Sunday, November 11, 2012

Cheers, Darlin'

"Write drunk; edit sober." -Hemingway

When I first came across this quote I got really excited - I've been looking for something writing related for a new tattoo and nothing was quite fitting the idea of what I wanted . . . until I saw this, that is.

Write drunk; edit sober - it is quite a noble concept, for me. I am a firm believer in the idea of one's drunk words being their sober thoughts. Anyone who knows me well, and has been lucky enough to be a witness to the shenanigans  alcohol provides for me, will tell you that I am a much, much, much more forward version of myself in every aspect. I loosely hand out my number, I dance without inhibition, I've confessed secret, ridiculous crushes, and we are not going to even get into what the drunk texting may or may not have looked like on those weekends where I should've said no to just one more shot of tequila. But isn't that somewhat refreshing every once and a while? Anyone with me out there? Shouldn't everyone get to go out on a weekend with their friends and just be? No concern of how I may or may not look, no concern of who may or may not see me dancing in this way, no concern, period, other than to have a good time.

I've thought about this quote, and thought about this quote, and thought about this quote some more; I've considered the idea that this quote is simply about alcohol consumption - that, perhaps, Hemingway created his brilliance in the haze of an amber colored drink, but this just doesn't sit well with me. Perhaps he did - I guess it's logical that he very well may have written while totally shit-faced for most of his career, but is that what this is really about?

As someone who has a degree in writing, and most recently, has become a published writer through a local newspaper, I find myself at odds with the inner voice that just. won't. go. away. She's always telling me I don't know what I'm doing - even though I've a degree and portfolio to demonstrate otherwise; she's always telling me I'll never succeed in this field - even though I've a paper sitting on my kitchen table this minute with MY name and work on the front page; she's always just yammering - on, and on, and on about how I think I may know what I'm doing, but, really, bitch? Do you really know what you're doing? And so, thanks to this little voice that incessantly spoon feeds self-doubt straight to my heart, I spend every second I am before a blank notebook page or before this computer screen questioning everything I'm pumping out - does that make sense? Will I offend someone? Is anyone going to even frigging read this?! And then I come back to Hemingway's words, I come back to the idea that this could just be a quote from a drunk man about drunk writing that happened to make him a legend - and then I fluff up my shoulders, I bitch slap that little voice in my head, and I say no!

Hemingway may have, in part, meant his words to be a token of advice for entire generations of writers to come, but that isn't everything I take away from them.
If I can take a couple of shots and start to be forthright with my feelings then perhaps I can start to become forthright with the deepest seeds of what my writing needs to put on the page.

I sit with my pencil, or with my fingers hovering over keyboard keys, and I think compulsively about what I'm about to put out in the universe before I do it and, more often than not, I end up not putting it out there for fear of what it may reveal about me, what it may say about my upbringing, how it could affect the people that read it. But, what if I wrote "drunk?" Not throwing back drinks drunk, but what if I just did what was on my heart? What if I just laid it all out on the page to just lay it out and then go back and edit? Why am I editing my thoughts and actions before they even become thoughts and actions?

Writing drunk isn't just writing - it's living. I'm not talking alcoholism, here, I'm talking about living the life that makes you feel best, saying what your heart needs to say, and just being what you need to be. This is your life, this is my life - and it's our only one.

So I'll get this tattooed on my body - to remind myself of the kind of writer I wish to be, to remind myself that writing, and living "drunk" isn't as scary or harmful as I once thought it was, to remind myself that this life isn't going to wait for me to step up and start living it.

Cheers to that . . .

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Defining Moment

Working with kids is hard. Some of you are parents, so you know how trying these little beings can be. I was a nanny for about six years before I graduated college, but I truly was blessed with children that listened when I spoke, did what I asked them, and showered me with love and affection.
I took a job with East End Community Services in August that would allow me to go to an elementary school everyday and serve bright eyed seven year olds all day. I walked in thinking I had the experience that was required - I would even go as far as to say I was cocky about the experience I was walking in with. It took about thirty minutes for that cocky facade to be shot right in the center and continue to splinter, and splinter, and splinter. I repeat - working with kids is hard.

In my first week I was quickly informed of what students were being raised by grandparents due to incarceration or death of biological parents. I was quickly informed of which of these beautiful babies was going through therapy or being medicated for molestation. I was quickly informed of which students might need some more love, some extra care because of the lack of safety they were coming from. In my first week I realized I was no longer in the middle of cornfields and a town of farmers.

There have been significant times in my adult life in which I've considered what I might say to my younger self, had I been armed with the correct knowledge. What might I say to the little seven year old who had to wear sports bras because precocious puberty had snatched her childish frame away from her? What words of wisdom would I have for the thirteen year old child who let a boy verbally berate her at every turn? What could I give to the sixteen year old who thought for sure she couldn't learn anymore about herself than in that specific year?
I come back to these moments so much more now that I am watching seven year olds find themselves and learn how to be. I watch young girls flex their muscles at being the queen bees and the wannabes. I am a witness to young crushes and hurt feelings when those crushes aren't reciprocated. I see attitudes form and flourish as nothing more than mechanisms of defense for what they face at home. I see personalities developing, internal wars being waged, burdens being shifted so they may become lighter and I start to think - what can I say to them that will make this all seem easier? What wisdom can I impart to show them this isn't it? What could I give them to ease some pain?
The same thing I would have said to myself all those years ago when I was seven, the same thing I would have said to myself a few years later when I was thirteen, what I should have said to myself at twenty-one : there's more, you'll find strength, life is about change.

I wish I could take these precious kids home with me and love on them until they realized how precious and treasured they are, but I can't. So I will set out everyday trying to make them realize that today does not define you, tomorrow does not define you, this moment will not define you.

You define you.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Great Divide

The Continental Divide of the Americas, or merely the Continental Gulf of Division or Great Divide, is the name given to the principal, and largely mountainous, hydrological divide of the Americas, that is, the continental divide that separates the watersheds that drain into the Pacific Ocean from  those river systems that drain into the Atlantic Ocean.

I suppose I've probably been aware of the Continental Divide since I started learning about geography in school, but I don't think I've been aware of the sort of majesty that occurs within the Divide until this year.
I was listening to the radio one day, it was K-Love on this particular day, and the DJs were talking about the Continental Divide and the ways in which it mirrored how people of faith often found themselves; we can grow up in a community of faith with another person, or a group of people, and we will find ourselves in the exact same place at the exact same time and with one event, in a split second, we will diverge from where we once stood together. The water is at once a united body and in seconds will move toward the Pacific or toward the Atlantic. I found myself considering the multitude of reasons this would happen - is it the direction in which the wind blows that moves the water one way or another? Is it a death or a misstep that takes a person of faith from the path they are on into a diverged arena?

Let's take this concept and remove the faith part. It is quite possible that in this very moment, you and I are in the same arenas of our lives - 25, college graduate, single, and hard working; what will happen tonight or in the early hours before the sun stretches her arms over the hill that will take one of us out of that particular game?

As I completed my drive that morning I thought about the Continental Divide and how, whether anyone else may think of it this way or not, it was this sort of mystical, natural happening that most people probably never gave much thought to. And then I realized . . . our entire lives are stretching over, on, and around continental divides everyday; there are the physical Continental divides that exist that people may live near, but we are continually detouring our lives around emotional continental divides.

Growing up I remember my mom saying she would never forget where she was when JFK was assassinated; in those moments it seemed an odd thing to remember, but then my generation experienced 9/11 and it all became so clear; now we had a specific moment in history in which we will never be allotted the opportunity to forget where we were when the sky went black while the sun still shone. Eight grade American History with Mr. Greher was never the same. This was a continental divide. Up until that point I had never been confronted with tragedy and for days, weeks even, after, I felt this impending devastation over lost lives of which I wouldn't know existed had the attacks not happened in the first place. Not only will I never forget that day because of what it meant for our country, but I will never forget it because it was in those quick minutes that I realized life was not untouchable and that everything can change in a matter of seconds.

Everyday I find myself faced with the opportunity to learn something new, gain wisdom, teach a lesson, show someone compassion. Everyday I am on the precipice of a divide - which way will the water flow? Which direction will my choices lead me? What sort of person will I become as a result of this divide?

Growing up I remember thinking if this person isn't in my life forever I don't know what I'll do and then I grew up some more and in some instances, those people weren't a part of my life anymore, and it was sad and it was hard and I still don't always understand it, but if those people hadn't made an exit, the divide would have gone a different way and I wouldn't be who I am in this moment.
Change scares me - I am not one to shy away from admitting that, but in the past year and a half I have realized that if change didn't occur, if divides did not transpire, then I would be this stagnant version of myself in my life; I wouldn't have the friends I have now, I wouldn't have the beliefs that make me who I am, I wouldn't be the type of friend, daughter, sister, or mentor that the people around me have come to expect.

As I type this there is a continental divide moving one body of water into two and there are moments looming in my future that will both make me and break me. But that's the beauty of it, right? If nothing changed, if nothing transformed, if nothing was broken - there would be no growth, there would be no revelation, there would be no healing.

The Continental Divide. The Great Divide. These moments of tragedy, of trial, of devastation - they diverge into greatness. How these moments divide us? It's our choice.