Autumn Phillips: My inner control freak


It probably started with Rolling Stone's "Top 500 Albums of All Time" list, which I read from beginning to end in November. Then on to the top 100 albums of the year, which I didn't read in December.

The newsstand was covered with them -- most shocking, most revealing, biggest, best -- quantifying 2003 so it can be filed and put away in the basement archives.

It's not sexy, and it's definitely not very rock 'n' roll, but 'tis the season for list making. Since Thanksgiving, people have been scribbling lists of people to buy for and food to prepare for the holiday table. Tiny scraps of paper are collecting in landfills across America. Piles of lists, wads of lists, notepads full of lists.

Note to self:

Buy eggs.

Invest in U.S. Savings Bonds.

Checking it twice.

And there are New Year's resolutions to be made.

New Year's resolutions:

Read more nonfiction.

Stop saying, "It's all good." (No. Really. Stop.)

Straighten up.

Fly right.

Life can be set down in one column on the back of a Wal-Mart receipt. Life can be planned, today, tomorrow, 10 years from now.

It's a special kind of neurosis, a manifestation of the inner control freak.

There is no astrological sign, no Myers-Briggs personality type, no case study to show who is and isn't a list-maker.

You will never guess who is standing next to you in line, fingering a to do list in their coat pocket. You will never guess who will thank the clerk and run excitedly out to their car to cross out the word "bank."

Also listed:

Put air in tires.

Find that missing tooth.


I am a list-maker, but don't tell anyone. I think I do it simply for the satisfaction of crossing things off.

This week I made at least two "to do" lists a day (one for work and one for home), a grocery list (amended) and a goal list for my 30s.


See Ethiopia, Central Asia.

Master's degree.

Fame and fortune.

And for my New Year's resolution, I plan to start saving those lists. It seems they are a better record of my life than posed photographs or the claptrap I write in my journal.

They are the neurotic guts of my day to day.

Note to self:

Save to do lists.

Buy notebook.

Buy pen, Scotch tape.

Happy new year.


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