Proust Questionnaire: Part 1

Marcel Proust

This past weekend, my sister-in-law sent me a link to Joan Didion’s (one of my favorite writers) Proust Questionnaire answers, and after reading it I of course thought it might be fun to answer the questions for myself as well.

How difficult could this be, I thought? Not as easy or quick as I initially imagined! Many of the questions required a great deal of thought and reflection, and for a couple I felt compelled to ask for feedback from Brett and the girls to see if how I saw myself was how they (and others) saw me as well.

I also learned that the Proust Questionnaire was not invented by Marcel Proust (of madeline fame) as I had originally thought; rather, it was a questionnaire that he had answered in the late 19th century. Questionnaires like this were popular and were supposed to reveal one’s “true personality.”

The original questionnaire had 35 questions, but these days most Proust Questionnaires don’t use all of them (not many care about “the military event you admire the most”). I’ve chosen to answer the same 14 that Joan Didion was asked. Today’s post will have the first seven and I’ll post the remaining seven tomorrow.

  1. What is your greatest fear? I am terrified of heights, to the point where my legs stop working and won’t let me climb higher in some situations, and to where I nearly pass out in others. I’m not sure how or why this developed, but there it is. I am also deeply, deeply afraid of meeting wild animals in the wild. I was once approached by wild monkeys on a hike in Japan. They were not cute or interesting in the least – they were terrifying. Same goes for every other non-domesticated animal I’ve encountered (skunks, alligators, snakes, lemurs, etc.).
  2. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? I am terrible at letting things go, and hold a grudge for far too long. I’m getting better at forgiveness as I get older, but I’m still nowhere near where I would like to be with this. At the same time, I believe there are some things that should not be forgotten. You can forgive someone, but you cannot change them.
  3. What is your favorite journey? I have had many wonderful journeys, but I think my favorite was always our trip down to Honeyman State Park in Florence, Oregon, every year for the Holt Family Campout. We attended for 10 years, and I broke the journey from our home down to the campground into seven smaller sections to make the long trip easier for the girls when they were little, and crowded into the car with all our camping gear. As they got older they didn’t care as much about the divisions, but I still loved the transitions from one section into the next, knowing we were getting closer, and seeing the familiar landmarks along the way.
  4. On what occasion/s do you lie? I will almost always tell a small lie to preserve someone’s feelings (and have instantly regretted it when I didn’t), and to protect a secret or a surprise. But overall I detest lying. I’d rather not say anything at all  than lie.
  5. What do you dislike most about your appearance? My legs. Enough said.
  6. Which words or phrases do you most overuse? I am guilty of overusing what WenYu has named the “immeasurable intensifiers: very, really, just, pretty (i.e. ‘pretty good’). I know I overuse them, but usually try to go back and remove or change them when I write (and am often not successful). The Robin Williams scene in Dead Poet’s Society where he exhorts his students to choose more descriptive words for their writing is a masterpiece and my inspiration.
  7. When and where were you the happiest? I think giving birth to our son, and meeting each of the girls for the first time were the happiest times I can remember. The most blissful day I can remember though was my 23rd birthday. The whole day was perfection, from start to finish, and I can still close my eyes and remember it all as if it just happened.

Stay tuned for seven more answers tomorrow! Which question do you think was the most difficult to answer? The easiest?

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