A life story in six words

Yale Hollander is a dad, husband, legal professional and writer whose works have appeared in a number of local and national publications. He is currently a trustee of the St. Louis Jewish Light, however the opinions and viewpoints he presents in this blog are strictly his. Follow him on Twitter @yalehollander.

By Yale Hollander

When it comes to participating in Jewish leadership development programs, I’m the boy who just can’t say “no.” And so it was that I found myself one recent evening, seated in one of my temple’s religious school classrooms (fortunately, one with adult-sized chairs, seeing as how my fellow congregational movers and shakers were primed with a fine array of deli foods), preparing to engage in an introspective writing exercise.

Ordinarily, an introspective writing exercise would be a piece of cake for me (I’d say slam dunk, but I’m 5 feet 6 inches, a terrible athlete, and frankly, I like cake). After all, I’m a writer — or at least I fancy myself as one, and an introspective exercise allows me to dwell on a subject with which I’ve been fairly familiar for nearly 47 years. 

The catch to this particular exercise was in the word count that we were commanded not to exceed.

Six.

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That’s six words. Not six chapters, pages, paragraphs or sentences. We had to write our life stories in six words. As you may have noticed, brevity and I don’t get along, so this little exercise was downright terrifying. 

In the very short period of time we were given to write, I thought about what others might say about me in hopes that I could distill the sum of those impressions down to the microsentence I was given to tell my story.

I thought about the six words my wife might use to sum up my life. Several options popped up including the following:

Doesn’t easily settle on a restaurant.

Mizzou football dictates his social calendar.

Remembers to leave the seat down. 

Next, my kids. What would my lovely daughters have to say about me if given only six words to do it?

Can’t we listen to something else?

He’s yelling at the television again.

Well, he’s off to the basement.

And what would my dad have to say?

I thought he’d never leave home.

Got his fashion sense from me. 

Although my mom’s been gone more than 10 years now, I did put some thought to what she might have to contribute.

Called me on a regular basis.

His daughters are my personal revenge. 

My friends might offer up a few choice words, such as:

There when we need a laugh.

Mixes a sublime gimlet from scratch. 

Even with all of those assessments orbiting my consciousness, I was still mired in an incredible struggle to snag the right six words. Time was running out and I had yet to scribble a single letter.

And then it hit me, or I should say they hit me. Out of my frustration to find the right six words that define my life, they magically made themselves known. 

I am still writing my story.