When I read Lisa McCray’s beautiful “What I’ve Seen” list, it reminded me of how my love affair with lists began.
I was in third grade the first time I felt my smallness. It was a terrible moment of revelation for me, when the enormity of the world and the limits of my power to influence it became clear simultaneously. I remember distinctly feeling the edges of things, being unnerved and a little terrified by all that I could not control.
In response, I started listing the things that I could do. Silently. While I walked. There was a rhythm to it, a soothing cadence – my steps, my forward motion, my 8-year-old voice inside my head building a staggering list of all that I was capable of. “I can write stories,” I told myself. “I can read grownup books. I can walk fences. I’m good at dodge ball, tether ball, four-square, pickle. I can play chess, keep a secret, win a debate. I can flip my tongue over. I can shuffle cards. I can make up my own mind.”
In a way I couldn’t fully understand at the time, the list (repeated and expanded upon constantly) give me back a sense of control, a sense of accomplishment and self that was especially important then, at an age when girls start getting all kinds of mixed messages. Be strong, but be sweet and agreeable and non-threatening. Be smart, but be quiet and don’t ask too many questions. Be you, but be pretty, be fashionable, fit in. In the midst of external and internal confusion, my list of the things I could do grounded me, reminded me all the time of who I really was – a girl of consequence, fierce, curious and frequently at odds with the people who did exercise control over my world.
I guess I wanted to write this post to honor that girl. May we all always be (and raise) girls and boys of consequence.