Meghan at the Crossroads: Advice to My Niece

6 Feb
Meghan with Mima at Bob’s Lake

One of my favorite pictures of Meghan.

Meghan Mapes is a member of the 2012 class at Ithaca High School.  She is scheduled to graduate this May.  She has been accepted at Bryn Mawr and returned a week ago from her first campus visit, where she was able to view Bryn Mawr and Haverford, where our Garrigues ancestors once had a mill.  She loves cats, reading, her sisters, playing the trumpet, and eating candy.

I was going to make a list of the twenty-five dumbest things I’ve done in my life and tell you not to do them, but that would have been too humiliating.  Instead I’ve made a list of ten of the most important things I’ve learned in my life.

The first is the most important. 1) Kindness is the most important quality to strive for.  Some people sure make it difficult, but one can never give up.  This attitude requires some humility and respect for others.

2)  Always show respect for authority, but never allow yourself to be intimidated.  Learn to make your body work for you.  I once had a boss who reprimanded me by sitting on the edge of my desk and dangling her legs.  She was practically in my lap.  In between that time and the next time I read an article on body language.  The next time someone did that to me I stood up.  What a difference!  At 5′ 8 and 3/4 ” this is a technique that will definitely work for you.

3)  Being a bit eccentric is a good thing.  Most good writers are eccentric.  One never wants to be a “babbitt.”  The term comes from a book with the aforementioned title by Sinclair Lewis.  If you haven’t read it, you should.  It’s a satire about how Americans tend to copy one another to the point where there aren’t enough differences between them.  You seem a bit eccentric to me, so I’m not worried.

4)  Take the time to move around the country a bit.  Most people who don’t do this regret it later.  I would never have met Scott if I hadn’t lived in Minnesota, nor would I have ever gotten to know Denise and her family if I hadn’t taught in Wisconsin for eight years.

5)  Remember where you came from.  This imperative relates not only to your Methodist-Presbyterian roots, but also to your grandparents. As far as universities go, you have one foot in each camp: faculty and staff, one grandfather and one grandmother who were members of university faculties and a grandfather who was a member of the staff.  Neither job  is more important than the other.  The staff consists of the people who run the universities and take care of the nitty-gritty details that keep them going.  Both of your grandmothers were teachers in the era of the best teachers, when the only other occupation open to women was nursing.

6)  Most of us are in the grey area with more good in us than bad, but every so often you will  meet someone who strikes you as being particularly good.  These people will not necessarily belong to the same political or religious group as you, nor will they necessarily be of the same race or orientation, so stay open.  Your generation is much better than we were on the issue of orientation.

7) Watch the alcohol.  It works great in small doses, but we have a fair amount of depression on the Mapes-Clark side and low tolerance so “bottoms up” is not a good attitude–this from someone who drank white wine at each library at Harvard and red wine at dinner.  The Japanese Romantic contingent had to pick me up off the floor.  That was twenty years ago and I learned my lesson.  Also, never drink and drive.

8)  Fly that kite!  Ride that rollercoaster!  Run that marathon!  Write that book!  No explanation needed here.  You’ve already been to Uganda.

9)  Figure out who you are and stand up for what you believe in.  I made my last stand as a Republican at a caucus in Richfield, MN against some idiots who thought people with AIDS should be banned from food service jobs–actually it was pretty much anyone who worked for the public.  It was a small gesture, but it made me feel better.

10)  Read.  Read.  Read.  I don’t need to tell  you this one.

And a plea:  Please don’t sell the cottage at Bob’s Lake unless you absolutely need the money.  (Think of the movie you just saw, “The Descendants.”)  I like to think of you being there.  Gwynne will eventually come around.  Mom is hoping she will spend part of her honeymoon there.  You never know.  More surprising things have happened.

2 Responses to “Meghan at the Crossroads: Advice to My Niece”

  1. claireaperez February 7, 2012 at 11:02 pm #

    Kathy, this is a lovely piece.

  2. Thank you. She liked it, which is important.

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