Thoughts on Simplicity

My mother wanted to name me ‘Emma’, but my dad said no because he thought I would turn out to be a librarian. Then they thought about ‘Daniella’, but decided that the soft latin ‘la’ sounded a little too strange when coupled with ‘Smo-gard’. While I don’t think that a name can control your professional destiny, I do understand how certain names seem to fit people.



I laughed this morning when I saw the completely objective and scientifically tested guide to “What Girls’ First Names Say About Them” (guys’ version here…sorry, Justin). Some of my favorites:

“I feel like Diana is a cross between a human and a werewolf or a vampire in one of those steamy YA novels.”

Hannahs have a quiet mean streak they express on Tumblr.”

“You hooked up with Katie in high school after some sheepish glances were exchanged and it was nice.”

Megans have Pinterest weddings.”

Olivia is sort of strange, but you just have to let her be Olivia.” “What’s Olivia doing?” “Collecting pine cones.” “Alrighty then.”

And then there was the “Danielle” description.

“Danielles are really nice but, like, super basic — like their idea of a date is watching DVDs of Friends or dressing up to go the Cheesecake Factory.”

That is scarily accurate, buzzfeed. I do love FRIENDS more than most (case in point, the video above) and I am all about Cheesecake Factory. But what do you mean by basic? And what’s wrong with a date night of popcorn and FRIENDS or putting on heels to go to the Cheesecake Factory? You know, celebrating quiet nights and simple pleasures?

When I was younger (circa 12 or 13 years old) I wanted to be cool. I didn’t want to be shy anymore and I wanted boys to like me. Then (say around 16 or 17) I wanted to be smart. I lived in a world of intellectual competition and hung out with nerds every weekend (yay high school debate), so coolness mattered a whole lot less than intelligence. In fact, if you were one of the smarter kids then you were, by default, cool by debate standards. Not only did I validate myself by comparing myself intellectually to my peers, I also dated people who were smarter than me (and knew they were smarter than me) and made me use my intellect as a way to earn their affection. When talking about our life goals, one boy even told me that I wasn’t complex enough. Ouch. All I said was that my greatest life goal was to be a happy, good person. Then (around 20) I wanted to be interesting. Everyone at Carleton was smart so that became less of a uniqueness than being cultured and fun and different. College was a time of intense intersection and I met people from all walks of life who were remarkably ambitious, traveled, and unique.

The truth is, I am smart. I am somewhat cultured and I have my moments of fun. The cool thing hasn’t really worked out, but that phase was like 10 years ago, so I’m over it. But those things do not define me, nor are they the ‘role’ that I play in social groups. I’m not the smart one or the funny one or the one with the really cool stories. I’m the nice one. And it was never enough, enough to just be nice. Kind. Good. To want to be happy above anything else. To live life for the simple, beautiful things.

As I’ve gotten older (you know the ripe old age of almost-23) and have experienced periods of unhappiness and change and retrospection, things have changed. I am less impressed by the powerful, the intelligent, the interesting. They may be fascinating and intimidating and there will always be a part of me that is jealous of how effortlessly they attract others. What really impresses me now, though, is kindness. Kindness that is genuine, unconditional, and beyond the call of regular propriety.

I feel like I am being bombarded everywhere with messages of “go travel!”, “see the world!”, “do something exciting and different and worthwhile!”. Because if you are in your 20s and you are not seizing the day and jumping off of mountains then you are living your life incorrectly. I do want to travel and I do love adventure, but not everyone does and that’s ok. And my idea of excitement is a little basic. I get just as excited at the idea of raising baboons (one day) as I do about making waffles or going to see the new X-Men movie at midnight (tonight!!). I want to sleep on trains and drink on beaches…but I also love simplicity and routine. Quiet. Happy. Basic. Mornings where you walk the dog, make coffee, and eat banana peanut butter toast.

So genius or not, adventurer or not…above all, be kind and don’t judge others who may value things differently than you do. And as for being a librarian? Working in a place of learning, surrounded by books and children…that sounds lovely.




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