Your Top Five

I have a game for us today. You don’t have to play, but I’d love it if you did. Especially if you’re the person reading from Hungary. I’ve never been to Hungary, and I want to know all about you. What does it look like outside your window?

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I didn’t invent this game, the one that I’m going to try to get you to play. A woman named Nora Ephron did. She also happens to be the laugh-a-minute behind the most instantly likeable book that I’ve read to date. I Feel Bad About My Neck wasn’t exactly written with my generation in mind, but Nora seemed to know that mothers would wind up sending this book to their daughters.


“Oh, how I regret not having worn a bikini for the entire year I was twenty-six. If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don’t take it off until you’re thirty-four.”

Pull any 15 quotes by Nora Ephron, and you’ll be looking at the speech I wish I had been given when I graduated from college. As it turns out, Nora did deliver a commencement address before she died — and that is where our game comes from.

At her alma mater in 1996, she mentioned a game that she would play every five or so years. Whenever she needed to kill a little time, she would list five things to describe herself. Not one of her top five words, in any of the five-year segments, would end up appearing on a later list. The idea was that the five things you feel are most important about you today will most likely differ in five years, in ten years, in fifteen years.


While I was eating a slice of I Will Find A Job Pie last night, I absentmindedly generated my own little lists. I only have a few, because I just turned twenty-three. (Remember when you forgot my birthday?) But so far, it looks like Nora has nailed it.

My top five, from five years ago: Driven, student, sister, girlfriend, runner

My top five, from one year ago: Underemployed, exercise addict, budding cook, anorexic, ashamed

My top five, from one month ago: Lonely, broke, candid, proud, new New Yorker

My top five, currently: Writer, daughter, single, unemployed, grateful

According to Nora, this ongoing ability to change our minds about who we are is “one of the most delicious things available” to us. I’m inclined to agree. The whole thing is just about as comforting as piece of pie — don’t you think?


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