the entire audience.)
I am not good at this. The audience bust out laughing at this young lady’s clever spin.
Life sometimes strides; Life sometimes sucks. This one also drew laughs from around the room, and I couldn’t have been more surprised at its author: my son.
Try as I might, my six word memoir remains unwritten. How does one capture one’s essential self or perception of self? Including one attribute eliminates space for another. I’m a mom. I’m a wife. I’m a friend. I’m a speech-language pathologist. I star in many roles, but am defined by none. Music sings my biography, but I am not a songwriter. I’m no philosopher, but hold dear some guiding tenets and random nuggets from much wiser souls than I dare dream to be:
Be today the person future you would be proud to call a friend. (This one is WW’s)
The opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s indifference. (Elie Wiesel)
Don’t be a dick. (Me and Everyone)
A mother is only as happy as her saddest son. (Can’t quite source this)
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. (Eleanor Roosevelt)
A friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, “You too? I thought I was the only one!” (CS Lewis)
Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are. (John Wooden)
Just who am I? My husband and I had a discussion recently about the many mes–that’s a pluralization of ‘me’ by the way. It goes against every punctuation convention I hold dear; I cannot apostrophize a plural. I’m unable to refer to many mes as ‘us’ either, although ‘us’ is the plural of me. Weird, right? Mes is not a word (well actually it is a Spanish word meaning month) but ‘me’ isn’t plural, I know. And we’ve already covered this–I write like I talk in my little blog here, so grammar and conventions are oft times unconventional in the name of creativity, judgey ones. I know the rules of grammar, but I’m all rebel rebel like that here. Dang it’s hard to be a grammar freakazoid when you break the rules yourself! Deep breath. The many mes.
I think we generally acknowledge that we are different things to different people in our lives. 180 speech paths don’t care so much about my kitchen remodel. My friends don’t care a lick about my ethics presentations or remediation of phonological disorders. My husband can’t be bothered with my music fandom. My children pay no mind to me when. . . Ah, hell, they pay no mind to 93% of me unless it deals with food, Pokémon, or hooking up to Wi-Fi. Most of the time, most mes are poppin’. Most of the time I feel confident and comfortable with my multiple personalities. I think if I weren’t me, I would like me in whichever persona I need me to be.
But when I am vulnerable, all of the mes in me dive for cover.
I asked myself this question in a long-ago blog post, and vowed to figure it out: Who am I? The bigger question perhaps is why am I no closer to figuring it out? I’m old, I should know by now, shouldn’t I? I’m a #baseballmom, but I’d like not to be an MD mom. See? No hashtag for MD mom, because who wants that for their kid? Who wants that to be a defining element in their six word memoir? I could just stick to mom, and call it a day I guess. I’m a communicator in many forms–language and speech habilitator, information sharer, professional developer, blogger, cheerleader and advocate for my children, comedian, song lyrics savant. Who tags themselves essentially as a communicator? I’m a good and loyal wife. Speech-language pathologist is in me, but doesn’t rate highly enough for the six words. I laugh a lot and I smile a lot, but I can be morose. I’m terribly hard on myself, and my husband believes I should be black and blue for the extent to which I beat myself up when I fail, especially when I believe I fail at parenting. I’m optimistic, yet anxious; I’m the queen of hyperbole, yet quite pragmatic in fact.
My husband, who unwittingly started this post in motion, thinks I’m lots of personalities (not in the DSM-V multiple personality disorder kind of way though
probably possibly, so please keep your questioning my sanity thoughts to yourselves, muchas gracias), but that not everyone gets all of me. The discussion stemmed from one of the mes he appreciates less well than the rock star wife and mom me. I would argue that not everyone needs all of the mes. There’s a line in Some Fantastic that goes, “I missed out on the best of you.” Who needs, but is missing out on the best of me, the best of the me that they need anyway? My kids? My husband? My friends?? I can’t be best me at everything to everyone all the time, but I certainly can’t be failing those who matter most. Am I? When being right for someone’s something prevents or distracts me from being the right something elsewhere?? Damn. Adulting is hard.
Getting back to my son’s memoir. Why was he, all 5’9″ now, twelve-and-a-half years of him, able to crank it out in the allotted timeframe and belt it out in a roomful of people? Does it accurately reflect how he views the world? He freaking nailed it–life does sometimes stride, and it most assuredly sucks at others. It’s profound. Alternately, it’s middle school shallow. It is balanced though, right?
Much can be revealed in six words. Maybe that’s why getting it right matters so. Have you written your six word memoir? Can you write mine?
Family, friends, happiness–greater than gravity.
It’s a start anyway.