Final Week of Nano: A Cautionary Tale

Seven days and counting until the Camp Nano clock counts down to zero, potentially proclaiming us as conquerors of the word war. If we were in a novel right now, we would be reaching that point in the plot where the world is falling apart quickly, and pretty soon we will have to make an astounding comeback if we want to snatch our happily ever after from the jaws of our enemies. This would be the put up or shut up moment, the time when us (the hero of our own little story) would come charging into the fray, sword drawn, and show the world our true grit. Except in this story, our epic battle is of the writing kind, and the enemy is time. I will be honest, I am feeling the pressure, that steady roll of panic is cocooning me like a sleeping bag. I don’t normally cut it this close, but this time around: I am getting worried.

I can’t believe how fast July has zoomed by, we are in the home stretch, and I have to make a confession: this has not been my best writing season. I came into the month with such high expectations of myself, ambitious in spite of all of those extra activities I had planned for the month. And then I flopped. Hard. I haven’t been posting as much as I should have right here on this blog, even though I have a huge list of topics to write about in a binder at my desk right now. My Nano story still feels like it is in it’s infancy, even though I have been slowly chipping away at it throughout the month. The plot changed about two weeks into July when I came up with a new idea for a sequel, so that set me back a bit. I am still excited about it though, I haven’t grown tired of the storyline, even if the words aren’t quite coming out the way I had envisioned just yet.

I am not normally one to be biting my nails and hoping for a win at the end of Nano, but this go round- I am a bit nervous. I think I’ll still make it- so far I haven’t lost a Nano yet, and I don’t plan on starting now. But I am also normally much farther ahead at this point. I had hoped that this Camp would be the one where I finally hit that illustrious 100k, but that ship has sailed, unless I magically find a month’s worth of writing time in the next seven days- unlikely when I will be busy with work and life. This blog is as much about the writing failures as it is about the successes, although I do hesitate to call anything related to writing a failure. If I am still plodding along, it is a success. If I haven’t given up on the big dream, if I am still fighting for my future niche in this world- that it is not a failure, merely another learning experience.

This, my dear friends, is a cautionary tale of writerly woe, one that I am sure we are all intimately familiar with. I know exactly where I went wrong this Camp, yes, I am well aware of that moment my crazy train went off the rails. I didn’t guard my writing time. It is as simple and as complicated as that. I knew going in that it would be difficult; the summer in general gets pretty busy for me. My work load picks up, it’s vacation season, my fiancé is out of school, and the weather is too gorgeous to constantly stay inside.

I am not always very good when it comes to balance. I tend to be an all or nothing person, my middle ground usually erodes fairly quickly. It is something that I always have to work on. And this Nano I made the fatal error of not coming up with my personal plan, I didn’t set out my daily goals or even decide when I would be working. So there were days when I simply didn’t. Not that I necessarily regret those: it has been a busy month, but I’ve had one hell of a good time this summer: lots of walks and hikes in new areas, good movies, a long vacation to the beach, new places to eat- the adventures have been endless, the fodder for future stories is delectable. The problem is that I didn’t find the balance. I played hard without working hard on some days, and then there were those burn out days where all work and no play made Katie a dull girl.

You have to find a realistic balance, and then you have to follow your plans. Whether you have to wake up early and dedicate an hour to the project, or get yourself home early so that you can spend two hours before bed typing away; you need a plan, a schedule to adhere to. It’s not always easy to say no to a fun plan because you have writing to do. But there are days where you will have to make this sacrifice if you want to be a published writer someday. And then there are days where you have to remember that you still need to live outside of those glorious pages that you have created.

I am still working on the balance, I am still trying to find the plan that works best for me. For those of you who have it all figured out, I am jealous and very proud of you. It is not an easy task, my friends. I can only hope that eventually I will work out a routine that satisfies my goals and my personal demands. I am not there yet, but I am working on it. Forever busy with the task of self-improvement.

But there is a silver lining to this cautionary tale: the game is not over. We may be in the final inning, but there are still points to be scored (or perhaps the correct analogy would be home runs to hit? I wish I were more into sports). And I know that I am capable of hitting my target still. I just have to have the discipline I have been lacking this month. I have to sit down and focus, I have to put my work before my play. It is seven whole days. I can make one more week work for me. Besides, there is still next weekend for that final push. If I really sit down and delve into this, who knows what I might be able to accomplish.

As our hour glasses are beginning to run out of sand, I tell you good luck, my friends. We can still do this, the fight is not over yet. Victory is still within our grasp if we are only willing to reach for it. And for those of you who have already ‘won,’ clicking the Validate button with the excited flourish that you deserve- I say congratulations, bask in your glory, enjoy some down time, feast on your favorite treat. And then, when you feel ready, come join me for a drink and a few more good pages. I will be here, typing away as always.

So, an introvert walks into a party…

An extrovert can walk into a party and get recharged on the energy that’s present. They thrive on their interaction with others, they get stronger and brighter as the night wanes. But people like me- we have to plan and build ourselves up. We have to restructure our entire day to ensure that we can walk into the room with a full battery, because the energy it takes to interact for long periods of time is draining right to the core. To be perfectly honest, I have never been a fan of parties. My idea of a fun night out involves dinner and a movie, or going down to my favorite local bar with a few friends where I can sip on a beer while we talk about life. To some that could be boring, it me it is the perfect way to relax after a long week.

The other weekend, however, was different- it was my little sister’s 25th birthday and she wanted to let loose and celebrate. My sister is one of my best friends, but we are the most similar opposites you will ever meet- perhaps that’s why we get along so well. We like all of the same things, but our personalities are night and day. We are yin and yang, fire and ice, Monica and Phoebe. She likes to party and be crazy, and I guess you could say I am the old soul out of the two of us. I adore her, which is probably the only reason I walked through that door into the 90’s themed house party with a dozen total strangers (insert mild panic attack here).

I’ve always been able to play pretend at being bubbly and social for short bursts of time. I worked customer service in a high-stress environment for many years. I can smile and laugh, make small talk and pretend to be a different version of myself. But I will always walk away exhausted, ready to hop into a hot bubble bath with a good book and sit in silence. During my customer service years that wound up being a near-nightly ritual. I needed a way to recharge. I can still channel this part of my personality whenever the need arises, and I knew when we walked through that door- the need had arisen.

I selfishly hoped that I would be able to lurk in the kitchen with my fiancé and Finnigan- the adorable puppy that magically appeared about an hour into the festivities. But alas, even Finn was enjoying the social adventure, prancing around from room to room, happily soaking up all of the attention. No, I would have to glue on my smile and do my best.

What people don’t always realize is that my social anxiety will pop up no matter how nice and accommodating you are. It has nothing to do with the people in the room, it has everything to do with the critical eye I use to view all of my own actions. I will tear apart every word I say and every insignificant move you make. You close your eyes because you have an eyelash stuck in it- no, I must have said something boring. You move your weight from one foot to the other- you must want to leave and talk to someone else. It doesn’t matter how irrational it is- the funny thing is, I usually know I’m over-analyzing, but I can’t stop it. It’s like there’s a button in my brain that sticks, and no matter how I try to turn it off, it just wont pop until it’s good and ready (usually well after I intended to fall asleep).

For those that don’t understand,  this is a glimpse into the mind of an introvert with slight social anxiety issues on a typical night at a regular party:

  • Is this the house? I’ve been here a million times, why am I questioning whether this is the house or not? But did I come on the right day? What if it was cancelled and I’m the only one who didn’t know?
  • Yep, this is the place- but where do I park? I mean, I might get boxed in there if I decide to leave early. And will I be too close to that other car over there? No, that spot requires parallel parking. Would it be weird to park down the block? I think I say a Fred Meyers parking lot a few blocks away…
  • Did I get here to early? I will look so stupid if I’m the first one here.
  • So I’m at the door- do I knock, or text them that I’m here?
  • They still aren’t at the door- do I just open it? Would that be weird? I’ll text them again.
  • Okay, so I’m inside. Of course I’m like the second one here. I am always too early. I should have parked farther away.
  • So food- where is the food? Would it be strange if I just sat next to this bowl of chips? Will people try to talk to me? Maybe I’ll just stand in the kitchen.
  • Nope, I keep getting in the way in the kitchen and they don’t need help. Okay, I’ll just go over there.
  • I don’t know anyone here. I guess I’ll just smile like an idiot because I don’t know anyone here. Where is my friend? She invited me, she knows I don’t like this stuff.
  • Is it too early to leave yet?
  • Oh, who’s puppy? Yes, I will just sit here and pet this adorable dog. Let’s just hope is owner doesn’t come over.
  • No, puppy come back! You were my only friend! Okay, stand up like you weren’t just rolling around on the floor with the K-9. And step back until you are against the wall again. Good…did anyone notice?
  • Yes! Someone I know! Hello someone I know!
  • Oh look, another person coming over to talk- okay, smile, but not too big, you don’t want to look weird. Just play it cool, you’ve got this! Be smooth, be smooth.
  • Hey, this person is kind of cool.
  • Oh no! Lull in the conversation- okay, look really interested in what is happening on the other side of the room while you try to come up with something to say.
  • Why did you ask them about their cat? Now they’ll think you are a crazy cat person.
  • They have a dog! Don’t get overly excited, wait for them to show you a picture of theirs before you whip out yours. And only pick one- not seventy-two.
  • You’re talking too much, stop talking so much, you’ll scare them away.
  • They just moved from one foot to the other- are they bored? Are they trying to find a nice way to extract themselves from the conversation?
  • Another person is coming over! Remember: you can do this. Another smile, introductions. Shoot- they want to shake hands, left or right? Okay, move my drink to the other hand and…success!
  • Look at me, socializing all over the place like a boss! I haven’t even had alcohol yet. I am amazing, I am acting like a relatively-well adjusted human being. I am awesome.
  • Okay, now I’m getting tired. But these people are actually pretty cool. Except that one over there trying to force people to dance. I don’t want to talk to that person. I think I will subtly side-step out of the room so I can avoid that person.
  • Is it too early to leave?
  • PlayStation? There’s a PlayStation here?! Okay, I’m in!
  • I don’t care if it’s rude- Crash CTR was my game, and I am going to own everyone! Unless that would be rude- would that be rude?
  • I lost- maybe they’ll like me more for losing.
  • Why did I say that? That was such a stupid thing to say…
  • So I’ve asked ‘what’ three times and still have no idea what they said. Let’s hope that smiling and nodding is an appropriate response.
  • Ha! They laughed! I need to remember that joke, it was gold! Phew, I was really nervous at first…wait, that wasn’t a courtesy chuckle, was it?
  • Okay, I am getting tired. Oh- and I’m at that good spot in my book. Maybe I’ll leave soon.
  • It’s going to take me like ten minutes to get to my car. I really shouldn’t have parked so far away.
  • Okay, and say a few quick goodbyes- oh, hugs. I did not see that coming. Does that mean they like me?
  • Dancing guy! Nooooooo!! Hide behind the tall guy! Shoot- how am I taller than the tall guy? I’m like a giraffe in here.
  • Wait for it, wait for it…and go! Phew, out the door.
  • That was fun. I’m tired. I cannot wait to get into my pj’s!

Do you see yet why we get so exhausted? This is just a small snippet of what tends to go through my mind, and some of these are repeated over and over and over.

There was a time when I would try to hide that side of me, I would play pretend and act like I was ‘normal.’ But at my sister’s party, I did something different: I embraced the awkwardness and joked about it. And as it turns out- I wasn’t the only one feeling the same way, suddenly there was a gush of people laughing about doing the exact same thing, thinking the same way I did- and then in a flash, being there in a room full of strangers wasn’t so scary any more, if only because these people weren’t so strange. They were just like me, playing pretend and stepping out of their comfort zone. I think there are more of us out there than we ever thought, people you wouldn’t expect who have that same internal dialog that doesn’t turn off. We all put on our bright shiny faces when we go out, and we smile and laugh, hoping others wont see the insecurities in our eyes. We all walk into a party wearing a mask, without even realizing that everyone else is doing it too. We can’t turn off the internal dialog, but perhaps, on occasion, we can make a joke that cracks our mask. Perhaps someone else will recognize a bit of themselves in you. And then the small talk can fall away and a true conversation can be had. You would be surprised at what people are really like, underneath it all.

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Stood Up By My Muse (Again)

The muse is a fickle creature, one minute inspiring you to ignore the entire universe and feverishly write without thought of food or personal care, then next moment she traipses away like smoke in the wind, leaving you land locked and unsure. If there is a way to force her attendance, I have not discovered it yet. She is a flighty creature, and will come and go as she sees fit. Unfortunatly, she usually picks the most inopporitune times to strike: when I am busy at work, in the shower, or out living my daily life (unfortunately, the groceries have not yet figured out how to buy themselves and walk home).

And yet when I plan out my night, fully expecting her to join me for a romantic computer-lit date filled with witty quips and shocking plot twists- she is nowhere to be found. I am left to type away all on my own, with only the slightest hint of inspiration to keep me trudging through the words to reach my daily goal. I have realized over the years that she is the flaky friend you cannot wait on, because if you do, you will find yourself simply spinning in circles.

So what do you do when your muse stands you up yet again? You can go for a walk, run around the block and hope you attract her attention. But after a while you open your laptop (or notebook, per your preference), take a deep breath and start writing. The muse waits for no one- but if she is to magically appear, she ought to find you working. It is the one thing that might attract her. It’s hard to continue typing away when you have no real fire burning inside of you, when you have to pry every word from your fingertips and paste them to the page. But you do it anyway, because as writers we are that kind of crazy. You write, and you slog through, and in a few weeks when you begin your editing- you wont know which scenes she had been present for, and which ones you fought for all on your own.

Writing is not easy, we don’t do it because it is simple. We do it because there is a story inside of us that must see the light of day before it drives us mad. When the muse decides to grace you with her presence, take advantage of that, write feverishly, stay up late, immerse yourself in the words pouring from your soul. And when she is gone, don’t stop. That flighty fiend will always find a way back to you when you least expect it. Writing is the surest way to draw her back in.

I’m not saying to push it when every fiber of your being needs a break- by all means, take the time you need to recharge. Go for a walk, take a shower, read a book, watch a show, bake something- recharge your batteries. But if she still hasn’t arrived- run and jump, dive back into your story and reach your goals. You can do it, even without her- you are a spectacular writer. Just remember that.

Embrace Your Inner Geek Day

Happy Embrace Your Inner Geek Day! ‘Is that a real thing?’ you are probably asking yourself. The answer is yes, it has been one of those fun little ‘holidays’ for the past ten years now. See, look at that- the more you read, the more you’ll know. Now you can drop some knowledge on the people you run into this beautiful day (well, I hope it’s beautiful where you are, my friends). Personally, I stopped shoving my inner geek back into her shiny display box years ago- she is now fully embraced everyday, but I don’t see anything wrong with celebrating her existence right this moment. In fact, given recent nerdism events, it seems like the perfect time to start waving that freak flag high in the air.

It appears to me that in the past few years, being a geek has become a bit more mainstream. All of a sudden people want to hear about the vintage comic books I read, though they do tend to lose interest when I explain the differences between the ‘true’ origins and the Marvel movie origins. Everyone knows my hobbit ‘second breakfast’ reference, and they no longer blink at me in confusion when I mention the Misty Mountains. I am not the only one who can tell you without a second thought what Alohamora means, or inform you about what you would get if you were to add powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood (it created a sleeping potion known as the Draught of Living Death, courtesy of the illustrious Professor Snape). And I know that I am not the only one who’s heart raises in hope when I hear an owl hooting. Perhaps they are finally here to deliver my acceptance letter to Hogwarts- granted, it would be about fifteen years too late, but we all know how the post system can be. And besides, by now they probably have some form of adult education program, right? I am not ready to let that dream die just yet.

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I have learned that it doesn’t have to be something unpopular or traditionally ‘nerdy’ to morph a well adjusted person into a geek. I know plenty of people who can geek out over sports, food, cars, etc. Geeking out about something has more to do with the excitement and the passion that you put into a subject, as opposed to what the subject is itself. Does it really matter if the thing that you love is popular or not? No- who cares, as long as it brings you joy. So why do we constantly feel the need to bash the things that people love?

I’m going to take a few minutes to discuss the new nerdism that is sweeping the nation and leaving people a bit confused in the process. Pokémon Go. Now, I will admit, I play- so my opinions will be a bit skewed, but hear me out- especially those of you who haven’t figured out what the big hype is. Full disclosure- I am a grown adult. I am 27 years old, I have a good job with full benefits and a retirement plan. I also spend the vast majority of my free time chasing that elusive dream of becoming a published author. If you come across me in my daily life, there is a ninety-five percent chance that you will find me working in one form or another. I am forever chasing a set goal, always running down the path of self-improvement. I love my to-do lists, I have an odd fascination with categorizing my productive time and list out my accomplishments vs unmet goals. To put it bluntly, I spend plently of my time as a perfectly boring adult. And I think that is the problem with most of us.

We get so bogged down in depressing news stories about the state of the world, our daily trials and tribulations, the mind-numbing chores and activities- and we forget how much fun there is to have in life. We age ourselves before the world can do it for us. I know how to maintain the balance between being a productive adult and letting my hair down to have fun; I can focus on my job when it’s time to work, I still meet all of my writing goals and deadlines, and my household chores are done in a timely manner. And yes, I can still find a few minutes during my daily dog-walking time to chase down a Charmander. As long as my version of fun doesn’t hurt anyone or cause some form of property damage- who cares what form it takes? At least I know not to take myself too seriously all the time. Life is supposed to have adventure, you might as well embrace it.

You see, Pokémon is something that I grew up with, it’s something that brings back good family memories of cramming into our old Ford F-250 with my parents and three siblings as we drove out into the mountains to hike or play in the snow. On the trips my sister, brothers and I all had our Gameboys out- Pokémon and Mario made up the majority of my game time (and don’t worry- I grew up in the last generation to enjoy the great outdoors, so I wasn’t lacking in sunshine fun either). So here I am, a grown adult with the opportunity to bring to life a childhood dream- of course I’m going to love the idea. It is reminiscent of a simpler time in my life, back when there was still magic and my biggest problem was my sister stealing my favorite Barbie doll. I miss when those were my problems, and I still believed that I could do anything I set my mind to- even end world hunger.

The only thing that has suffered since I started playing a few days ago: my TV/internet time. It’s easy to wind down at the end of the day with a good show or perusing the internet and social media. Now that time is filled with long walks, good friends, and excited four-legged companions. In the past day and a half I have walked roughly 30,000 steps, most of those were with my German Shepard who was unbelievably thrilled with the adventures of our trots through town. I talked to multiple strangers, hanging out with a few for about 20 minutes or so- this in itself is huge for someone with the social anxiety that normally sends me running in the opposite direction when my cheeks burning in shame. But think about it- there is a built in conversation starter and something to do when you aren’t sure what to say next- it’s a great way to branch out and meet other people without the usual pressures of typical daily interactions. I discovered four new statues I have never noticed before at a park I have been to about a dozen times. I went to a ‘concert in the park event’ during the lunch hour with my dog- another thing I typically avoid (large crowds are not on my list of favorites). I discovered a park a few blocks from my house that has a beautiful scenic walking trail and took my dog on an little adventure. We met up with a friend and let our two dogs try to socialize for the first time while we walked around town (both of our little fur babies are leery of strange pups). All of this activity because of one silly game I can download on my phone. Tell me, does that really sound like such a bad thing? (Below are a few of my discoveries, all thanks to Pokémon Go)

There is enough negativity in the world, so when people find something that they enjoy- why don’t we just celebrate that rare gift? We could all use some common ground, and if it happens to be standing in the park throwing virtual balls at a fake Squirtle- so be it. We spend too much time divided, we don’t need to continue drawing more lines in the sand.

So today I ask you to embrace the geek- whatever your hobbies may be, indulge yourself. Go back and re-read Harry Potter again, figure out how to make a litter box that looks like a Hobbit-hole, play Iron Man vs. the Hulk with your niece, put together a model airplane, wax the car, catch the Pikachu you’ve been tracking for the past three days, bake a dozen cupcakes and use candy to decorate them as monsters. Whatever it is that you love, go out there and do it. Be safe and enjoy. We only have one life to live, and the only way to feel young is to remember that you don’t have to be old just because the world tells you to. Take time to enjoy this crazy world that we live in because some days there is precious little to celebrate. So when we find a happiness, let’s embrace it, nurture it, and stop trying to stamp it out of one another. This world could use a little bit more kindness, don’t you think?

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Finding Fellow Adenturers (The Writing Groups)

Writing is a predominantly independent activity; long hours spent in front of a keyboard or with a pen and paper in hand, research, reading, pouring over grammar tips and agonizing over word choice- we have to go it alone for much of the journey simply because we would probably drive people insane if we didn’t. That being said, there is nothing more important to a writer than a good support system. This is a tough field to break into, and even for the novice, you want your words to get out there into the world, to reach someone.

Enter stage left: The Writing Group (queue the fog machine, a touch of mystery will go a long way here).

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One of the things that I love most about Nano and the associated camp version- hands down, it’s the people. I have never been one to talk about my writing. Honestly, it took close to a year of dating before my fiancé had any idea that writing was even a hobby of mine. When I was a kid I was a bit more comfortable talking about it; but back then I was young and it was something that I won awards for- it was a good thing. As I grew older, I think people expected that I would grow out of it. Personally- I  knew that would never happen, writing is in my very soul. But I also know that there are some things that people just don’t understand, and I was lacking the confidence I needed to stand up for my own interests. So I wrote in empty rooms with no one looking, and I hid the notebooks when people showed up. Even now- I can finally talk to people about the fact that I like to write, but it’s usually a subject saved for a time when I start to feel like I know them, and it’s not something I typically bring up in conversation on my own. It took my fiancé finally proclaiming to people that I was a writer for me to embrace that image. But there are some things I still hate: for example, when someone asks me what I am writing about. All of the old insecurities come to the surface when people want more details others thank ‘yes, I like to write in my free time.’ It doesn’t matter how inspired my ideas seem when I am plotting or writing them, the moment I have to give them life my breathing them into the world- I falter.

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But then this magical event appeared on my Google search- Nano came to save the day. Suddenly, I was surrounded (virtually speaking) by people just like me. There is something distinctly different when you talk about your writing project with a ‘regular’ person vs when you talk about writing with someone else who shares your passion. It’s liberating, knowing that for once you are speaking the same language. I didn’t have to be self-conscious, and I certainly didn’t have to figure it all out on my own anymore. Stuck on a scene: the group will help you. Not sure if past tense or present tense would be a better fit: ask the group. Frustrated because the muse stood you up again, even after you had planned out the entire night, romantically lit by your laptop’s backlighting? The group will be your shoulder to cry on, the ear that acts as if they will never get bored with your whining tirades.

It is hard to find a band of renegades that will delve through these tiresome trials with you. But within them you will find the Ron and Hermoine to your Harry Potter, the Sam to your Frodo, the Watson to your Sherlock, the JARVIS to your Iron Man. When you are mired in the pages, bogged down with quotation marks, commas, and the dreaded semi-colon. They will fight beside you and make this lonely profession a bit more lively.

There was a time when I thought that writing had to be done in complete solitude; and this is true to a point. But it doesn’t always have to be like that. My writing groups are my biggest assets, the aces up my sleeve. They commiserate with my frustrations and celebrate my successes. We do that for each other because we have found kindred spirits, of sorts. They keep me on track and rescue me from my plot holes. They have opened my eyes to new ideas and ways of life, they have given me people to cheer for and helped me find confidence when I am sorely lacking. Sometimes you don’t expect that other people will be able to change you. And then they do. You don’t expect that you will want them or need their help. And then you will. You don’t have to be alone on this adventure, after all, even the best had their sidekicks to roam the Misty Mountains  with.

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Be Our Own Heroes: Spread Hope

They say that anger is just love disappointed.
They say that love is just a state of mind.
But all this fighting over who is anointed,
Oh, how can people be so blind?

There’s a hole in the world tonight.
There’s a cloud of fear and sorrow.
There’s a hole in the world tonight.
Don’t let there be a hole in the world tomorrow.

-The Eagles

Tonight we are unified in mutual pain; all of us bleed for the lives cut too short, all of us cry for a world that can never be what it was yesterday. We are the same, and we are different for our losses. Where is our hero tonight? Where is our modern day MLK to tout the evils of violence and lead us towards a better tomorrow? Who will save us from this mess we have made? How many scars can we etch into our own hearts before we stop feeling the pain? How many times can we tear one another apart before there is nothing left to save? We are angry, we are afraid, and we are hurting.

I wont pretend to understand, I know that I never will. There are shoes I have never walked in, there are worlds out there that I have never seen. I cannot say that I understand what it means to fear because of the color of my skin. I cannot say that I know what it’s like to carry the pressures of a badge and be forced to make life or death decisions in the blink of an eye. I know that hindsight is 20/20, and we have all been blind. I know that none of this should have ever happened. I know that some people have prejudices in them, and I know that some people make the wrong decisions at the worst times. I know that the world is not so simple as to be categorized into good and evil. We are not angels and demons; we are simply humans.

We want to let the anger overpower the pain so that we don’t have to feel it anymore. We want explanations, a reason, an enemy. We want to find a villain in these stories, someone to blame, to focus our hatred on. We are so busy pointing the finger that we forget what the real enemy is. It is not black culture, white culture, or the power of the police. The true enemy is hate. Hate is the explosive expression of fear and anger. We are not each other’s enemies, we do not have to be.

We distance ourselves from the problem by talking in generalities, we jump to conclusions based on cursory facts. We forget that these instances are about real people. We forget that there are two sides to every story. Does racism still exist? Yes. Do prejudices against the police? Yes. We keep taking large swaths of people and painting them with one brush instead of looking at them individually. It’s harder to hate when you look at a person, not an abstract idea. These problems that we have will not be erased in large sweeping gestures. This is a battle fought one small moment at a time. We have to stop categorizing one another and simply view each other as people. We have to learn to be kind again.

There will be no knight in shining armor coming to save the day. We have to do the saving. We have to start the painful conversations to stop the violence. We have to be willing to take a step out of our own shoes and look at the world from a differing perspective. We have to re-humanize one another. It will be the little actions that save us; asking someone how they are- how they really are- and waiting to hear the answer. It is about giving a simple nod of recognition when you pass someone in the store. It is about helping someone in need, it is about standing up for those who cannot do it themselves. It is about protecting one another. It is in these moments, when we are connecting, that we are the most human. It is in these moments that we will find our hope.

Most of us are not hateful, most of us are just tired. We are exhausted from the violence, and truthfully- we are scared. But we are not alone. We are all in this together. United we stand, divided we will fall. So here is the challenge: go out and show the world some kindness. Remind one another that the world is not always an ugly place- it will forever be what we make of it. Expand your horizons, speak to someone you don’t know- connect with a culture you don’t understand. Or simply give a smile to someone who looks like they need it.  Remind everyone that the world is beautiful. Spread hope instead of despair.

Writing Makes Me Whole

I write  to express the things I cannot actually speak. I may have these eloquent, beautiful or equally witty and hilarious comments and quips all planned out in my head- but somewhere between my firing neurons, the message gets lost and comes out haphazard and jumbled. It’s frustrating really- to feel like I cannot portray on the outside who I really am inside. It’s like there’s this light shining through me, but instead of seeing myself in it, I just see shadows. I am an imposter in my own skin. Except when I write. That is when I truly feel most like myself. The awkwardness that envelopes the daily me is shed, or perhaps it’s just less noticeable when I’m not tripping over my syllables.

In my writing I can pretend to be a girl that enthralls me, a person who has had adventure thrust upon her and rises to the challenge. With my words I can be the strong, stubborn woman I have hidden inside of me. I don’t have to be the girl who fumbles for the correct thing to say and turns bright red when something unexpected is tossed in her lap. In life I am quiet and reserved; but when I write, I am bold and outgoing.

I have worn a thousand different masks in my life, I have been a hundred different incarnations of the same girl- all within the twenty-seven years I have spent on this earth. We all have- we are constantly changing, forever morphing into different versions of the person we were yesterday. I am a chameleon of sorts- blending in wherever I go, accentuating different aspects of my personality depending on who I am around. I’m not proud of it, but it is who I have been. But when I write- that is when I feel the most authentic. Sometimes I think my soul is written- it encompasses all of my being, it is the calm within the storm. My writing has carried me through every rough patch I have ever stumbled over. It is my constant, my rock.

I write because I don’t know how to stop, words run through my blood, pounding in my veins as I sleep, they flitter through the air that I breath. They are my comfort in a crazy world. I write to remember, and I write to forget. I write because I don’t know how else to show the world who I really am. This right here- this is me, in my truest form. I am not a girl, I am merely a collection of words strung together.