By Jessica H. Turner
For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.
Legend has it that Hemingway was bet he couldn't write a story in six words, and the above line is what he wrote down. This story that is the basis of website SMITH Magazine's collection of six-word memoirs. SMITH asked its readers to tell the story of their lives in six words, and many of these responses were compiled into books, like Not Quite What I Was Planning and its sequel It All Changed In An Instant.
I was first introduced to the series by my mother. I enveloped myself with the memoirs, ranging from a nine-year-old cancer survivor's testimony (Cursed with cancer. Blessed with friends.) to the musings of Stephen Colbert (Well, I thought it was funny.). I started to think of how I would summarize my life so far in a six-word memoir, but I didn't know what to say. I read memoirs about jobs (Pitched. Pitched. Pitched. Wrote. Revised. Revised.), about love (She kissed me and said yes!), and about silly things (Happiness is a warm salami sandwich.), but what would mine say? This is my six word memoir? Too trite. I needed something good.
I asked my friends what their six-word memoirs would be. A very funny friend, Ben, sent me I consider frogs people too sometimes. I had just teased him about his last Halloween costume - a frog wearing a cape, dubbed "Amphiboman." I assumed he was only joking again, but his memoir sounded almost childlike Zen. Maybe there was a moment in my childhood that explains who I am. I remembered being four years old, standing on a chair next to the stove as my grandfather cooked dinner in Ocean City. Every time I smell shrimp scampi, I am immediately back on that chair.
"Here," he would say, pulling a shrimp out of the pan and blowing on it to cool it off. "Try this." I'd open my mouth and he'd pop it in with a smile. The juices of the shrimp and the sauce would fill me, body and soul, as they still do. Granddaughter with Poppop: shrimp scampi samples. Maybe. But that was just about my childhood, not about my life and who I am as a whole.
Sean sent me two: I've seen death; I'm not afraid and There's too much life to live. He had experienced so many deaths in his life that he no longer feared it, and he knew fear would only get in the way of living life to its fullest. I never knew any of Sean's losses, nor did I know, in such concrete terms, his life philosophy. When he sent me those memoirs and reasons, I felt like I gained a new outlook, not only on life, but on our friendship. Sean's experiences and words could not be mine and do not define who I am, but I am glad that I asked and he answered. I considered placing my own beliefs into six words: My life philosophy: The Golden Rule, but everyone's heard that and it's nothing special.
Went to Hollywood. Came back. Fadeout. came from one of my former professors. It's a glimpse
at a possible future. He went to Hollywood, became a successful idea pitcher,
left before he got too miserable, and came back to Philadelphia to teach. Why
shouldn't I go be successful and then share what I know like he did? What
better way to help and inspire the next generation of Hollywood? But that's in
the future - it's not yet my life. Maybe one day I could write the same thing,
but now is too soon. I didn't want to write about my career anyway. While
screenwriting, writing in general and creating art are important to me, they do
not define who I am. The question really was, "Who am I?"
I thought about all the different things I say and do in my life, how I never feel like or seem to be one thing...but I'm always me. I don't turn into a different person when I change out of my ripped jeans that I have drawn all over and into a satiny cocktail dress. Someone who's only seen me in one of those outfits might not have expected the other, but once they've seen it, they expect anything and everything. And that's when it hit me.
I am not just my career. I am not just my tastes. I'm not my
family or friends. I am not one moment, either. I will not summarize my life. I
want to include the past. I want to embrace the present. I want to predict the
future. I want something that will last. I want something that will keep. I
want something that is me.
One day, I'll really surprise you.