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The Work in Our Bones

Business Lesson #4: Follow the Wisdom of Your Inner Child

The Women I Admired (And A Few I Didn't)
Photo by: Miao Liu of This Way Photography
Published on March 22, 2012 : 2 comments

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I used to be wise. I used to tell the truth. Being me used to be just enough. It was a long time ago, but I still remember little bits:

I didn’t care too little or too much about being one of the smartest kids in class. It just was.

I was happy for my little sister to teach me how to do a cartwheel, climb a tree and do a flip on the trampoline. I felt no embarrassment about someone younger being better at it than me.

And when I got tired, I crawled in bed and went to sleep, even if my friends were over to play. 

But I must have known that my transformation to adulthood would mold me into a different kind of being—that I would become an alien to myself. Surely I anticipated the loss of my own childhood wisdom and wanted to create a paper trail that could lead myself back to my real, original me.

So I wrote down my thoughts about life on slips of paper, thinking I’d keep them forever and refer back to them when I became a parent, a teacher, a librarian or a famous author. 

As I remember it, these notes to myself were very specific, and pinpointed strokes of genius I’d seen in reflected in adults I very much admired (or very much didn’t). They were the adults who hadn’t lost all their wisdom with age—and a few who regrettably had.

These notes, I thought, would be the breadcrumbs I’d follow back to me.

Maybe I made note when Mrs. Cantrell sang, “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” with gusto, and her 60-year-old arm fat jiggled as she waved her arms. Then she pointed it out to us all and laughed. And I thought that was absolutely brilliant. Nobody had ever laughed about their jiggles in front of me before! Maybe I wrote, "Laugh at yourself."

And after reading Judy Blume’s “Are You There God It’s Me, Margaret” I probably jotted down something like: “Just write about real stuff.” She did it so well! I was inspired.

After Mrs. Falke invited a group of my friends and me to have lunch with her in her classroom, I am sure I sealed into my memory: “Treat your students like friends.”

My Aunt Joy showed me that one day I would have the power to "Make someone feel like they are super-duper special." Surely I wanted to remember that always.

Or I may have scribbled, “When you become an elementary school librarian, just leave the dictionary open to ‘sex’ for those very-curious but very-shy kids.” Because for Pete’s sake, I really wanted to catch a cool and nonchalant clue.

Maybe Mrs. Bungard inspired me to write, “Never laugh at people’s ideas,” after she scoffed at my drawing and told me that my favorite tree was not actually a toy, then told me to go back and try the assignment again.

Maybe the lunch lady, Mrs. Rios, taught me that "Screaming just makes your face look funny-ugly." Besides, it never garners respect.

And even though I was probably too angry with Mom to admit it, I may have written on the back of a receipt on the car ride home, “It’s okay—just once in your lifetime—to make half a scene, and drag your 14-year-old daughter by the arm ‘til you’re outside of Macy’s so you can tell her to stop acting like a bitch. She’ll take it to heart. Really she will. She’ll understand you have feelings and that she has the power to hurt them when she acts like a bitch.”

Those bits of paper—written with a child’s hand—were lost long ago. They likely never made it past the playground or got turned in on the back of my math homework.

But maybe simply writing them down sealed them into my psyche. Like how the act of writing my grocery list sometimes helps me to recall it line-for-line at Baker’s after I realize, dismayed, that I left it on the kitchen counter after all. And I go on to buy the oranges, blue cheese and olive oil as though I knew I needed them all along.

daphnedelDaphne is a writer, creative thinker and project wrangler. She lives in Omaha with her husband, Caleb, and their street-side vegetable garden. Want to know more? See


Laura Alley (not verified) says:

March 22, 2012 : 12 years 16 weeks ago

Laura Alley's picture

Glorious…and true.

Anonymous (not verified) says:

April 10, 2012 : 12 years 13 weeks ago

Anonymous's picture

Daphne Del, my wonderfully creative and fun niece. How i love it when you write. I love it to when on rare occasions these days I get to just be around you because you always make me laugh and feel like I too am important. Thanks for all those childhood memories - watching you grow up , and sadly, fly away. But I always hold you close in my heart and savor the memories of your childhood. I love you always. Aunt Joy