My last column contained some thoughts I wrote in my 20s that I decided not to toss into the wood stove as I sorted through pages from the past in my effort to downsize. I am proud to say I did not keep everything. I discovered I actually could kindle fires with some of my journals if I simply tore out the pages that might be worth keeping. The theme of those pages seems to be my evolving philosophy of life and how to live it most fully.

In the 1980s I wrote:

When I am living alone, I am almost totally self-directed. I am able to center my life because I have time to think about what its center should be.

I am affected by people I live with and have close friendships with, and the effects vary with the level of involvement.

My performance on almost anything is directly related to the amount of positive reinforcement I get. I work harder if others say I am doing well. If I were to trace that fact into my past, it might be revealing to see how many endeavors I pursued because other people [especially my parents] praised my efforts.

My freshman English professor steered me toward an English major quite explicitly.

The decisions on what to do with my life have been mine, but they are influenced by others.

Another bundle of pages ripped from a 1980s journal focused on relationships:

Most people are good and each has something to offer. One of my greatest pleasures in life is helping a person discover and use an unexploited talent or quality of being. This has occurred in my professional life [as a teacher] and in my interpersonal life. I helped [people] discover qualities in themselves they didn’t know they had.

The supreme value and goal in human relationships is honesty and acceptance. They go hand-in-hand. If one knows he/she will be accepted, there is no fear of being honest and trusting.

Corollary: I relate more easily to open-minded, accepting people, than narrow-minded rejecting people. I guess most people would.

Narrow-mindedness is a symptom of either ignorance or insecurity or both. On philosophical matters, it is a sign of ignorance or laziness — an unwillingness to explore other ways of thinking. It is a sign of insecurity in thought. If you are uncertain of your beliefs, you cling to them and refuse to look at others for fear yours might be wrong.

Parallels occur in human contacts. A person who is quick to judge and reject others for their faults tends to be insecure and uncertain. A strong person does not need to belittle others.

A strong person can honor other views and ways and still maintain his/her own without needing to diminish others for their differences. He/she can allow others their ways without criticizing.

I am a person who cares about others and does not fear what other people think, when acting on beliefs and values I know are right and good.

I believe the more aware I am of my own inner feelings and thoughts, the more authentic my interactions with my environs and cohabitants and the closer I am to the supernatural, which some people call God.

The perfection and precision of nature is a source of wonder for me.

For years, I carried a tiny piece of paper in journal after journal containing a list, which I added to from time to time. Perhaps it is a fitting end to this column.










suspension bridges

hardware stores

Kathryn Olmstead is a former University of Maine associate dean and associate professor of journalism living in Aroostook County, where she publishes the quarterly magazine Echoes. Her column appears in this space every other Friday. She can be reached at or P.O. Box 626, Caribou, ME 04736.