“An ‘If’ for Girls”

I’ve realized in the past couple of years that balance is the aspect of my lifestyle that I appreciate the most. I’ve always bounced back and forth between my interests, but only after entering the working world did I discover that I need that balance in my life.  Yes there have been passions that have taken up more time than others, but I don’t think I’m ever going to be someone who lives for one thing, and one thing only (my mom says this will change when I have kids, but I’m not sure I believe her).  I’m happiest when I’m doing a little bit of everything.  I work, I play sports, I spend time with friends and family, I dance, I cook, I craft; I love mixing it all in.  Though I do have to admit, now that I’ve entered this indefinite phase of “young-adulthood,” I sometimes find myself struggling to navigate without one true passion as a beacon.  I stumbled across “An ‘IF’ for Girls” about 6 months ago, and while it was apparently written in 1931 (modeled after Rudyard Kipling’s “If”), its message transcends any generational gaps.

An “If” for Girls” 
By Elizabeth Lincoln Otis

(With apologies to Mr. Rudyard Kipling)

If you can dress to make yourself attractive,
       Yet not make puffs and curls your chief delight;
If you can swim and row, be strong and active,
       But of the gentler graces lose not sight;
If you can dance without a craze for dancing,
       Play without giving play too strong a hold,
Enjoy the love of friends without romancing,
       Care for the weak, the friendless and the old;
If you can master French and Greek and Latin,
       And not acquire, as well, a priggish mien,
If you can feel the touch of silk and satin
       Without despising calico and jean;
If you can ply a saw and use a hammer,
       Can do a man’s work when the need occurs,
Can sing when asked, without excuse or stammer,
       Can rise above unfriendly snubs and slurs;
If you can make good bread as well as fudges,
       Can sew with skill and have an eye for dust,
If you can be a friend and hold no grudges,
       A girl whom all will love because they must;
If sometime you should meet and love another
       And make a home with faith and peace enshrined,
And you its soul—a loyal wife and mother—
       You’ll work out pretty nearly to my mind
The plan that’s been developed through the ages,
       And win the best that life can have in store,
You’ll be, my girl, the model for the sages—
       A woman whom the world will bow before.


The poem reminds me that its good to love a little bit of everything.  It notes the importance of humility and moderation, makes me feel better that I’m not 1,000% passionate about my job, and inspires confidence that I’ll figure out where my life is going soon enough.  And isn’t that the question every 20-something is really trying to answer?

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