Inventory of Being

Today was one of the nicest days that we’ve had in the last many months, so I went for a delightful walk around the neighborhood, both to avoid doing schoolwork and to brainstorm blog posts. I had a few thoughts: take a picture, talk about a really funny article from The Onion that I came across, write a letter to a friend who just moved away.

Somehow, those ideas led me to dig through the files on my computer to find a poem that I wrote for AP Literature and Composition my senior year of high school. The teacher who assigned the poem is now a colleague (she started her career in the school where I currently teach, got a new job at my alma mater, and returned to her first school after “retiring” the year I graduated), and I know that she still gives this assignment to her students. I don’t actually remember sitting down to write it, but I used it as a supplemental writing sample when I applied to college.

What’s this poem, you ask? Good question. An inventory of being is a poem in which one tries to explain oneself through a series of statements and/or using prescribed sentence starters, which is how my teacher assigned it. My inventory of being, written when I was a high school senior, is pasted below (the original formatting looked a little better different but WordPress doesn’t always like Word formatting):

Inventory of Being: Internalizing My Own

My name is Rebecca Michelle Elias Stein. I was named after my father’s grandmother, my mother’s grandfather, and I have my mother’s maiden name as well as my own last name, though I never actually use it. People usually call me Rebecca or Becca, but my dad calls me Bec and a friend calls me Reb. As long as people use my name, it doesn’t matter to me.

The thing I do best is listen when people need to talk.

I especially like people who do not judge others without first getting to know them.

I feel the best about myself when I’m sweating and sore after a dance class. I feel like I’ve accomplished something and that I’m ready for something to happen.

I am happiest when I’m with people who I love and who love me. There’s a certain amount of comfort in knowing that I’m with people who care.

Maybe that’s why my favorite line from a song is, “It’s not always rainbows and butterflies, but compromise that moves us along.” “She Will Be Loved” by Maroon 5 is my guilty pleasure.

I shudder to remember how much I hated my dad when he and my mum separated, and now that they’re back together, I shudder to think about how good that separation period truly was for my family.

My greatest fear is losing my family. They’ve taught me the vast majority of what I know and made me who I am and I don’t know how I’d wake up in the morning without knowing I have their unconditional love. I need to love them and I need to know that I am loved.

If I could wish for anything, I’d wish for world peace. I have wished, actually, but I have yet to see it.

If I could change the world, I’d make it as close to perfect as I could without people taking everything for granted. But I can’t change the world and make it nearly perfect because that would involve changing the minds of all the people in the world, and there will always be those who are immovable and who halt new ideas, ideas that could work. So I suppose I ought to settle for working to protect human rights, but I’ve never been good at settling.

My favorite spot on Earth is a comfy chair with a good book and maybe a cup of tea.

My favorite movie is Titanic. There’s something beautiful about a love story that will never
happen.

My favorite memory consists of spending a night with six amazing people I’ve known since I was very young. Those six people and I do not attend the same school, nor do we have the same goals or participate in the same activities. But what we have in common is our fierce, intense, unrestricted, ceaseless love for one another.

The motto my which I live my life is something Sting said: “You have to be yourself. Be very honest about who and what you are. And if people still like you, that’s fine. If they don’t, that’s their problem.”

When people ask for advice, I have an answer. Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), chapter 1, verse 14: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I care only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”

I wish I knew why Leonardo da Vinci wanted the Mona Lisa to be enigmatic. I wonder if some people see me as enigmatic? Is it a good or bad thing to be enigmatic? Or is it neither a good nor bad thing, and merely is?

My favorite holiday is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. I cannot think of a more appropriate way to start off a new year than being in synagogue, surrounded by family, friends, and all the people who I have grown up with and who have watched me grow up, praying for a good year not only for myself, but for everyone, because Jews always pray in the plural. And then there’s a meal, always at my house, with my family and some family friends. I can look around the table and know, without a shard of doubt, that should I ever need it, these are the people who will be there for me, now and always.

The nicest thing that ever happened to me was when a Holocaust survivor came up to me at my Bat Mitzvah, showed me the tattoo on his arm, thanked me for attending Hebrew School, and told me to always believe.

I do.

Rereading this poem makes me smile at my 17-year-old self. There’s a lot she knew, and even more that she didn’t. She was idealistic, happy, excited about being part of the world and ready to change it. She knew where she stood, who she was, and why she mattered. The joy with which that 17-year-old lived is still presently, vibrantly, energetically part of who I am and what I do. If I were to rewrite that poem, there would certainly be some changes, but there are also large parts that would remain the same. I still recognize the girl I was when I wrote that poem; I’m glad for the experiences that I’ve had and have grown from them, but that girl is quintessentially the same.

Maybe a rewritten inventory of being will be the subject of a future post. Weigh in if you have a thought about that!

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