Gretchen Rubin

Why it’s so hard to “Be Gretchen.” (Even for those of us actually named “Gretchen.”)

The first of my Twelve Commandments is “Be Gretchen.” Now, why is it hard just to be myself?

It sounds so simple. It’s a piece of advice that people have been doling out for thousands of years (I think the Pythian Oracle is inscribed ‘Know thyself’). And yet it’s very, very hard to do.

And I’ve realized one of the reasons why. It’s because although you can choose what you do, you can’t choose what you like to do. You can’t control your tastes.

I’m thinking about this because I’m sitting in a coffee shop, and they’re playing Kate Bush over the loudspeaker.

I have a confession to make. I love Kate Bush. I have practically no interest in music, but the first time I heard her “The Kick Inside,” I loved it. I still remember the afternoon when, during my sophomore year in college, my roommate’s friend from home (he clearly had a huge unrequited crush on her) brought it over on a Friday afternoon, and for lack of anything better to do, we listened to it as we began the elaborate process of “getting ready to go out.”

That reaction was unusual for me. Although I do love certain songs, I have only a mild appreciation for most music.

I listened to Kate Bush for a while. But gradually I decided that I didn’t like the fact that I liked it. I wished that I liked jazz, or cutting-edge music, or at least classical music. Kate Bush was too…sentimental. Sappy. Histrionic. Icky mystical. But nevertheless I loved it. So what to do? Gradually I stopped listening to it.

About a year ago, I saw on Amazon that her new CD "Aerial" got some ecstatic reviews. For the first time in a long time, I thought about Kate Bush. I briefly considered buying it, but then I thought—no, I’m not the kind of person who listens to Kate Bush.

Maybe I’m not the kind of person who listens to Kate Bush.
But whether I like it or not, I am the kind of person who likes Kate Bush.

Be Gretchen. I just ordered Aerial.

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