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.

A Penny in the Sea

My Dear Lucy,

I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.

~ C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, dedication to Lucy Barfield

Recording my life seemed like the most natural thing in the world to me when I was given my first journal at age six. What, you might ask, would a six-year-old write about? Well, gymnastics class, and what I ate for lunch, and the birth of my cousin Michael, and even the occasional melodramatic complaint about how everyone hated me and how I should just run away. I included lengthy descriptions of post office field trips, lists of Christmas gifts, my feelings about a certain boy at Bible Study Fellowship. I even compiled detailed information in the back about my friends and family, based on quite a bit of sleuthing (I was under the impression that my thoughtful Nana, based on her occupational tendencies when visiting our house, “really likes doing dishes”!).

I loved that journal: its pink hearts spiraling across the pages, the cheap lock and key that gave me a sneaky sense of secrecy, and the deliberately shaped letters, forming words that somehow incarnated my six-year-old feelings and dreams. Words were magic to me, and the chance to escape from the daily tasks of crafting sidewalk chalk masterpieces and defeating pirate kidnappers with my sisters into literary endeavors was an adventure in itself.

At the time of writing, I’m starting a very new phase. I just graduated from college with a degree in Music Ministry in May, and after an incredible two weeks touring Europe with my choir, I’m starting to realize what “post-graduation” means. For the first time, my summer will consist of working and living from my apartment in the Cities instead of with my family in rural Minnesota. There is a wide, sparkling blank ahead of me, although the immediate future is slightly focused. I know very little, but I have found a different sort of magic, even a sense of home, in wonder and curiosity about the world. The best writing reflects the real world to us through fresh lenses. As an inchoate writer, I am not searching for sentimentality and nostalgic romanticism of the past, but for a renewed sense of purpose, rooted in what is real and true.

So this is the prologue, the opening credits, the casting of a penny into the sea with dreams that, like the tales I loved so well, great trees of silver and gold will shoot out from it. As I record and wonder and muse, feel free to respond with your own thoughts, stories, questions, anything really! Dialogue is a wonderful thing. Surprise me.

Side note: I hope to post at least once a week during the summer months, and having written that down will, ideally, bring some accountable momentum amidst selling plasma and rehearsing for Tarzan. Cheers!