Values values values. At various points throughout my life, various people have refused to shut up about value. Thus, I have done many values exercises. In tenth grade, we had to work on a project that include – I kid you not – “chastity.” Not sure if any parents, administrators, or other teachers were aware of this. (I did great, in case anyone cares.) That was one of the worst. Better: an exercise that involved a tournament-style ranking of values. Instead of just crossing off the less important values, you pitted them against each other repeatedly until you had your top five, three, and one. I particularly liked this because I realized that certain values fit into others – for example, I see kindness as a huge part of both integrity and humor (keeps you from cruelty/harm). Now, I talk about values with my students when I help them with their college essays, and this might be my favorite iteration, because a successful essay identifies values in context: what do you think is important, and how does that inform your actions? Nevertheless, these lists invariably omit one of the most important values ever: sanity.
About a year ago, my younger sister embarked on a mission to misuse the phrase “per se” at every possible opportunity. “I’m probably going to go to bed a little early tonight, per se.” “Do you think it’s, per se, going to rain tomorrow?” “I’m getting strong whiffs of”–long pause–“turmeric, per se?” After a few months of this, I couldn’t for the life of me remember how to use “per se” properly. Even now, I leave it out of my writing because my memory of the term is so muddled.