I love making lists. I have been known to make lists of lists, especially around the holidays (Christmas card list, Hanukkah list, gift list, cookie-baking list, and on and on). There is something very satisfying about crossing things off and saying, “There. That is done. What is next?”
At my workplace we use a special shorthand for these to-dos, referring to them as “bwat lists”, from the Haitian Creole word bwat, or box. Think you’re finished with a task? Not until you send a bwat-check to whoever asked you to do the task in the first place.
As a reader, however, lists can be a bit annoying. I get pretty cranky when I turn to a favorite columnist and see that they’ve offered up a list of “random thoughts”. It’s always a bit insulting, like they’re either being clever, or they just can’t be bothered to think more completely or critically about an idea. If you don’t have enough to say to write a whole column about it, maybe it’s not that good of an idea in the first place?
But here I am, a week out from my return to work, and I realize that there are a number of things that I’d like to share, but I won’t have the time to flesh them out fully. And, I’m rationalizing to myself, many august publications rely on lists to convey information. I mean, Harper’s does it, so it can’t be that bad, right? (We’re going to choose to ignore the fact that far less august publications also publish lists, in the form of those terrible “What’s Hot/What’s Not” and “In/Out” lists that give me a blip of anxiety – ack! kitten heels are out and wedges are in? – until I remember that I don’t actually care.)
So, with apologies to the list-haters, here are (in no particular order) a few things that don’t quite merit a post of their own, but still, in my mind, deserve a little bit of my blog space:
– You can’t make over-generalized statements about the entire population of a country. There are over 65 MILLION French people and they are not all rude. When I got home from France I heard things like, “France is wonderful, except for the French!” Everyone I met there, from waiters to taxi drivers to hotel owners, was friendly, polite, and helpful. And I’m from Long Island, so I know a thing or two about rude.
– Regardless of what I just said about over-generalizing, I’m convinced that everyone from New Zealand is completely crazy.
– The current crop of French pop songs includes a ridiculous – perhaps even obscenely high – number of male/female duets.
– If you’re a AAA member, you can renew your driver’s license at one of the AAA branch offices, without having to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles! You can also buy movie tickets, amusement park tickets, and book travel. It is fascinating to me that with all of the on-line options, there are still people who physically go to a AAA office to book flights.
– I should never attempt to read David Foster Wallace after 10:30pm. Those evening hours are meant for travel magazines and fluffy historical fiction.
– Having a lane to yourself at a public swimming pools is one of life’s greater pleasures.
– Solo travel is good for the soul. It forces you to take responsibility for yourself, and reminds you what you’re capable of.
– Concord, MA, might be my favorite place to ride my bike. Seen on my ride yesterday: horses, goats, a cranberry bog, farms, polite (ok, tolerant) drivers, friendly Concordians, rolling hills, chipmunks, Orchard House. NOT seen on my ride: traffic lights.
– Speaking of biking…triathlons are awesome. What I’m most proud of is that over the past several years, I’ve recruited at least 8 women, by my count, to the world of triathlons. It’s been so much fun to help them prepare and to watch them realize how strong and able they are. If you live in the Massachusetts area and are thinking about doing a triathlon, I recommend any race organized by Max Performance. Also: stop thinking, and go do it.
– There’s no substitute for putting yourself out there. No one is going to knock on my door and offer to speak French with me for a few hours. (Although, as it turns out, I have a Moroccan neighbor, so that could happen…) It is awkward and scary to attempt to meet new people, especially as an adult, but the rewards are great. I’ve met some lovely folks this summer, and continued to improve my French thanks to them. That only happened because I reached out, took a chance, and showed up.
– One of the many gifts of my sabbatical was that it allowed me to slow down. I did less, but I enjoyed more. I was deliberate and a bit more thoughtful about how I spent my time and my energies. Along with my time for exercise, this is what I’m most afraid of losing when I return to work.
– Nothing – no social network, no text messages, no occasional greeting cards – can take the place of being face to face with friends and people you love. Of course, we know this already (and if we didn’t, we now have studies to prove it), and our lives don’t always lend themselves to personal contact. But we have to prioritize it, and try to order our lives in a way that encourages it, if we want those relationships to grow and nourish us.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for indulging my list-making and hanging in to the bitter end. You can now bwat-check “Read Kathryn’s blog”. What’s next?