A Magpie Desiderata.

By: Jen Shoop

Photograph by Claire Harvey. Wearing Doen’s Juno dress.

Over the weekend, I asked Magpies on Instagram what they would tell their 20-year-old selves. The answers to this question always move me, as they pumice away the inessential and collectively point at the simple truths that

life finds a way;

that this, too, shall pass;

and that you must learn to trust yourself, and find joy in the immediate.

Put differently, it will all be OK — so enjoy the good in the present. When I posed this same prompt two years ago, this was in fact the central chorus: it will all be OK, that ultimate emollient of mothering reassurance.

A few that jumped out at me from this batch:

You’ll find more happiness from the things you do for yourself than the things others do for you.

Time is a thief. Live where your feet are and don’t rush to the next thing.

Stop doubting yourself.

Stay open and be vulnerable.

It will look nothing like what you picture, and it will be OK.

A beautiful desiderata, isn’t it?

To this litany, I would add some fine-grained learnings I have found myself leaning on in recent years:

Not everything will resolve to a fine point. You may never get the apology, the explanation, the final word. You must learn to accept the irresolution.

Maturity hinges on a fine understanding what you can and cannot control. You cannot control the behavior of others; you can control how you respond to it.

Say the thing that needs to be said. But not everything does need to be said. You must learn to discern what matters and let the rest go. This is especially true in marriage: assume the best in your partner; let the rest slick off. For the things that do matter: do not bottle them up or worry unnecessarily about contingencies, possible reactions, and the like. If you made a mistake, own it and apologize for it rather than browbeating and wondering what the other party is thinking. If you are going to be late, let the person know rather than careening through traffic in a fit of stress. Mr. Magpie calls this “getting the monkey off your back.” Look whatever it is in the face, and say what needs to be said.

You can do anything for 24 hours. Words I repeated to myself before the births of my children, but the principle extends elsewhere, especially when I am anticipating an intense exchange with someone, or an unpleasant situation. You are strong, and you can withstand more than you think. Just know that this, too, will be over in a day’s time.

You can start a new 24 hour cycle at any time. A great Magpie reader quote (thanks, Mia!). You do not need to wait for tomorrow to hit the reset button. You can decide at 9:05 a.m. that today is a new day, and get started.

You are not for everyone, and that’s OK. Hard to accept if you are a people-pleaser, but essential to rising above the guilt and emotional contortions that can quagmire and obscure.

An apology asks for nothing. Do not give or receive a “sorry” that involves conditions. If you cannot apologize in earnest, you need to ask yourself why. If someone extends an apology that makes demands, be weary and protect yourself.

Worrying imagines too many endings that never come. And no amount of worrying changes the future. It is difficult to break out of a habit of worrying, but one narrow visual I have been using lately: just because the thought path presents itself doesn’t mean you need to walk down it. When you see the storm clouds gathering (“what if…” and “what about…”), imagine yourself standing at the trailhead and moving in a different direction.

Comparison is the thief of joy. Keep your blinders on; don’t worry about what your neighbor is doing. A more empowering way to think of it: why would we ask directions from someone who has no idea where we want to go? Everyone’s path is different — focus on defining your own.

Drive gently. Give yourself, and others, a soft landing. Life can demand so much of us — fashion yourself as a gentle resting place. You never know what is going on in the inner worlds of those around you; go easy.

When you find yourself judging someone else, ask: what does it matter to me?

How you do anything is how you do everything. Care about the small things. Bring the best and most consistent energy you can to any enterprise, whether making the children’s lunches or making a big work presentation. Mr. Magpie’s dad always says, “the shoes make the man,” and I think this is true in a more abstract sense: how we present ourselves, how we move through our lives, comes down to detail.

You will not always find inspiration, so you must learn to be disciplined. True in every realm I can think of — entrepreneurship, parenthood, fitness, creativity, relationships. You must find ways to muscle through the lean times. Half the battle is showing up.

“Experiment with your life. You will make mistakes. And they are right, too.” Words from Anais Nin – there is no way to say it better! Try the thing! Be unafraid to fail! Bring a “You’re going to love it” energy (courtesy of my Dad)!

“Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” Words from Mary Oliver. Attention is one of the greatest forms of love. Permit yourself to be startled, and delighted, by what you find. In Chicago, I participated in a start-up incubator and one of the mentors once said: “Pessimism is always cooler. But be the optimist. The true entrepreneur is an irrepressible optimist.” I think about that all the time — how it feels cooler, more discerning, to be negative, and how it can feel twee and cheesy to speak in exclamation points. But if you want joy, you must court it!

What else would you add?


+More on the pointlessness of worrying.

+Dear Dad, you were right.

+Barnacles and joy.

Shopping Break.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through the links below, I may receive compensation.

+Found the mesh platforms I’m swooning over on sale for 25% off…I think I’m going to pull the trigger today.

+Ordered this denim midi skirt. I also still love this ecru denim maxi skirt from last spring — already pulled out for the season.

+OMG this Chanel bag!!!

+Cute patterned spring blouse – under $100!

+This $50 tote reminded me of the one from MZ Wallace.

+The crown jewel of our covered back porch. On sale!

+A great everyday dress. Wear in 1,000 ways.

+Chic suitcases in great colors for $130.

+Under-$40 eyelet dress if you need something last minute for Easter.

+Really loving these hair products from Roz: this thickening spray and this root lift spray. I’ve been using both and I love the results for my fine, straight hair. You can use a lot of the product without it feeling crispy / gross — truly invisible, and they really work.

+Fun matching shorts/top situation.

+This sunglasses cord is so kitschy and fun. It reminded me in ethos of the cheeky totes from The Jacksons. I own and love one of them — such a fun pop of personality.

+Spendy but such an adorable girl’s dress.

+Cute $25 swimsuit for a little love. Also like this $13 floral sunhat for a baby.

+Obsessed with this top and matching skirt.

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10 thoughts on “A Magpie Desiderata.

  1. These are all SUCH wise words, Jen!

    I would add something my mother always said: “Know your negotiables and non-negotiables.” This can apply to so many different situations — relationships, jobs, house rules/parenting issues, etc.

    On worrying: a friend once told me, “worrying is like praying for what you don’t want to happen.”

    On what-ifs: a reframe I recently learned is to shift from “WHAT IF xyz happens…” to “EVEN IF xyz happens…” to remind myself that I can cope with a negative outcome.

    And lastly — so much in life is not either/or, but both/and. Parenting is the first thing that comes to mind — it is both rewarding AND incredibly challenging. Two things/feelings/perspectives can be true at the same time.

    1. Such great additions – nodding heartily at each!! Love the “what if” reframe — borrowing that one.


  2. What valuable life lessons! If you are ever called on to give a commencement address, there’s your outline. Took a screenshot and put this in my favorites!

  3. Also want to print this! As well as distill it into language appropriate for my 8 year old who is starting to go through some of these character building moments. Thanks Jen. ox

    1. I love this – and your note has made me think about how/if I am communicating these to my own children. Thanks for the provocation.


  4. Just read Daryn’s reply and it is exactly what I was going to say!

    I will add two of my mantras.
    Taste the words before you speak.
    And, for career advice I tell people to remember that no one looks after you but YOU! Ask for the raise, go for the amazing job, toot your own horn, etc. Take the bull by the horns because no-one else will do it for you. Go boldly!

    Printing off now. So many things to remember.

    1. These are gorgeous — I love the “taste the words before you speak” one. Thank you! And always, go boldly!


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