When I was very small, the worst word I knew was “hate.” I could get smacked for using it too freely or inap­pro­pri­ate­ly. Lat­er, I was taught the typ­i­cal tru­ism “if you can’t say any­thing nice, don’t say any­thing.” Once I’d processed that by being required to sit in a chair and think about man­ners a few times, I then became con­fused about the dif­fer­ence between a com­ment and a com­pli­ment. I under­stood per­fect­ly well what a com­pli­ment was, but a com­ment was a conun­drum. Appar­ent­ly a com­ment didn’t have to be com­pli­men­ta­ry. So to my tiny bina­ry mind, this cer­tain­ly meant that com­ments were not some­thing that was good.

It’s tod­dler log­ic, like the time I asked Mom to name every­thing that began with the let­ter m. Hey, Mom begins with m doesn’t it? She must know every­thing else that begins with m then.

Blast from the Past

One of the guys in my sec­tion Fresh­man year sent me this email the oth­er day.

Hey Harv,

I know that I don’t talk to you much any more, and we didn’t real­ly talk much once I moved out of 4B, but I fig­ured that I need­ed to send you this email.

The oth­er day, I real­ized how cool you real­ly were. You were nev­er afraid to do things because of what oth­er peo­ple would think. I’ve always lived with the great fear that you (that’s the all inclu­sive you, not just you per­son­al­ly, no offense.) would not like me if I let you know that I did things that aren’t social­ly pop­u­lar.

For instance, I love Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars, but I would nev­er talk about it. I was always afraid to be open about that stuff. And that’s just the tip of the ice­berg, ya know. Those are just exam­ples that you might relate to the most.

Now that I’m sober, I’m doing things that I want to do and say­ing things that I want to say. I’m not caged by self-cen­tered, self­ish fear as I was. Though you’ve been pret­ty weird at times (I mean that in a good way!), but you are also an inspi­ra­tion for me.

I hope that your semes­ter goes well, and I hope that you can for­give me for all of the trou­ble that I caused in Keough Fresh­man year.

Talk to you lat­er,

That’s one of the best com­pli­ments I’ve ever had.