five traits you liked in yourself as a child

There are always obvious answers, easy choices, roads well-traveled. In fact, standardized tests bank on it, presenting the lazy, most commonly incorrect answer as choice "C" (also the default letter in the A-E of multiple choice answers). No doubt there are typical responses to certain Rorschach inkblots, aiding psychologists in personality assessment. Writers, good writers, try to avoid the obvious and cliched. Or they’ll use it to their advantage, knowing that the reader brings certain stereotypical ideas along for the ride. A storyteller can anticipate what the reader is thinking and use such assumptions to purposefully mislead the reader, providing a more surprising (holy shit, I sure didn’t see that coming) plot twist.

A few weeks ago, in writing exercise mode, I came across this prompt: to list the five traits I liked in myself as a child. I remember rolling my eyes, imaging how most people must respond. I bet most adults look back at their childhood selves and see cliches. I bet they listed how they missed the curiosity they used to have, that inquisitiveness and passion, the ability to see new, how easily delighted, how ready to laugh and learn. Then they’d make a small joke to themselves, mention the elasticity of their skin and say, "Eh, it’s close enough to a ‘trait.’" Then my mind wandered, and I realized how obvious and cliche of me to want to be different. How expected. How we all want to believe we’re special. How we actually are all special without having to work so hard on it. So I decided to turn off that "how do I differentiate myself" voice and wrote from the heart. One thing I never admired about myself: my penmanship. Forgive it.Journal

A YEAR AGO: Fine Lines
2 YEARS AGO: Dead Thoughts About the Living
3 YEARS AGO: Some Wine With That



  1. Oh Good Lord! The damned dreaded Pensmanship thing returns to haunt me forever now I suppose. The two constants my Mom could always -ALWAYS -count on seeing on my report card were the Unsatisfactory on the Peterson Penmanship stuff and a big old check mark in the column "Whispers!" Actually, in my case, I would bet the teachers all wished there was a block to mark of "Talks a hell of a lot!" Forget about the whispers, that would be a pleasant change from the never-ending chatter your daughter puts out!
    My penmanship hasn't improved over the years -matter of fact it's become much, much worse with the passage of time and frequently I can't read my own writing at all much of the time these days.

  2. I like that I was known as the 'quiet, introspective, intelligent child'.

    I love that I was known as the peacemaker.

    I love the fact that even as a child, I could not BEAR people making fun of someone for being 'slow', 'different', 'handicapped'…(my brother was all of those, and to this day, I desire nothing more than to kick the ever living shit out of (intellectually speaking) the morons who hurt or tease people with challenges).

    I am glad that I am known as the one of my siblings who preferred carrots to chocolate (chocolate STILL gives me migraines).

    I am baffled that I was known as the girl who would never have kids. And who believed it. And now, with the darlings at nearly 15, 17 and 18 – who me? no kids? no way.

    It's good to read your post, Stephanie – I meant to say it the other day, but didn't, but we're here for you. :)

  3. Haha! Are you a lefty, Stephanie?
    I just want to say that I really love that you continue to do writing exercises for yourself, honing and crafting your words to improve even more. A lot of authors don't and I admire that you do.

  4. Are you ambidextrous, Jessica?
    I'm a lefty too and usually lefties have terrible penmanship because teachers find it difficult to teach them the "right" (*puns*) way to form their letters, or so I've been told. I have a gf who is a lefty and won a penmanship award in high school so I know they exist but I'M definitely not one of them. :) My handwriting looks like a ten-year-old boy's handwriting.
    I use my right hand for everything except writing, it tends to throw people off.

  5. Me, too! I wonder why that is? I'm not ambidextrous, but I can do that "mirror-writing" thing, where you write a sentence forwards with you right hand while writing it backwards with your left. I think that's a lefty thing.

  6. The traits I liked in myself as a child are probably still the things I like as an adult. My green eyes (terribly cliche), my ability to get along with older and younger (but still not my peers), my aptitude for writing (although still afraid to put it out there)…I think all of us have that ability to look back and see who we were but it's looking at us now and seeing who we are that can be tricky. I say forget penmanship and just use a computer!

  7. When I was little, I had poker straight blond hair, blue eyes, and I was painfully tiny. (My mother's always remembering how I went to kindergarten still in size 3T clothes.) When my mom told me my hair would probably turn dark, like hers and my fathers, I cried my eyes out – I was 4. When I was about 10 I hit a crazy growth spurt, and I slouched and slouched. Everybody always commented on how cute and tiny I was and I never wanted to get tall. I was so god awfully insecure. I wish I could think of five things I liked about myself then.

  8. I have a tiny (although gifted ballerina) blonde haired, blue eyed daughter that is the Golden Child personified. He two year older sister is every bit as wonderful, but after not making cheerleading today, had the insecure feelings of not being good enough. I hate that society can shrivel girls to insecure messes. I'm sure you are wonderful and bet I could come up with five things if I met you (either really or virtually) in five minutes. Like here's one…you have great taste in websites! Have a great evening!

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