Rather than learn the art of well-crafted sentences through a standard curriculum of books like The Jungle Book, the English department of my sleepy suburban school handed out copies of Life’s Little Instruction Book and Chicken Soup for the Soul to my 8th grade class. The thought must have been that learning secularized parables would be more beneficial for our intellectual growth.
Eventually, we were charged with the assignment of creating our own Life’s Little Instruction Book. We knew nothing of the real world and yet we were going to act as authorities on “how to live a happy and rewarding life.”
I recently found my flamboyantly illustrated attempt and was amused. “Don’t worry if you’re not the prettiest rose. We’re all beautiful in our own light” — my teacher found this little stroke of transcendental wisdom endearing. If I had to rewrite my 8th grade book of advice today, I might include that same instruction, though perhaps rewritten with less sentimentality, and add a few other insights I’ve picked up in the 13 years I’ve traveled since…
1. Invest in at least one Ina Garten cookbook
2. (Re)read Strunk & White’s “The Elements of Style”
3. Learn how to make your favorite cocktail
4. Plant an herb garden
6. When you’re a broke grad student, never refuse his offer to pay for dinner
7. Become a member of at least one museum and visit often.
8. Keep in touch with your old study groups
9. Get a good tailor
10. Get lost in Italy
11. Have a pet
12. Don’t forget to thank you parents
13. Find a shade of red lipstick that suits you and wear it often
14. Print calling cards and never leave home without them
15. Learn all the words to “American Pie”
16. Drink lots of green tea
17. Buy a really good yoga mat
18. Write postcards when on vacation and send one to yourself
19. Print out your digital photos
20. Start a blog… and don’t look back.