Monday, June 23, 2008


I live my life by lists. Truly.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a daily routine of writing out a To Do list. This list includes things that must be done today, this week, even in the next several months. It generally also has a list of things I am saving money for. Now, as pre-OCD as it may seem, I like the list. I like crossing off things that I have done. I like knowing that something that needs to be done two weeks from now will not be forgotten. It gives me a semblance of control.

Additionally, though, I tend to carry entertainment lists around with me in my purse. Lists of books to be read, movies to be rented, music to be sought out. Conversely, I keep lists at home of the things I have already consumed. My brother and I check off how many of the top 100 novels we have read, how many of AFI's top films we have seen. I fall victim to afternoons spent listing books I have read on Facebook; movies I have seen on Netflix or Flixter. My favorite blog articles are lists; I like chiming in on what should have been included in the top ten westerns (kudos on Cat Ballou, but the Assassination of Jesse James should really be on there) or the top seven movies about making movies (no Adaptation?). I keep a list of links in my browser for the blogs, comics, and news sites I browse weekly.

When my last laptop failed I spent weeks in agony, worrying that my iTunes library had been lost. Not even the songs themselves so much, which were replaceable, as the list of what I listen to. It would have taken ages for me to try to piece back together the thousands of songs I had compiled into my aural landscape. (I found it, made it into an excel sheet, and emailed it to myself).

I have a small sheet of paper buried in my belongings that lists all of the plays, musicals, and operas I've seen. I list countries and cities I've been to, list which I still want to travel to. I keep my transcripts as lists of the classes I've taken. I update my resume and CV as records of my jobs. Going through old papers today, I came across a list of ideas for blog articles I compiled back in New Zealand.

I am sure a part of my addiction to Facebook is the chance to list favorites, list friends from various schools/in various cities, list groups, list travel. And while I can rattle off my favorite movies, bands and shows at the drop of a hat, I find I have a harder time with the categories that are supposed to sum me up as a person. I was musing ways of updating that category and the first idea I thought up was a list of all the jobs I wanted to hold when I grew up. I think in lists.

Perhaps it is a minor form of OCD. Lord knows I have an obsessive/addictive personality. I hear a song I love and I immediately play it over and over and over until something new comes along. Perhaps it is a way of managing stress; feeling I have control over at least certain aspects of my life. Perhaps it comes from an overly rational brain, trained for years in the field of science where results are quantified. Perhaps it is from growing up in a culture where success is measured by a list of possessions. Success often seems to be a list of some ilk. Even backpackers, who eschew possessions, compare country lists.

Am I a summation of the things I've seen? The books I've read? The ideas I've been exposed to? The places I've worked, volunteered, visited, camped in, walked through? The people I've met or known? Why do I bother trying to quantify who I am?

[Marine Biologist, Entomologist, Ecologist, Bartender, Forensic Anthropologist, Park Ranger, Travel Writer, Farmer, Actress, Theatre Manager, Opera Singer, Casting Director, Cinematographer, Environmental Activist, Zoo Keeper, Movie Critic.]

[This post was inspired by trying to revamp aspects of my Facebook profile, organizing my old papers (in which a distressing number of lists were discovered and compiled), the Entertainment Weekly 1000 issue of listiness and a reread of parts of Affluenza (which discusses the need Americans have to quantify their success or lifestyle by what they buy).]

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