The writing on the walls
I love lists. I have lists for my lists. I don’t think I could navigate a day if I didn’t lay out my plans for it. But here’s the thing about my lists: They remain nothing but lists. Rarely do they become a string of accomplishments. Hardly ever do they become crossed out words, rewarding me for my productivity.
On a normal day, I make it from my bed to my futon. On a good day, I make it to work and class. On an exceptional day, I make it to the library and maybe even the gym. Sometimes I stop and think: Shouldn’t all my days be exceptional? Shouldn’t I be making memories on these waning days of my college career? And I’ll go for a run, I’ll make a fancy dinner for myself, I’ll go to a party and talk to people I don’t know. Then I’ll curl up in my bed, make a mental list — shower, do laundry, buy groceries — and fall asleep for an abnormally long period of time.
I wax poetic about my laziness so much that I’ve started to love and care for all aspects of my lethargy. I coddle my pillows, hug my flannel pajamas and sing to my futon when I pull her out into a bed. Several notebooks, my journal and my planner lie around me, crying silent tears as their incomplete and unfulfilled lists sit stagnant.
But why don’t we write lists at the end of the day to celebrate everything we did? Why can’t we plaster our walls with sheets of notebook paper, sticky notes, backs of receipts, bookmarks, coupons, all covered with ink: “read an article, wrote a poem, cooked tilapia, fixed my phone”? Why don’t we celebrate our lists? Instead of crossing out what tasks we’ve accomplished, why don’t we write everything we’ve done again and again: “I woke up with my first alarm! I woke up with my first alarm!”
I know that every fourth year has some idea of a list of things they want to do before they graduate. I just wonder if after they’ve picked apples on Carter Mountain or hiked Humpback Rock at sunrise they feel some kind of euphoria in crossing that activity off a list. Or instead does it just make them want to hurry to the next item so they can get it all done before donning that graduation gown? I don’t mean to be cynical. Maybe I don’t like these types of lists because I’m pretty neutral about apples, and I’m not really a before-dawn person. Or maybe I just think we could be doing it better.
If you don’t want to streak the Lawn in your four years at U.Va, then don’t! If you don’t want to buy a big poster of traditions and hang pictures of your personal renditions next to it, then don’t feel bad!
It has taken me a very long time to realize what matters in a day. A day is not about a bunch of “shoulds”. Of course, many of them end up being all about the “shoulds,” or else we’d all be avoiding our homework and watching Bravo. But maybe, every once in a while, if we all forgot the “shoulds,” we’d enjoy our lists a little bit more.
I have a list. Tonight I waitressed for five hours, and then I did my homework for the next day. Those are good things, and they might make my wall of accomplishments if I’m feeling practical. But the list starts with my adventure to Harris Teeter yesterday afternoon with my sister, walking around with five Powerades and four frozen entrees, giggling because we thought it was funny. Driving in the car with my roommate who has never gone a car ride without proclaiming her undying love for Tom DeLonge by blasting every one of his songs? That makes the list. My list wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t involve my other roommate clapping her hands and announcing her “support” or “veto” for some facet of life. Yes, my list even has “coming home after work, sitting on the couch and watching MTV.”
I’ll never stop making the traditional lists, which start with a hot cup of coffee and end with a deep sigh and dramatic fall back into couch cushions. I’ll never stop feeling that sense of urgency to accomplish tasks — practical and recreational. But that doesn’t mean that I’ll give up on the important lists. At 21 I am not ashamed to admit that nothing sounds more enticing than my couch and a bottle of wine. Of course my roommates have to be on the other couch or sitting at the dining room table, walking around, making plans and lists for everything we need to do. And then, eventually, we’ll all go do them.
I’m not going to write all over my walls about the dinners we made or the parties we went to. I’ll be writing on the white-painted cement, remembering how hard I laughed, squeezed on to one of our too tiny couches, analyzing the characters of our beloved reality TV shows. I’ll do my best to recount our failed trivia night, where we were far better at finishing pitchers than correctly answering questions. I’ll try to find room to write about all the jokes we have and the bizarre nicknames we come up with. The stuff that’s worth writing on your walls celebrates who you were with, not what you did.
Connelly’s column runs biweekly Wednesdays.She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.