All my life I’ve wanted to fit in, or so I thought. Now I wonder. What is it that I wanted to fit into? Some might say their jeans, but so far, my jeans have fit fine. I wanted to fit in with others, to blend seamlessly with the group. To be an insider. To be like others. Suddenly I wonder: just what does that mean? What was I hoping to be like? And who were these people I wanted to fit in with?
Last month travel writer Annabel Candy published a blog post, 35 Ways I Don’t Fit In, and she challenged readers to make their own list and link back to her post. When I sat down to make my list I realized that any given item is far from unique. Each specific attribute will be shared by a multitude of others – like DNA, it’s the total combination of shared elements that makes me unique. In no particular order, I’ll list 35 of the countless elements that add up to my unique experience and self.
1. I love chili, the hotter the better – up to a point. Inspired by Elizabeth-Anne Kim, I’m working on a Kindle Short about my adventures as a Chilihead.
2. I spent my public school years in Los Alamos, moving there after the Manhattan Project chaos had settled down and Los Alamos was closer to being a “real” town.
3. I have visited all fifty states, and lived in eight of them.
4. I love working with Photoshop.
5. I’d rather be writing than nearly anything else – except traveling and playing with Photoshop.
6. I almost never use recipes when I cook.
7. One of my two earliest memories was sitting on the floor by my mother’s knee with a needle and thread and scrap of fabric. I knew I was only making tangles, but that didn’t matter. I was sewing!
8. In 1961 I placed second at the state level in the New Mexico Make-It-Yourself-With-Wool contest.
9. I began violin lessons in fourth grade.
10. In high school I played string bass in the New Mexico All-State Orchestra.
11. My favorite afterschool activity in high school was drama club, known as the Olions. I always worked backstage.
12. I love to drive stick shift cars and still own one.
13. I have hiked the Milford Track and Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand.
14. I have walked across edges of Antarctic glaciers.
15. I can’t carry a tune by myself.
16. I love walking in the woods.
17. I do not enjoy gardening or yard work.
18. I do not like talking about myself!
19. I love solving puzzles.
20. I do things in binges, i.e. writing, playing computer games … even cleaning.
21. I used the kitchen clock as a calculator to keep score when my sister and I played tiddly winks as preschoolers.
22. I love taking pictures, but don’t give a fig about f-stops and all that jazz. That’s what Photoshop is for!
23. I have a great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother buried in Oakwood cemetery in Austin, Texas, right behind Ima Hogg, less than two miles from my daughter’s house.
24. I graduated from Boston University.
25. I was once a movie star’s houseguest at his beachfront home.
26. I was treated to a reed kayak ride on Lake Titicaca on my most recent birthday after dancing with village women.
27. I began using AppleWriter on our Apple ][+ computer right after Halloween in 1982 – 30 years ago!
28. I have six grandchildren living in three states.
29. I have made every type of clothing article from hats to shoes, lingerie to winter coats.
30. I was always the last one chosen for softball in grade school.
31. Many of my best friends live in my computer.
32. I’m a lifelong supporter of public libraries.
33. To my chagrin and amazement, I love ebooks!
34. While failure is not an option, giving up often is.
35. I quit wanting to fit in. I like my unique mix of me, and realize the joke was on me. When I quit trying, I fit in with most groups.
Any life writer will recognize this list as thirty-five story ideas. You know lots of facts about me that you probably didn’t know before, but not the story behind the facts. I could easily cluster these ideas, combining them into perhaps a dozen or fifteen stories. That’s how a memoir is formed. Find your key ideas, cluster and arrange to fit a story arc, then let those fingers fly!
Write Now: Compile a list of 35 things that make you uniquely you, then write some of the stories. Post your list to your blog or Facebook, and please, link back! I’d love to hear a few of your items in a comment too.