That time I “met” John Green

 

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Two weeks ago, I almost moved back to Indiana.

One Saturday morning, I broke down. While crying in the shower I kept thinking of how little time I have to write, how many dreams are out of reach, and how much I miss my family. Then, as my tears soaked into my shaving cream, I had an idea. A brilliant epiphany!

I would go home.

It was obvious, really. Don’t I belong in Indiana?

Isn’t it a part of my soul? Have you seen me shuck corn?

I mean, I was one of the few kids in high school who didn’t go on and on about wanting to leave our town. (I think this is the main talk for high school kids everywhere, but kids who live in LA, you’re not fooling us. Stop acting like you can pull off the leave-this-small-town-in-the-rear-view thing.)

Twenty minutes after this epiphany my plan was underway. I prayed about it for at least 100 seconds. Obviously, I had carefully considered every scenario.

I told my family I was coming home. I don’t think they believed me, something about taking time to think about it. I don’t know. Whatever.

My dad was impressed that I felt the same way the next day; he told me he’d fly out and help drive me back.

Back. Back to Indiana. Indiana here I come.

But…

In the grocery store a few days later, I had another epiphany. You see, that whole week I had been pleading with God. I said, “Okay, God, I don’t need the whole picture, but if you want to give it, go ahead. That would be great. But just this next step. What am I supposed to do now? Tell me what to do and I’ll do it. Especially if it’s Indiana. I’m pretty sure it’s Indiana. Tell me if it’s not Indiana because I’m going home now because you won’t tell me what to do and we’re done talking but I trust you and I’ll trust you in Indiana. Okay? Amen.”

In the canned items aisle, when I quieted down for 2.5 seconds and you know, listened, God was like, “My sweet child, I’ve told you. I told you.” And then I was flooded with memories. Like, cue the Rom Com montage of wiping éclair cream off noses and holding hands in front of sunsets and riding bikes with ridiculously huge baskets. Like, cue all the times I knew I was supposed to go to California. Cue the times I trusted that I would be a writer and looking out my window at the huge oak and believing that if it could do it’s best to reach the sky, so could I.

Yes. I cried in that grocery store.

Yes. I cry during predictable romantic comedies. (Sorry.) (I’m not that sorry.)

I called my mom: “I’m staying here. Don’t let me leave. Don’t help me leave. I’m not happy about it, but I’m staying here because, you know, God’s plan.”

Mom: “Okay.”

Me: “Uuuuuuugh. Mom! I’m staying! Hello.”

Mom: “Okay?”

Me: “I want to come home.”

Mom: “…”

Me: “… Fine! I won’t! I’m staying!”

I spent the night not quite ready to think about what staying means. The next day, I stood on the noble ground of not quitting; even if I’m not moving forward, there’s something to be said for simply not letting go. The day after was a Friday, so already things were much brighter. (I also bought a ten-pound bag of chicken breasts from Costco, so again, things were much brighter.) (Ten pounds of chicken for one person.) (I’ll probably post pictures of my Mark Wahlberg guns next. Nbd.)

And then, it was as if I slowly came back.

I made a thanksgiving list. That list was full of answered prayers, future dreams, and so many good people. That list made me realize that maybe my life isn’t so bad.

Don’t get me wrong, I was still in the dumps about a lot of stuff, but my ultimate, bottom line was that it’s going to be okay. I’m going to get through my job. There’s a reason I’m here.

And then John Green came into the picture.

I’ve applied to jobs at DFTBA a few times because well, we know how I feel about John Green as a Hoosier, an Indy Car fan, and an author. I was never expecting to hear back, but on Wednesday I got an email from his personal assistant asking me to chat on Skype.

I went all “hettawhattapersonalassistant she talks to me?” And she was all “I want to talk to you too, but you’re actually speaking to John.”

And I was all “Holy s***!” Arms flailed. Legs buckled.

I heaved myself off of the floor (of my cubicle), and as the tears and mucus cascaded over the curves of my smile, I was filled with thanksgiving once more.

I’d like to say a lot of this thanksgiving had to do with John Green (and it did), but most of it had nothing to do with John Green. It was more about every step that had led me to that point. It was about every chance taken, every step of faith, and the people I know and love.

My interview with John Green was ten minutes long, and they weren’t earth-shattering minutes. I made him laugh twice (once intentionally). I didn’t say anything groundbreaking. (If we’re being honest, neither did he).

But I got to speak to one of my favorite authors. Just him and me.

He said some nice things. I said some okay things. We said goodbye. And I realized: things can change in a freaking instant.

I realized how much I love my life. Today. I realized how much God’s doing and will do. I realized that when God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,” he’s not condemning me to his will; he’s saying, “hey, you! You want a life that’s BETTER than you could ever hope for? Good, follow me.”

And I realized I belong here. I don’t mean in California (though right now, that’s where). I don’t mean in this job (though right now, that’s where). I mean, I belong right in this sweet spot of thanksgiving. I belong waking up early to write and lingering at Sunday brunch and sending happy texts and crying in the grocery store over and over and over until I get that this, right here, is it. This is joyful. This is peaceful. This is where a greater-than-I-could-imagine life happens. I belong right here, and I’m not leaving. No matter where I go, no matter what I do, I’m not leaving this spot.

The Moments I Knew

I would say I’ve wanted to be a writer my entire life.

I have had many dreams outside of writing, but it was always “I’ll be a _____ and a writer.”  (Blanks include marine biologist, nautical archaeologist, several other things that end in -gist, mathematician (ha!), and museum curator.)

But writing. Writing was always there, and every once in a while I get a reminder that it’s what I’m supposed to do with my life. Like little whispers to my heart, those moments of peaceful certainty are enough to sustain me through every hard writing day, countless rejections, and each time I have to throw away a story out and start again. Those quiet moments mean a lot, and they don’t happen very often.

But I had one this weekend.

The first “writing aha” moment was when I was seven (?) and wrote my first two picture books. After showing them to my mom, she said, “You could be a writer.” Now, Mom tells me I can be anything (as most moms do), but this was different. I knew she meant it, and I knew I really could.

Others have come throughout the years. One when I was fifteen and wrote a very silly two-page story (that included an elephant stampede) that I’m still convinced is some of my best work. Another, when I filled out a Pepperdine application at 11:30 at night–this is equivalent to 3 am for most other people.

And another, when I read the Boston Jane book series. I’ve blogged about Boston Jane before, but this weekend, the series came back into my life in a very wonderful way.

I got to meet the author of Boston Jane, Jennifer L. Holm, at the LA Times Festival of Books. (Don’t worry. I’m sure to blog about this festival at least three more times because it was amazing.)

I was able to get my trilogy signed and meet Ms. Holm and her brother, Matt. (They write super cute graphic novels together.)

And I don’t think my interaction with her could have gone much worse.

Jennifer: “Hello!”

Me: “Hi.” (I handed her Boston Jane.) “This book series made me want to be a writer.”

Jennifer: “Aww. You’re going to make me cry.”

Me: “Me too.” (I proceeded to cry.) “I’m sorry I don’t have the original covers.”

Jennifer: “That’s okay. I like these ones better.”

(I laughed for a beat too long.)

Me: “May I have a picture?”

Jennifer: “Sure.”

(We took a picture.)

Me: “Thank you. Thank you. Have a good day! Thank you.”

I ran away.

I don’t often crash and burn in interactions, but when I do, tears are usually involved. I don’t want to say I scared Jennifer Holm, but I definitely didn’t give off a very “mentally stable” vibe. I mean, we exchanged many smiles, but I couldn’t remember how to form words. (Also, my hair was doing weird things.)

It was bad. I was running away thinking about how I didn’t say anything I wanted to, except that first line, and then I remembered I forgot my phone with the volunteer who took our picture and had to go back and get it. Perfect.

I did a fast-paced walk in the other direction. Then, I decided to look at my signed copies because that would make me feel better, and in the second book (my favorite one), she put a note (that I hadn’t seen her write through my tears). And I looked at that note and thought, “That’s true. I don’t know when or how or any of the specifics, but I believe that’s true.”

And there it was. Suddenly, it didn’t matter that I had an awkward interaction with one of my favorite authors. It didn’t matter that I am more than a little unsure of where I’ll be when school lets out. It matters that I will be a writer, and I know it.

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facing failure

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What is there to say about failure?  That it’s a part of life? That it’s a big part of my life lately? That it sucks big time? How about that if some silver lining is to be found, it’s that every successful person has failed.  They really all have. Let’s just allow that to sink in for a moment.  Ahhhh

When I was a kid, I (fell) failed at ice skating, I picked myself back up, and I skated until I fell (failed) again.  I’m still terrible at ice skating.  Is there a point to that?  Eh, maybe.  Maybe it’s that this is what makes failure so scary–because there are things, like ice skating, that I’m never going to be successful at.  But, unlike ice skating, I’m willing to work through my failures in other areas of my life, things that are attached to who I am as a person and what I want to do. (I know you’re having a hard time believing that ice skating isn’t my purpose in life.)

I’m going to start referring to failures as “learning experiences” because that makes me feel better. 🙂  Plus, we’ve all met the person who was absolutely wonderful at everything he ever did in his life, and you know what?  He kind of sucks.  So, I say, a plethora failures learning experiences is the way to go.  Let’s jump off that cliff (figuratively) and get wildly excited about things that could be massive failures learning experiences. The success is worth it, I think.  The act of pushing onward with everything in us is worth it, I know.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Winston Churchill

“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”

Truman Capote

“We are all failures- at least the best of us are.”

J.M. Barrie

“Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.”

C.S. Lewis

“if you don’t try at anything, you can’t fail… it takes backbone to lead the life you want”

Richard Yates

“The peaks wouldn’t be nearly as beautiful without the valleys.”

– Mom

pretty views and pretty blooms

So the title doesn’t rhyme, but it sounds like it almost does, right?  Throw me a bone.

I live in a pretty place, and sometimes I forget how beautiful it really is and how much I dreamed of living here when I was younger.

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But like so many dreams becoming reality.  Living here, in California, is different than I imagined.  It’s busier and more expensive and more real.  Isn’t that what happens when what we wish for comes true?  It’s simultaneously more and less and different than you thought, but that’s because it’s not just a thought anymore.  The dream has been thrust into reality and that means it’s so much messier than you imagined.  But, can I just say, it’s so much greater, too.

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There is someone out there “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”  Isn’t that awesome?  Because I imagine some pretty great things.  I ask for specific, crazy, wonderful things in my life, and yet, everything I receive is so much better than anything I could think up to ask.  I’m not trying to paint a picture of perfection here because my life is FAR from it, but even if it isn’t perfect, it’s certainly beautiful.  Every day, here in California, and at home, in Indiana, life is beautiful as dreams manifest themselves in reality, and something greater, something more than we could ever imagine for ourselves, takes root in our lives.

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enJOY

“You’re supposed to enJOY it.  All of it.  For the rest of your life.”

I begin this post with a quote from Soul Surfer because I’m going to talk about JOY, swimming, and for unknown reasons, am set on including this picture from Oahu.  So…

Let me be clear, I usually try to enJOY life.  I enJOY the people I am around, even if they’re out of their minds.  I enJOY myself, even when I’m out of my mind.  I try to be intentionally JOYful.

However, JOY is also something that I often realize is missing from my days: the way I interacted with the cashier, the tone I had with my mom on the phone, or even just the way I let the day be less than mediocre for no reason at all.  It seems that as I get older, things that I enJOY are threatened by… grown-up bad attitudes, mostly.

Take swimming.  I LOVE to swim.  Always have.  Ask anyone (mainly my family) about my “dolphin show” I put on in the pool, and then maybe you’ll understand.  Let’s just say I’m pretty good at multiple dolphin-like noises and belly finishes. Moving on… When I joined the swim team in high school, something I loved slowly slipped away from me, from no one’s fault but my own.  I became stressed at practice and angry at my performance. And it was my bad attitude clouding my enJOYment of swimming, making me dread practice, and actually hindering me from getting better.  By the time I got to college, I couldn’t even experience how cool it was to be on an NCAA Div I Swim Team (although it was just for my gpa, so don’t get too impressed).  Instead, I was too embarrassed and disappointed in how slow my times were. What?!  I look back on that now (only three years ago), and I can’t believe I let that amazing opportunity go by.  An opportunity to get better at swimming, yes, but mostly an opportunity to enJOY the experience.  To relish swimming in an Olympic-grade pool with future professional swimmers and Olympians. Seriously, why could I not just chill out and enJOY?!

I say this now because I think that the experiences I’m currently going through that threaten my JOY are very much the same.  The world comes crashing down, trying to rain on my parade. Oh, how it tries.  But guess what, ugly part of the world?  You can’t stop this attitude (the good one)!  I still love swimming, but it took a while to get back together. We’re still working on things. And there are things I treasure, things I do, and ways I think that I refuse to handle with anything but JOY.  So cashier, I’ll make your day next time.  And Mom, feel free to call. I’ll be nice.  And day, you’re going to be spectacular, or at least full of laughter because laughter is my favorite way to live with JOY.

EnJOY your day, and I’m sorry for the annoying caps.  (But not sorry enough to change them.)