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the things i am not

February 5, 2011

While reading Bittersweet a few months ago, I was struck by one particular chapter. We all seem to define ourselves by the things we are: students, bloggers, bakers, mothers, social butterflies, wives, daughters, fashion fiends, photographers. It is always helpful to keep in our minds the things that we are but the author, Shauna Niequist, suggested that, for her, an even more important list is the things she’s not.

It’s not at all about negativity. It’s not about looking in the mirror and finding fault. Rather, it’s looking honestly at ourselves and peeling away all the things that we try to be because it’s what we should be or should like or should do. Shauna recommends making your own list of what you’re not, because, in some tricky and wonderful way, it helps a girl understand even more of what she is.

So here’s a few things that I’m not.

I’m not a girl who paints my nails. I hate getting manicures, mostly because I work with my hands all day and that $20 goes down the drain pretty fast. My hands and feet just don’t look at all like me when they are pink or red or shiny. I like them a little beat-up, with flour under my fingernails and a little dirt on my toes.

I’m not a perfectionist. Okay, this is half true. There is a very strong part of me that likes order and control and neatness. But in equal part, I’m finding more and more, I like to see the chaos and messiness of life in what I do. It’s interesting to see this paradox develop as I go through school for baking, something that is historically chock-full of perfectionist control freaks. I find myself in a space of wanting to do things right, but appreciating the ways in which life doesn’t always listen to our best efforts. There is beauty in the knobbly, rustic, homely things.

I’m not a health nut. I believe in eating food that is raised well, cooked simply and isn’t a far stretch from earth to table. I hate processed food, fast food and anything whose ingredient list requires a dictionary. However, I also believe that ice cream that is made with good ingredients can count as the only component of a fine dinner. I love Electric Cheetah’s hand-cut fries and veggie burgers topped with cheddar and bacon (I know, it’s weird). I don’t believe that eating well means eating like a rabbit. I think it means eating what makes you happy — and if it happens to be a bit naughty once in awhile, I think that is absolutely okay.

I’m not outgoing. It’s taken me years to accept this. Part of me has always felt that I should be a social butterfly, like my sisters or some of my other friends, but I have finally accepted the truth. And the truth is that I’m a little bit of a hermit. I’d rather stay in than go out. I don’t mind being alone on a Saturday night. I’m not the first one to plan parties or suggest a girls’ night out. I’m learning that I can be friendly, warm and engaging without having to be a cruise director. It’s a good lesson.

I’m not a wearer of high heels. I don’t know how I went through so many years of tapping around in ankle-breaking heels. I remember walking to class my freshman year of college in hot pink high heels and I shake my head; who was that girl, again? Nowadays that I am older and wiser, I am definitely a bare feet/TOMS/riding boots/flip flops kind of gal all the way.

I’m not a networker. As much as I dream of building up this blog and making it into something bigger and more dynamic than it currently is, I’m not sure if I’ll ever get there. I look at girls I know whose blogs are blowing up and I have to admit, I get jealous. Whatever gene it is that makes someone go to conferences and develop blogging networks and get sponsors and post up dozens of cute pictures every single day…I don’t think I have that gene. Maybe I just need to settle into my niche and learn how it works for me.

I’m not outdoorsy. I am learning that I can love nature and enjoy being outside without being outdoorsy. I will never be the girl who lives in Chacos and can pull off cargo pants or who has a bike strapped to her car in case of the call of adventure. While I can look fetching in a bandanna and love to camp and get nice and dirty, I’m not really the outdoorsy type. I think this gets most tempting to ignore as I tend to habitually fall for rugged mountain men who hike and climb and look drop-dead amazing in scruffy beards and plain white t-shirts. I have to accept that whoever my mountain man is out there, he’ll be okay with the fact that I’ll wear leggings to go hiking and I will always prefer photographing mountains to climbing them.

It is a lovely thing sometimes to think about how, really, my life is just starting and there are so many years where I get to find out all the things that I am and the things I will become. I feel a sense of deep anticipation and joy at what I will hopefully be in the times to come: a wife, a mother, an entrepreneur, maybe an author. But in all of those things, I have to hold fast to the things I know I am not. In knowing what I’m not, I see ever more clearly who I am — a clear, beautiful, slightly disheveled, beloved and ever-evolving creation of my Dear One.

What are you NOT?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 5, 2011 1:13 am

    I love your thoughts, Caroline. Thanks for sharing.
    You’ve got me thinking.
    Who am I not?
    I’ve finally embraced my nocturnal leanings and can now say that I am not a morning person.
    I’m not an athlete – you’ll never find me running a marathon & I’m OK with that.
    I am not a klutz. Having begun a yoga practice under the guidance of a gifted yogi, I am more than pleased to say that I am capable of grace and beautyand even balance.
    hmmmm – perhaps I’ll expand on my own blogspot. I think there’s some good grist for the mill….

  2. February 5, 2011 8:43 am

    Caroline,
    What an excellent exercise – one that can liberate us from the tyranny of the “should” and break down our unreasonable expectations. I think I, too, will use this for meditation.
    Much love and sparkly snow,
    Cassidhe

  3. February 5, 2011 12:13 pm

    That is a great list, Caroline! I’d have to think for awhile about what I’m not. I can see this much, in relation to blogging. After last week, I learned I am someone that does not need to go to blogging conferences. It was definitely not all it’s cracked up to be!

  4. Caroline permalink
    February 8, 2011 6:32 am

    I loved this post, Caroline! I think you should someday live in Vermont. And I will come and visit you, and we can wear our flat-and-comfy shoes and eat food that all came from a 20-mile radius. 🙂

    As to what I am not…this is very worthwhile to think about. This is what I can think of so far. I am NOT…
    Sarcastic – My sense of humor just can’t seem to catch the wit of of biting sarcasm. It often hurts my feelings, and when I try it myself I just come across as mean. I’ll have to stick with being sincere and sometimes witty.
    A regular exerciser – That is, a person who exercises on a consistent basis. I like taking walks. I sometimes enjoy working up a good sweat. But a person who loves to exercise every day? Not me.
    A musician – Oh how I love good music! And how I love the IDEA of picking up a guitar and strumming the chords to a song I wrote. But I don’t love it enough to actually become disciplined and learn it.
    Tan – I think the darkest I’ll ever get is about an egg shell white. 🙂

    Thanks again for posting – this was one of my favorites!

  5. February 8, 2011 10:26 am

    Caroline-I absolutley loved this post! I think there is a lot of good that can come from identifying what you are not. You got me to thinking about what my list should be…I’ll report back when I have something more substantial.

  6. February 28, 2011 3:48 pm

    And I actually was inspired by this enough to spread the “I’m not” word-a whole blog post of my own! I think I need to read Bittersweet.

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