I was filling out a profile for a writer-contributor site, and it asked for my “motto.” I don’t typically put things in quotes like that because I’ve seen too many students abuse the punctuation, but this request so amused me that I have to find some way to show you that my tongue is in my cheek when I say “motto.”
Mottos belong to corporations and billboards. Mottos are the over-simplified taglines of our age, a way of boiling down cheap wisdom into a pithy marketing device. I’m not sure I’ve ever known an individual who has one. Most of us have a set of principles we live by, but a motto? One sentence that sums up all the stuff of life into one focused sentence?
Maybe my incredulity is really just evidence that I’m a novel writer, not a poet. Maybe everyone has a motto, but they’re all just looking at me knowing I would muck it up with silly questions: But if this, then why that? And what about…? Maybe they’re shaking their heads at me, saying, She’s nice and all, but she’d be so much easier to understand if she just had a motto.
Of course, I see the value from a marketing perspective. And, since that’s the purpose of this profile, to market me as a writer, I figured I’d better suck it up and get one.
I wanted something about seizing the day that wasn’t too much of a Dead Poets’ Society rip-off. I adore the movie. It’s why I became a teacher. But it’s not why I write.
Carpe diem! is a bit overdone these days. And, after being in a plane crash and now working through two autoimmune disorders and spine damage, seizing the day isn’t quite enough to catch my thoughts on it. When I told my middle school students about the accident, and about the two people who lost their lives in it, and about waking up each day grateful to breathe, I told them we have no right to be bored. We have no right to waste this life. Some other mother’s child didn’t wake up today. Some other child’s mother didn’t wake up today. But we did. It’s a crime to squander life with boredom.
But that’s a bit intense. Lengthy. Complicated. Choose your adjective; none of the ones that apply are what a motto ought to be. I said, I write novels. I can give a company, or even another author who wants me to ghostwrite, a fantastic one-liner as needed, but that’s because I know them just enough. I know them only in the context of what they’re selling. I know me everywhere, and I’m still trying to figure myself out.
So I turned to the great ones at BrainyQuote.com for help. Here’s what I found:
Boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time; serenity, that nothing is. – Thomas Szasz
And I uploaded it. And I even kind of liked it, until just now. I’m reading over my own blog post and realizing that Szasz has the idea, but not the passion I wanted to express. I’m realizing that what I really mean to say is what I said all by myself, at the end of that paragraph up there:
It’s a crime to squander life with boredom.
That’s it. I’m going back to my profile now to change it.
So. I have a motto. Do you?