“Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be.”
I stumbled upon this quote by food writer Clementine Paddleford the other week and have been carrying it around since. Like a spare coin in a winter coat pocket, I’ll turn it over now and then, reach for it in moments of idleness. Magpie-like, I cotton to its linguistic symmetry: the echo and reprisal of the bone. And I rather like the sentiment, too: we shouldn’t sit back and wish for things in situations that warrant action and mettle.
But would I be splitting hairs if I said that I disagree with its dichotomization?
Because I often think that hopefulness can be its own kind of courage.
A couple years ago, there was a terminal illness in my family. My sister called me one afternoon and said, “Would it be wrong of me to pray that she survives, entirely healed?” I paused, my heart in my throat. She added: “Can’t I pray for a miracle?”
It takes a beautiful kind of boldness to ask such a thing. It reflects an enormous faith, a staggering optimism. She knew, too, the odds.
I think also of the many entrepreneurs I have known who have dared to imagine a different way of doing things. Yes, what’s most often talked about is the doing in these stories, the backbone, as it were. We love to hear about the hustle, the late nights, the 234 closed doors before the one yes, the extreme sleeplessness and cold calling and ramen-eating. But we hear far less about the wishfulness at the dawn of such enterprises, the outsized ambition it takes to say: “I can imagine it differently. And out of this entire multi-billion-person world, I am the one who can make it happen.” Sure, this ambition can come from dark places — avarice, self-aggrandizement, self-promotion, jealousy, ruthless competitiveness — but it can also be borne of genuine curiosity, an engineer-like compulsion to improve a flaw or workflow, a desire to fix something. (One mentor told me that good entrepreneurs are always “looking for the duct tape,” meaning that they’re drawn to solutions forged haphazardly, temporarily, as there’s likely a better, sturdier way about it.)
I think finally of the toast my friend’s father gave on her wedding day. He said that when they brought her home from the hospital, they laid her on their bed and turned on a little music box that had been given to her as a gift. They gazed down at their beautiful, two-day-old daughter while “When You Wish Upon a Star” tinkled across the room, and they both cried. I have lingered long on the vision of their tender, fawn-like hopefulness as new parents, its shape so familiar and moving to me.
And so I know that I am taking Clementine Paddleford’s lovely sentiment and throwing darts at it, but in my final analysis, I pray that I am a woman of both backbone and wishbone, and that my daughter is the same.
+My top pick for my fall boot has a kitten heel. I love that the kitten heel is en vogue right now, as it is highly practical for motherhood. I am drawn to the Alexandre Birman Kittie (this python is to die) or the Aquazzura Quant.
+Thinking I need these for the fall. I just noticed that Everlane’s cashmere joggers are also available (they were sold out for so long!) and am debating whether I need those, too. (Many of you have offered rave reviews!)