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Last week, I wrote about a bad interaction. But I don’t want to give you the impression that my job is all bad. Standing in one spot to talk to people can result in some really interesting conversations.

People will say anything.

And sometimes it’s really funny! Sometimes it’s really good. And when it’s good, it can be totally eye-opening and incredible and poetic. Let me tell you about one of those good ones.

I was talking to two women (this is important). They asked me some questions about the exhibit. I was killing it as usual, in our conversation and in general, and I suggested a new idea using the classic line, “If I were in charge…” One of the women barely let me finish my thought when she replied, “No. When you’re in charge.”


What if all little kids, especially little girls, heard this growing up?

How big of a difference does that one little word make?

Saying “when” instead of “if” makes a leadership position a definite, not a maybe. The dream or vision or goal or imagined future assumes decision making power from the very beginning. It isn’t part of a silly, throwaway comment that is meant to not be taken seriously. It’s the real deal. And this is SO easy to do! Just one word. Now just how easy and how fun can this be?

We all grew up reading children’s books, and if you paid attention in class you may also remember reading children’s poetry. I’m talkin’ Shel Silverstein and the like. For a lot of us, that was probably the end of poetry. And maybe now the memories are flowing back. But some of us never forgot. I kept at it (poorly, but that is neither here nor there).

In a college creative writing class, we did an exercise that I’d like to do again, now. We followed an already famous structure, not a complicated Shakespearean Sonnet, but a simpler and freer Where I’m From poem. We changed the content to fit our lives and our memories. In the spirit of this almost-plagiarism, I submit my rip-off of Judith Viorist’s If I Were In Charge Of The World to show how this tiny word change can start young but can make all the difference. Let’s hear it for the ladiez who will be in charge.

WHEN I Am In Charge Of The World by Shannon Vail

When I am in charge of the world
I will cancel sea lions,
Tiny kitchen videos,
Middle seats, and also soggy bread.

When I am in charge of the world
There will be a holiday the monday after Super Bowl Sunday,
Pet otters, and
Dogs allowed everywhere that humans go.

When I am in charge of the world
You won’t have limited vacation days.
You won’t have to pay for internet.
You won’t have meatless mondays.

Or your doctor saying, “You can’t eat pasta every meal.”
You won’t even have doctors.

When I am in charge of the world
The New England Patriots will be erased from history
All ice cream shops will have peanut butter flavor,
And a person who wants to lead,
And sometimes just read,
Is still
In charge of the world.

Shannon Vail

The number one authority on giant squids and can eat 6-14 boxes of pasta a day according to a recent Twitter poll.

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