Six Words This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

February 11, 2010
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“What would your six-word memoir be?” my friend inquired one Sunday morning. A simple question, sure, but I remained uncharacteristically quiet, hesitating.

The six-word memoir challenge originates from a legend about Ernest Hemingway: he was once dared to tell a story in just six words, to which he responded, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Genius. “How about ‘I am bad at counting,'” I joked.

Although I brushed off the question initially, it soon came darting back into my mind, dancing around my other thoughts, demanding my attention. Could my own story be summarized in a mere half-dozen words? The more impossible it seemed, the more I knew I had to try.

“I only believe in silver linings.”

Today, I pride myself on my optimism, thanks to the influence of my perpetually positive dad. I now know how to appreciate the good and roll with the bad. But I wasn't always such a strong believer in every cloud's silver lining. Five years ago I believed only in the clouds. I only appreciated efforts that rewarded me with instant gratification, and it goes without saying that very few things in life fit under this rather small umbrella. I have grown since then, but not in one defining moment, sudden epiphany, or life-changing experience. I have simply changed to be the person I am today. And although these six words identify a growth that I'm proud of, I can't help but feel as if they characterize me as a chipper but flat character akin to Pride and Prejudice's Jane Bennet – somebody I surely cannot be.

“Chopsticks make surprisingly good marshmallow-toasters.”

I use chopsticks to toast marshmallows, but I only know how to eat rice with a spoon. I memorize Po Chu-I for Chinese class and then read my favorite American author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, at home. I am the living juxtaposition of Chinese culture and American traditions. In Chicago, where I was born and raised until age 12, I never saw myself as different from my Caucasian friends. The fact that I went to Chinese school when my best friend was at Sunday school was just a fact of life. Upon moving to Taiwan, I realized that I was not as in tune with my ethnic background as I'd thought. After living there for five years, that changed significantly. While I've realized that I am not confined by this cultural amalgamation, by the same token, ­neither am I defined by it.

“Writing: I never liked math anyway.”

My affection for words first surfaced in fourth grade. I was asked to write a poem about a field trip to Lake Michigan. I was nine years old and had never written a poem before. Pencil in hand and brows furrowed, I cautiously began, “Splash!” Ever since that fateful exclamation I have harbored a deep love for writing and for the feelings, imagery, and clarity that streams of carefully chosen words can convey. The colorful marginalia that decorates my copy of my ­favorite book, The Great Gatsby, can attest to my ­admiration of Fitzgerald's tight rein on diction. I ­admire words for their ability to ascribe specificity to our inherently variegated world, to “name the unnamed,” as Jonathan Safran Foer once said. Nevertheless, I would like to believe that the “unnamed” potential in me is too much to describe in a meager six words.

And then I thought of it. Six words were exactly enough – six syllables, in fact. My optimism and growth, mixed background and global perspective, literary interests and love of writing, aspirations and potential could be summarized simply:

“I am more than just words.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 8 comments. Post your own now!

KeepLiving said...
Jun. 18, 2012 at 10:16 am
Whatever you decide to use this for, it will definitely get credit because it's a really neat and amazingly well-written article. Thanks for writing it because I really enjoyed reading it :)
Hallo said...
Sept. 25, 2010 at 6:50 pm
I've been reading a bunch of essays on TeenInk, searching for inspiration, and this one is definitely my favorite.  I like how you managed to include a few completely different aspects of your life in this very together essay - that's difficult.
A.C.Worsham replied...
Oct. 7, 2010 at 9:31 am
This was an absolutely inventive entertaining piece of writing. I read it in the magazine and thought "Wow, I want to learn how to write something this creative." Good work. I loved it!!!!!!!
A.C.Worsham replied...
Oct. 7, 2010 at 9:33 am
whoops. posted this in the wrong spot. ugh im tired.
shdfs said...
Sept. 20, 2010 at 9:06 pm
I really enjoyed reading this essay. I personally thought it was really good. It's interesting because when I stepped into English class the first day of school this year, we had to do this exact asssignment: the six-word memoir. The assignment actually gave me some insight into what I want to write my college essay about. Thanks actually. I found your piece to be really helpful.
babigerl1194 said...
Feb. 24, 2010 at 7:36 pm
i liked it.
Steinberg said...
Feb. 23, 2010 at 7:49 am
it was a good essay but i feel like there are some hidden feelings. Are you being hurt or whats happenig? do you need help?
annexgrey This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 23, 2010 at 6:26 am
This is great!
I love your six words.
There's actually now a book of six word testimonies now. Just thought you'd like to know :)
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