the secrets to my success


Pictured: me, toiling

I have always wanted to be asked about the secrets to my success, because such a question presumes that I HAVE success, and that is very flattering. I also love that profiles of famous people dig so deeply into the mundane details of the Famous Person’s life, as if starting every morning by eating half a tree-ripened avocado spritzed with lemon juice will immediately transmogrify you into Reese Witherspoon. It won’t! I tried!

Anyway, until I have the kind of glamorous, sophisticated-but-youthful life that the readers of PARADE magazine are desperate to emulate, I will content myself with this inventory of low-stakes lifestyle “hacks” that I have employed to fashion myself the into gainfully employed gangling twenty-something that I am.

I have short hair.
This allows me to not think about things like combing, brushing, detangling, braiding, and—for the most part—split ends. Also, my wrists are free of the constant constriction of elastic ponytail holders, which allows me to type faster.

I spell it “okay” instead of “OK.”
I think this lends my writing a kind of subtle gravitas.

I live alone.
With no pets, children, or live-in-boyfriend to feed/read to/toilet train, I can luxuriate in my TRUE CALLINGS as a woman of letters, which mostly means realizing that if I want the bathroom sink to be not dirty I must undirty it myself.

A pretty good working knowledge of Latin.
This makes me really good at guessing the definitions of words without using a dictionary, which is handy because I do not own a dictionary. (Well, I own a LATIN dictionary, but obviously I don’t need it.) Also, my speech is infused with the subtle gravitas of phrases like “res ipsa loquitur,” “semper ubi sub ubi,” and “subtle gravitas.”

My tiny Wusthof paring knife.
It is very sharp and good at cutting apples, which has probably saved me tens of snacktime seconds every day, which affords me additional time to write, read, or look online for pirated streams of Broadchurch!

The hand-knit socks my aunt made me.
How much potentially-creative energy are you wasting keeping your naked feet warm? Don’t be a fool. Wear hand-knit socks from your aunt. (If your aunt does not know how to knit, teach her. If you do not have an aunt, hire one.)

My refusal to eat “lite” yogurt.
It takes like licking a Splenda-flavored postage stamp.

My library card.
All joking aside, the Free Library of Philadelphia has saved me bundles of money I would otherwise have thrown away on frivolities like “books” and “the DVD of Saint Joan starring Jean Seberg,” for the low low price of quarter-a-day late fees and constant fundraising junk mail addressed to “Mr. Blair Thornburgh.”

Sleeping like an old person.
According to science, 100% of people who don’t sleep will die at some point during their lives. This is very bad. I attempt to kick mortality in the teeth by clambering into bed by 10 PM at the VERY LATEST, and soothing myself to sleep with whooshing sounds from the peaceful duet of humidifier and white-noise machine. This makes it much easier to rise at 6 AM and get my Anthony Trollope* on.

My refusal to air condition OR heat my apartment.
Suffering builds character, or so my hard-knock Protestant upbringing has led me to believe. Thrashing around in sweat-soaked sheets teaches you about desperation and perseverance, and bundling in three layers including a Jacob-Marley-style headwrap to keep your teeth from chattering teaches you about do-it-yourselfitude. Plus, think of the money you’re saving by NOT pissing it away on an indulgence like “heat”! I flat-out refuse to yield to any kind of climate control until ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY, and even then, I pull on another pair of hand-knit socks and just try to wait it out.

*Anthony Trollope was an old-timey writer who got up very early and wrote five thousand words a day. Honestly, you’d probably be better of reading an article about the secrets to HIS success. Check the latest PARADE magazine.

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