[Warning: If you read my, Carol’s, latest University of St. Thomas blog, don’t bother reading this one. It’s almost identical. Double-dipping is the honest explanation although I do think the topic is worth double-audience-ing. Hope you agree!]

If someone asked you to develop a six-word statement of who you “are” – a half-dozen words capturing your entire life story – what would those six words be? Six words: No more, no less.

Inspired by bestselling book “Not Quite What I Was Planning,” (which, by the way, was inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s famous tale “For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn”), my co-professors and I recently asked students in one of course on communication and citizenship to write their six-word memoirs.

The results? Fascinating. Funny! Shocking. Sometimes heart-wrenching. Many of them made me worry about how poorly 19-22 year olds see themselves; most of them left me inspired by the creativity and complexity of human beings (at every age).

Since reading their essays I’ve been walking around thinking in six-word statements. It’s driving me nuts! “Move over lady, coming on through.” (said to myself as I piloted the family station wagon to and from swim team and gymnastic practices the other night). “Stop yelling at your sister, now!” (uttered in an embarrassingly loud voice, especially for someone who studies family happiness). Oops. But what really captures the core of my “story?” I pray I’m more than “hurry up, move on, go fast” and “be kind, calm and loving. NOW!” So I kept searching.

As I was folding my third load of laundry last night, peering out of the corner of my eye at a pile of to-be-graded papers from another class, I landed on my final six-word memoir: “Neat freak. Seeks ironing and folding.” That captures me perfectly! I adore order. Seek the end to chaos. Find true joy in making things, like piles of clothes and papers-needing-grading, organized again. Maybe because those tasks are so simple compared to making messy/conflicted/painful relationships neat and tidy. I try at those too, but often come up short.

This shot of my living room makes me VERY happy because EVERYTHING is in its perfect place. Even the lighting. Ah …. pure bliss.

Okay, but there is still more to me. How about: “Everything is better when it’s complete.” Close! I do love to “accomplish” things.

“Secret to life? Truth, chocolate, wine.” Now we’re getting somewhere.

Ugh. I can’t decide. Maybe what I’m looking for is advice? “Breathe. Be. Stop thinking so hard.” Good points, self.

I decided to ask students in another class what six-words they would choose to reveal their “selves.” They looked pensive and appeared to be thinking hard. No one answered. I told them to come back next class with their ideas. “It’s hard, isn’t it?” They nodded.

Later that day, as I was chatting with a neighbor, I suddenly asked her what her six-word statement of identity would be. She looked at me as if my dog had just pooped on her lawn. Huh?

It’s a hard but intriguing task, capturing your core identity and life story in only six-tiny-but-tasty-bites-of-words. But 86 mostly first-year college students did so. And quite brilliantly. Below is a sampling of what they came up with, a brief introduction to who they “are” as people, community members, students, brothers, young adults, multicultural beings, sugar-addicts, sleep-deprived adolescents, travelers, tom boys, identical twins, film-buffs, and faithful souls … :

Wait, don’t you know I’m kidding?

Spoiled? Of course I am.

Anxious procrastinating perfectionist needing more time.

Caught in a world of film.

Daddy’s little swimmer still passionately dreaming

Spontaneous Twin loves Starbucks and Change

Just trying to survive two cultures

Meticulously wrapped artist unbounded by love.

From largest city to … be announced.

Living in faith, yet with style.

Enjoying freedom as I gain responsibility

Much weirder than meets the eye.

The curtain lifted. Here I am.

I am stuck in the transition

My daily bowl of lucky charms.

Traveled the world and found myself

I’m whoever they say I am

Too complex for only six words

Are we too complex for only six words? Maybe so. As a family/marriage/communication researcher, teacher, author, community member, mother, daughter, friend and … well … there’s more … but I only get six words … I think my statement would be (reserving the right to edit those half-dozen words as my “self” evolves): “Building strong families, yours and mine.”

What would your six-word statement be? Or maybe it would be interesting to try this as a couple? What would joint-six-word statement be? I think I’ll try that. Check back soon; I’ll post what we come up with!