Wish List

December 18, 2013
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My parents always asked me to make a wish list at Christmas and I was quite happy to oblige. I printed pages upon pages of items on our dot matrix printer, each wish tab-delimited and cross-referenced with page numbers in the Sears catalog. Even then, at that tender age, thinking about ease of use (if not quality of goods).

Over the years, my time to invest in wish lists dwindled and, eventually, the novelty of getting stuff wore off. The pure animal lust of pawing through catalogs gave way to halfhearted Amazon Wish Lists—the thermal heat death of the wish-listing universe. This month, though, quite unexpectedly, something changed. This holiday is different.

The fun of the wish list has returned, ushered in by everyone’s favorite holiday tidings, worry and self-doubt. This year, I know why I want every single thing on my list. This year, things pop into my head and I’m able to understand why. If listing fifty toys from the Sears catalog was fishing with dynamite, this year feels like I’ve mastered the art of the fly-fishing lure.

So here’s my advice: re-imagine the wish list; take it literally. What is a wish but something huge and difficult, something impossible to achieve on your own? Wish lists imply assistance, that you need help getting to where you need to be.

A wish list should be introspective. It should be full of things that address deficits. Thus, a wish list takes guts. You have to know where you come up short. I looked hard at the things that challenged and frustrated me, the things that make me want to give up. I looked at people I admire. In both places, things I needed.

A wish list should be humble. Wish lists should not come from the same place as New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions ooze strength. They’re confident, full of bravado and authority. I am going to do this, watch me. A thoughtful wish list can come of the uncertainty of not knowing whether you can get to the place you want to be.

Without further ado.

Challenging work has me feeling exposed and uncreative: I need things that stoke my imagination and reassure me that I’m not done growing.

  • “Graphic Design: The New Basics”
  • Encouragement to sketch, draw, and otherwise move out of the abstract world
  • An hour with a gift certificate in a fantastic bookstore
  • “Designing with Type”

I want to take more risks: I want things that encourage me to think bigger, try new things, get uncomfortable, and not worry about perfection.

  • An instrument to learn with Charlotte
  • Specific travel ideas
  • “Objective-C Programming: The Big Nerd Ranch Guide”

But I want to keep perfection—or at least excellence—close.

  • “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline” and/or “The Tenth of December”
  • “Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish”
  • A walnut bed frame, made by a person out of a tree

Finally, I need to make the most of what little downtime I have. I need things that give me comfort. Things that let me pause and clear some space to think.

  • A durable, warm parka (that fits!)
  • Gloves (that don’t smell!)
  • A new pair of shoes for work
  • A new pair of shoes for running
  • Gooseneck kettle for pour-over cups of coffee
  • W.L. Weller 12-year Kentucky straight wheated bourbon whiskey
  • Ingredients to make pecan pie

Happy holidays—see you in the new year.

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