A while ago Karin and I were driving in the car, listening to a piece on NPR.
The show had an editor on from SMITH online magazine (never heard of it), and he was discussing a project where they had readers and celebrities write their life stories. The twist was that they requested that these life stories be delivered in exactly six words.
As someone who loves the challenge of writing, the concept intrigued me and I listened intently as they discussed a cross section of the entries.
Some were humorous (e.g., Steven Colbert’s "Well, I thought it was funny"). Some were sobering (the nine year old who wrote "Cursed with cancer. Blessed by friends"). And some simply fired the imagination (“After Harvard, had baby with crackhead.” Don’t you want to know what happened there? Read more samples here.)
The magazine reported that they received over 500 submissions a day. In turn, these submissions were then culled into a book called Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure.
I’ve not read the book, but I wrote my six-word story.
In fact, the six words popped into my head as we were listening to the radio broadcast. I figured they would serve as my rough draft — that with time, a new collection of words would arrive to better capture the essence of my 38 years on the planet.
But no, my six words are locked firmly in place, written in permanent marker on my medulla. Unable to scrub them clean, they revealed a darker truth about how I have operated.
I told you I was good.
Just writing them down, speaking them in my mind brings forth a wave a heaviness.
While it’s uncomfortable to share my six-word autobiography, I do so because holding my story to the light revealed some important things to me.
Apparently, my life story — or more precisely , the story I have been telling myself — comes down to some tired old themes.
I told you I was good.
So yes, I know I am good. I know I have talent. I have something to offer the world.
But apparently knowing this is not enough for me. I need validation from outside myself. I need someone else to know how good I am, to recognize my brilliance. My six words reflect my deep seated feelings of frustration that I am not "further ahead" in the world. My six words reflect my adopted mindset that I am some sort of underdog that will prove all the naysayers and the doubters wrong. I will overcome. I will vanquish. I will ascend to the top of the mountain. And I will look down at the fools who did not listen, did not see, did not believe. My six words are laced with resentment of living under the illusion that I am not being properly recognized.
Like I said, I wanted to scrub these shameful six words from my brain. The fact that I could not do so tells me that my story was really critical message for me to hear. My six words show me how my ego continues to operate and sabotage my intentions for a very cool life. Without coming to this level of awareness, I would likely continue to live out this story for the next 38 years.
I take some relief in knowing that these six words reflect the narrative I have lived under until now. It captures what has been.
But now I begin a new story.
I encourage you to write your six word story and perhaps, share it. After all, it’s only six words.
And you might just learn something about yourself.