15 Days Till 25

March 10, 2011 § 1 Comment

When I was five years old, I wrote a list of “Things I’m Good At.” Accolades included, “Shampoo and condition own hair,” “Brush own teeth,” “Jump off back deck BY MYSELF.” All impressive accomplishments to have at the ripe old age of 5. I’m still good at those things …well, except for the brushing teeth thing. My dentist can corroborate my poor dental hygiene habits.

My mother stashed this list in a drawer in the dining room hutch with several other family valuables like cards from my first birthday party, a collection of hand written letters from the Tooth Fairy, and the first Mother’s Day card I ever wrote. She would take it out occasionally and make me read it at times when I was feeling particularly defeated. The first time was in middle school when I had an especially hard time getting my math homework right. I was sniffling at the kitchen table — more frustrated and fed up than sad — and she had just wrapped up her famous Elephant Eating Speech.

The Elephant Eating Speech — that’s the pep talk she gave me whenever things got too tough. That was her trump card, her ace in the hole that she played when I couldn’t argue or listen anymore. Things would go quiet after an hour of back-and-forth about how I just can’t do this, it’s too hard, I don’t like it, and I can’t do it I can’t. Then she would look at me and ask, “How do you eat an elephant?”

The first time she asked, I just stared at her confused. What did elephants have to do with finishing math homework? And every other time I replied with an, “I know, I know.” I’d heard this all before. But she’d always answer it for me anyway: “One bite at a time.” Her Irish wisdom was infallible.

This particular time, after The Elephant Eating Speech, she also produced my “Things I’m Good At” list which I hadn’t even remembered writing by then. It was accompanied with a list of “Things I’m Not So Good At” on the other half of the page. The Things I Was Good At at five years old numbered somewhere in the upper 30s. There were a total of two Things I Wasn’t So Good At: Brushing my own hair (I hated how my scalp pulled from efforts to detangle stubborn knots) and Math.

But see? My mom told me. Look at how many things you were good at back then, and how many more things you’re good at now! And even though math is still hard, you’re better at it now than when you first wrote this list. I bet there are plenty more things you could add to this list today.

And it was true. Not only was I still good at all the over 30 things I had listed when I was five, but I was better at even more things and knew more about math than I did back then.

Now that I’m turning five times five years old, I can add a few more things to that list, including “Taking chances,” “Perseverance,” and “Eating elephants.”

*No physical elephants were harmed or eaten in the writing of this post.

(Read Part 1 of the series here.)


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