the misfit’s myth

“I’d teach myself how to want things, how to stand up, how to ask for them. And I’d say you—yeah, you—you belong in the room, too. The radiance falls on all of us, and we are nothing without each other.”

—Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Chronology of Water and The Small Backs of Children

What, when you combine a birthday Bundt cake, a dog that’s dead from last May to eternity, a perpetual sense of levity, a moment of clarity at a gay bar, a TED talk on failure, a fistful of goodbyes? What, when moving through and learning extraordinary things feels like nothing more than a sort of awful taupe colour? What, when I can’t stop hoping for better things in spite of every pragmatic notion?

What then?

I can’t tell you.

This is not meant to be pointlessly opaque. This is to say, here’s my twenty-something life as it comes: an odd bunch of moments that sting a bit, warm me up sometimes, feel like the far past as soon as they happen.

The motivation is that nothing has felt important for a long time, maybe two years, maybe longer. The means is that I was offered a job. I’m taking a hiatus, and it’s right, as far as I can tell.

I’ve told a few people at this point, but the short version is that I’m heading back to a little town just outside of Madrid for a year to teach.

Not everything hurts. Not everything thrills.

What does hurt is my sister chasing my dad around the house, and there being no bark of a doggy who protected her family, even from each other. Instead, there is a hedge growing on a small mound of dirt in the yard and silence in the house. And neither my sister nor I had to put it into words because we both felt that silence.

What hurts is constantly listening, redefining self, seeing and forgiving, trying to explain this whole twisted journey without letting it weigh me down. What thrills is the same. Call it crisis, but maybe you’ve felt the same way.

I saw past this muddle in hearing Lidia Yuknavitch’s idea of the “misfit’s myth.” She describes it like this: “Even at the moment of your failure, right then you are beautiful. You don’t know it yet, but you have the ability to reinvent yourself endlessly. That’s your beauty.”

I plan on feeling confused for a while, the residue that poet Ada Limón experienced as a fish out of New York City (check her out, if you’ve not yet encountered her stunning work). I plan to pitch certain amounts of shit I’ve been toting around. Other than that, there is no plan and that, at the risk of sounding selfish, is what I want.

So this idea of reinvention. Maybe this is you, maybe not. I see it as a reinvention toward, especially toward the people in my life. I would love to hear if you have also gone through a reinvention of some kind, whether in person, by FB message, or at least by comment here. This process can be the most isolating thing, but I, the champ of filling my life to the point of chaos and utter loneliness, am telling you, it can be beautiful.


11 thoughts on “the misfit’s myth

  1. Hey Jesse,
    You’ve been on my heart and mind a lot these past two weeks. I tried getting in touch with you via FB, but couldn’t find you😓 Riding with your mom & aunt across Spain gave me lots of time to pray for your next adventure. It will be great to have you back in this corner of the world. I’ll never turn down a cafe con leche and chat with beautiful Jesse. Your writing is magnificent and I hear your heart cries in it. Thanks for your transparency! Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you as you navigate the unknowns in this move.
    Mrs. Anderson (Sarie😊)

  2. Mrs. Anderson, thank you. I am so looking forward to catching up with you – cafe con leche sounds fantastic! You have been–are!–so supportive and caring. It will be such fun to be in your corner again!

  3. Dear Jessie ~
    I am reinventing myself, too, after having done my best to raise my two children, and seeing them begin their journeys as adults. Unfortunately, one of them has chosen to do so without my involvement, and this is the hardest transition of all for me.
    You are a smart, beautiful, brave, kind, funny, and talented woman. I am so glad that you arrived in the back row of the MN Choraltos – !!!
    I am excited for you as you begin your wonderful adventure. Hold fast to those who have loved you and continue to do so, for I believe they are many. If ever you need to hear a sassy remark, drop me a line and I’ll oblige, my friend.

    1. Mary you are wonderful 🙂 I am so grateful for the people like you who are willing to share similar stories of coping and making lemonade out of lemons. And yay for choraltos! I always appreciate your sassy hilarious self. Thanks!

  4. If I forget, yet God remembers! If these hands of mine cease from their clinging, yet the hands divine hold me so firmly that I cannot fall;
    And if sometimes I am too tired to call for Him to help me, then He reads the prayer unspoken in my heart, and lifts my care.

    I dare not fear, since certainly I know that I am in God’s keeping, shielded so from all that else would harm, and in the hour of stern temptation strengthened by His power; I tread no path in life to Him unknown;
    I lift no burden, bear no pain, alone: My soul a calm, sure hiding-place has found: The everlasting arms my life surround.

    God, Thou art love! I build my faith on that. I know Thee who has kept my path, and made light for me in the darkness, tempering sorrow so that it reached me like a solemn joy; It were too strange that I should doubt Thy love.
    —Robert Browning

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