writing

Goodbye, Little Growing Pains

Dear friends, family, readers, and supporters,

I’ll cut to the chase: I am retiring this blog.

That’s right — retiring. Everything will still be available, but I will not be posting any new content. I will be releasing my domain name, transitioning this blog back to its original host (littlegrowingpains.wordpress.com) where it will live untouched for the rest of time. I don’t know who will buy littlegrowingpains.com in the future. I hope they use it well.

The decision to discontinue my investment in this project is not an easy one, but it does feel like the right one. I no longer feel like this blog is the right way for me to share my writing with the world. I am proud of all I accomplished — entering contests, making friends, building a huge network of supporters, and raising awareness for the mental illnesses with which I was struggling — and I will forever be grateful to each and every one of you for the way you stood by me while I was discovering myself.

So here’s to the next journey. Here’s to the full recovery from anorexia I made while I owned this little piece of the Internet. Here’s to Yeah Write and NaBloPoMo and all the other communities I found, here’s to fodder for the MFA applications I didn’t finish and all the less-than-stellar posts I wrote. Here’s to all of you. I wish you all the best things life has to offer, and I hope your little growing pains lead you to something better than you could have ever imagined. I know mine did.

Love and thirty-second dance parties all around,

Gwen

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My “Why I Write”

As I was putting together materials for my MFA applications, I came across this piece I started about a year ago. It served as the jumping off point for pieces of my personal statement, but it also served as simple confirmation that I was starting on the right path. And I needed that.

I write because I feel alive when I’m forming words into sentences and phrases and ideas. It’s as simple as that.

Sometimes I’m afraid that there’s nothing out there in this world for me. I remain unfazed by so many opportunities, seemingly incapable of caring enough about my life to really start much of anything worthwhile. But then I look at a blank piece of paper or a Word document and I remember what it is I can give to the world. I turn from soulless to substantial. I have no choice but to write, if I want to retain what’s left of my humanity.

I am a painfully insecure person. I constantly doubt the potential of my own contribution to the world we live in, and it hurts every time my suspicions are confirmed. Not good enough. Couldn’t get the words out. Couldn’t hack it in academia. Couldn’t lock down the boy before he got tired of you.

I write because I give voice to the hurt and it hurts less. Because it makes meaningful the things that seem so senselessly unfair. Because it makes me believe that there’s a reason for me to wake up every morning and try, only to fail again.

Talking is difficult. Words never come out the way I want them to. I think about them, plan them out, but they spill out unpredictably until I’ve said something I never meant to say at all. They are untrustworthy. It is only in the act of writing that they make any kind of sense.

I think too much. I overthink the things I do and say, running them over and over in my mind until the intention is gone and they are left devoid of all significance. And if I am full of meaningless acts and sentences that boast some vague air of moral rightness, of safety, what kind of robot am I? But then I take up a pen.

I write because in writing, I discover all the things I cannot know. I find the uncertainty and instead of letting it scare me, turn me into a coward, I let it consume me until I am so exceedingly raw that no one would mistake me for anything but real. It cuts me open and I bleed the kind of honesty I could otherwise never find.

I have been shattered into pieces time and time again, and all the pieces are different shapes and sizes, and sometimes I wonder if they will ever fit together into one cohesive whole. This is my tragedy, that I am contradiction after contradiction and the world wants to fit me into a box that says “creativity” or “analysis” when I’m so fundamentally meant for both. But art lets me fit into more than one box. Art lets me disassemble the boxes and flatten them so I can lay down and look up at the stars.

Writing is the art that makes me human.

I write because I must. Because to stop would be to deny my own reality. Because it is as essential to me as oxygen. Because I am afraid that without it, I am empty of all meaning. I will wither away until my body is nothing but a shell for my wasted soul.

But I also write because it gives me clarity. Because it takes a world full of things that are senseless and unexplainable and terrifying, lays them bare and lets them be. Because it brings peace I cannot know through any other means. I accept my tragedy and live in the understanding that nothing is ever certain and that I am a beautiful, mysterious paradox.

I write because I am alive. It’s as simple as that.

Something Old, Something New, Something…Corporate

I’m afraid my life is over.

See, I wore sensible shoes today. Which means I’m officially a member of the working world, where people sit in cubicles and stare at computers that have more than one monitor, because we are an information-starved society and can’t function with only one screen.

Hold on, what?

I’ve been pretty bad at updating my blog for the past couple (several) (million) months, but during that hiatus, things were happening. I worked long days at a summer camp that paid me less than 75 cents an hour for three months. I spent a lot of time interviewing and applying for positions that would allow me to get paid only a little bit more than 75 cents an hour for the next eleven months. I uprooted myself from my apartment in Evanston only to relocate to an apartment in Cambridge that I can’t really afford (do you sense a common theme here?). I landed a spot in an amazing fellowship program with a really cool nonprofit and committed myself to the world of the nine-to-fivers. In other words, I might be growing up.

Growing. Huh. That word happens to be in the title of my blog!

I know it sounds cliché, and I’m sorry I’m getting sappy, but this is a very, very new chapter in the Life of Gwen. I’m actually self-sufficient now – no more monthly pity-payments from my parents. I have to wear business casual clothes to the job I have. I created an online dating profile. This might be the year I finally pull myself together (keyword: might), and I’m going to need a place to process all of that. So it’s back to the grindstone we go, back to the writing and the thinking and the hoping that my words mean something to somebody other than me. Someday.

Wish me luck on my next adventure! And get ready for an onslaught of words.

After all, I am a professional.

More Than Words

His hands were the first thing I noticed about him.

He was sketching, brushing feather-light pencil lines effortlessly across the page. One of his hands commandeered the pencil while the other scratched nimbly at the nape of his neck. They were beautiful. Whatever was on the paper in front of him was beautiful, too.

I stood for a while, just observing, until it occurred to me that what I was doing was a little bit creepy. So I edged in front of him, clearing my throat. “Do you mind if I sit down?”

He looked up at me, startled that someone had the audacity to disturb him at work. But his eyes met mine and softened a little around the corners, a wordless gesture that gave me the confidence to slide into the seat across from him. I half expected him to tell me to get lost, that he was concentrating and needed to be alone, but he just went right back to his drawing like I’d never interrupted him at all.

Anna Karenina was calling me; I had almost sixty pages to read before AP Lit. Yet I was going cross-eyed reading about Levin’s domesticity, and my gaze kept shifting unwittingly toward this quiet boy and his expressive hands.

After a few minutes of staring at my book with utter futility, I surrendered to my curiosity. “What are you drawing?” I asked, quietly enough that he could ignore it if he wanted to.

He didn’t, though. He didn’t look up, but he answered me, pausing between strokes and biting his lower lip. “I’m not sure.”

“Well, it’s nice,” I said, letting the conversation fade to silence before speaking up again. “I’m Sophie.”

He cracked a knuckle. “Adam.”

When the bell rang, he finally looked at me. The corners of his mouth twitched into a smile I hadn’t expected as he extended his hand across the table. The heel of it was shiny with graphite, the pads of his fingers dented from holding the pencil, but his grip felt like a promise. “Very nice to meet you, Sophie.”

***

The next time I sat down across from him, I didn’t bother asking for permission. He was eating an apple, tongue darting out every once in a while to catch the juice that threatened to escape from his mouth.

“Hi, Sophie,” he said with a genuine grin.

“Hi,” I replied, blushing when his eyes lingered on mine for a little too long.

We didn’t talk much. He drew, I read – Anna Karenina, Great Expectations, A Clockwork Orange. His drawings were strange and smudged and haphazard, but they were all equally lovely. He made the kind of art you’d put in a museum in hopes that someone would be smart enough to understand it.

I jokingly asked him to draw me one day. He laughed and said he didn’t really know how to do people.

“You never had to do portraits or anything?” I asked, wincing as I recalled my pathetic attempt at a self-portrait back in the fifth grade.

“I didn’t say I’d never done it.” He brushed his forehead absent-mindedly. “I just don’t really know how.”

“What do you mean?”

“People are tricky,” he said. “The thing about people is, you can get them wrong. This,” he gestured toward the paper in front of  him, “nobody is going to tell me this is wrong. With people, it’s different.”

I agreed with him, kind of. The self-portrait I made in fifth grade was definitely wrong. But I didn’t believe someone like him could draw anyone less than perfectly. Maybe he was just seeing them the way nobody else could.

***

“I wish I could draw,” I confessed one day as I watched his hands at work.

He laughed. “You can. Anyone can draw. It’s one of the first things babies learn how to do.”

“Yeah, but I wish I could draw like you. You know…” I trailed off. “Well.”

I was waiting for him to say something encouraging, because he was that kind of person, but instead he reached into his sketchpad and pulled out a folded up, slightly torn square of paper. He hesitated, rubbing it between his fingers for a couple of seconds, before handing it over to me.

He stopped me before I could open it. “No,” he said simply as I tried to unfold a corner. “Not right now.” So I slipped it in my pocket and didn’t say a word.

When the bell rang, he disappeared before I had a chance to say anything else.

***

The next day, I kissed him.

I didn’t plan it; I didn’t even consider it ahead of time, I just sat across from him like I always did and opened The Picture of Dorian Gray. It took me seven agonizing minutes to realize what he was doing.

“Is that…what are you drawing?” I asked incredulously as his pencil strokes became rounded, fluid, detailed.

“I’m trying something new,” he said.

“I can see that.” I rolled my eyes. “I mean, that. That’s a person.”

“Yup,” he replied without taking his eyes off the page.

“I thought you didn’t do people.”

He shrugged. “Figured it was worth another shot.”

The person – the girl – took shape in front of my eyes. Angular chin, slightly downturned mouth. Eyes a little too far apart. Feathery eyelashes and bold eyebrows. A slight dusting of freckles on the tip of her nose.

“Me,” I breathed. “You’re drawing me.”

It was both fascinating and terrifying to watch his capable fingers trace my likeness across a piece of paper. No one would mistake it for a photograph, but he was capturing something that was decidedly me, and I knew I had been right the first time I asked him about drawing people. He saw things the way that nobody else ever could.

When he finished, he held it up for me with a sheepish grin, and I smiled back while something warm and heavy spread through my entire body.

“Did I get it sorta right this time?” he asked, nervously raking a hand through his hair.

“Sorta,” I said breathlessly in the seconds before my mouth was on his.

***

He kissed like he drew: carefully, skillfully, and a little selfishly. It didn’t take me very long to figure out that he loved that way, too.

The first time we said it, we were sitting under the tree I used to climb as a kid. I told him about the time I fell off the fourth branch and broke my arm, and he drew me a little cartoon – a tiny upside-down freckled girl, her mouth curled into a surprised “oh!”, dangling from the fourth branch of a towering tree. I laughed until my stomach hurt and kissed him until my lips tingled, relishing the feeling of his wonderful hands as they roamed across my back and shoulders and face.

“I love you, you know,” I whispered to him when we were catching our breath.

“I love everything about you,” he whispered back, running a finger along my jawbone. We laid there under the tree, our limbs tangled together, until the sunset started to spill across the sky and we remembered the rest of the world.

***

“I never looked at that note you gave me,” I told him one day while he was cooking dinner.

“What note?” he asked, scraping a diced green pepper into the saucepan on the stove.

“That folded up piece of paper. The one you handed me, and acted really cryptic about, and never mentioned again.”

He smiled knowingly. “I wondered why you never said anything about that,” he said before starting to hum his favorite ABBA song.

Neither of us mentioned it again.

***

I found him again at our five-year high school reunion. He was sitting on a barstool, his heel tapping on the leg, sketching on a napkin. He hadn’t changed at all.

“Do you mind if I sit down?” I asked, gesturing toward the seat next to him.

“Sophie,” he said, letting his eyes crinkle a little as he half-smiled. “Hi.”

“Hey,” I said back. The silence enveloped us like a blanket, warm and familiar and comforting. Being around him always felt private, even when there were a million other people in the room.

“You know,” he started after a few minutes, “I didn’t…I just, I mean -“

“I know.” I rubbed my thumb across my bottom lip. “You don’t have to say anything.” To tell the truth, I didn’t really want him to. It was easier this way, without words. Words can never really mean everything they’re supposed to.

“I’m glad you’re still drawing,” I finally said, squeezing his shoulder as I stood up to walk away. “You really are amazing.”

I could have let him talk. There were plenty of stories I could have told him, about the rambunctious high school English classes I was now teaching or the incredible man whose ring I was wearing, but it wouldn’t have mattered. Our relationship wasn’t about words and sentences and conversations. It was about feelings and instincts running wild, smudging the lines in a picture nobody could figure out anyway. We were art, and art was messy, and the artist never got a happy ending.

That night, as I unfolded the fraying piece of paper I kept on the nightstand by my bed, I was glad I hadn’t let him say anything. I ran my fingers over the fading pencil marks, the ones that knew me before I knew him, and I saw all the pieces of him he didn’t want me to see. “Art is the lie,” Picasso once said, “that enables us to realize the truth.”

His drawings had always said more than he ever could.

Who Am I?

I. A daughter

I was born to walk the middle ground, the first child of type A and type B
[and what does that make me?]
Constantly stuck between too small and too tall,
Talks too little, reads too much, sings too loud,
Hips too big, mouth too small,
Needs too little, wants too much, dreams too big.
I am a combination of everyone I’ve ever known,
But mostly I am too much like my mother,
And too much like my father,
[and too torn between the two people I am to really know who to be.]

II. A sister

I had bite marks on my back and my arm in a sling
Because that’s what it means to have your thunder stolen
When your parents decide to procreate again.
[I guess it also means feeling important,
Because someone looks up to you so much
That it makes you want to be better than you would be for yourself.]
And I would have laughed if you said someday I’d be proud
To have him for a best friend,
But the first time he asked for my advice
[because he thought I was wise]
I thought maybe the bite marks were worth it.

III. A friend

I learned more about friendship from the people who didn’t stick around
Than from the ones that did,
Because I learned when to hold on
And when to let go.

IV. A scholar

I’ve been taught to question everything.
[“Don’t be so gullible, Gwen,”
I hear as I fall for another stupid joke.
“Don’t believe anything you can’t prove.”]
I go to class and they tell me,
“Think critically, Gwen. Pick it apart. Find the truth.”
But I don’t think there’s just one truth.
I think sometimes the truth is that you don’t have to question everything.
[my professors disagree.]

V. A writer

My fingers bleed a lot because I pick the skin,
My brain bleeds words because, because?
[because it’s the only way I know how to feel.]

VI. A survivor

Once I thought that to be happy,
My bones had to poke out of my skin,
And my worth as a person was dictated by a number
On a scale
[or the label of my jeans.]
But when I stopped chasing perfection,
I found someone wonderful,
[Daughter, sister, friend
Scholar, writer, survivor]
I found me.

 

Written for the Weekly Writing Challenge. I don’t usually write poetry.

The Life of a Writer: Not Always a Happy Ending

This morning, when I couldn’t sleep because my apartment had suddenly risen to about a hundred degrees, I pulled out my laptop to turn on a romantic comedy. That’s usually what I do when insomnia hits, mostly because I typically don’t get invested enough in the characters to care if I’m awake by the end. It was a bit of an ordeal because my battery was dead and I had to stumble around the living room without my glasses on to find my charger, but eventually I settled in with my sappy rom-com of choice, the Scottish fan favorite Not Another Happy Ending.

via my-ponchoboys

I’m not a movie critic, so I’ll spare you straight description of the plot (witty, but trite) or the characters (quirky and far too attractive). I didn’t end up falling asleep, although I’m not entirely sure if that was a testament to the quality of the film or the continually rising temperature in my bedroom. I paid enough attention to feel like I saw the movie; not enough to love it. But there was one little scene, toward the end of the story, that I had to rewind and rewatch. Yep, it was that good.

I guess, for context, the main character (Karen Gillan, my number one girl crush) is a novelist who suffers from the tragicomedy that is writers block. Because she’s “too happy” from the aftermath of her first novel, her editor tries to make her miserable in hopes that she’ll write a better book. Anyway, in this scene, she kind of lets him have it, and it’s a nice moment.

“You don’t have to be miserable to write, you do it because you have to.”

I think about the post I published just a few short weeks ago, in which I lamented that my lack of current suffering was making me a boring writer.

“Because it gnaws away your insides if you try to ignore it.”

I think about how miserable I am when I don’t take time out of my day to write things down, when my head is full of thoughts and ideas and jokes and stories and I just shove them in my mind’s closet and go about my life pretending they aren’t there.

“Because if you don’t write, then you might as well be dead.”

And he’s kind of spellbound by this, partly because he’s in love with her (OH SORRY SPOILER ALERT) and partly because it’s so damn true. That’s the thing about passion. Without it, you’re nothing. I mean, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that not writing = being dead, but it’s certainly a different kind of existence. I know because I’ve tried it, and I didn’t do very well. When you’re a writer, you’re empty without words. When you’re a dancer, you’re empty without movement. That’s just the way things are.

I think maybe if I went back and watched the movie again (which I probably will when I’m not so sleep deprived) I might see a lot more of myself in the protagonist. I mean, I’m not a redheaded Scottish supermodel, for sure, but I think I’m confident calling myself a writer. A failed one, at that, considering how many of my pieces have been rejected by just about every content curator on the internet. A struggling one. Oftentimes a blocked one. It’s nice to see the realities of the writing life played out onscreen – the realities that show the world it’s not always glamorous, and it’s usually painful, but it’s totally worth it.

Crazy

The walls weren’t the right color.

“They’re blue, please, they’re supposed to be blue,” I implored the white-clad women as they ducked in and out of my room. Nobody seemed to pay me any attention; the bustling never stopped or slowed long enough for my words to catch up. I just wanted somebody to listen to me. This was all wrong, everything, the walls and the floors and the noises –

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

The room trembled and quaked as a high-pitched wail reverberated off the strange walls and settled in my eardrums. Searing pain ripped through my head like I was being impaled by a hot poker. Suddenly there were hands pressing on my arms, my legs, my forehead, my mouth – oh.

My mouth. That was me. I was screaming.

“Can’t she talk yet?” I heard one of the girls whisper to another. “I’m so fucking tired of all this yelling.” The other girl giggled. What did they mean, couldn’t I talk? Wasn’t anybody listening to me at all?

“Relax, now,” one of the older women said as she cupped my face in her cold hand. I squirmed under her touch. She smelled like bleach and baby powder, and it was churning my stomach to have her so close to me. There were still too many people crowded around my bed. I felt the sting of bile rising in my throat.

“Stop it, please,” I begged, turning my head to the side. “Leave me alone.” My vision blurred as their faces grew closer and closer, until all I could see were faces, eyes, blackness – and then I couldn’t see anything at all.

“This one’s seriously batshit,” a voice echoed as the sound sped further and further into the distance. “She’ll be lucky if we lose her. It’ll save her a lot of pain.”

Lose her?

Laughing. Then nothing.

When Your Words Matter

A week ago, I got an email inviting me to be a Book in Global Engagement Summit’s Living Library. I was flattered, but honestly, a little confused. The premise of this event was that people would come and check me out from the library because they thought the premise of my “Book” was interesting – but I’m not interesting, am I? What do I have to say that is valuable enough to share with a group of people whose influence stretches across the globe?

I expected to sit in my chair undisturbed for two hours. After all, the other “Books” in the library had far better stories to tell. They had made documentaries in foreign countries or been the first in their families to go to college. Nobody would want to waste their time talking to me.

I was wrong, though. Plenty of people took the seat opposite me for a ten or fifteen-minute period. Yes, a couple of them stumbled my way by accident, thinking I was somebody else, and many of them probably stopped by because all the other Books were occupied. But that didn’t matter in the end. Regardless of how they came my way, they did. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past couple of years, it’s that every accident is a wonderful blessing.

Do you know how many people I’ve spoken to, out loud, about my experiences with writing and blogging and recovering from the disorder that has torn my life apart? Not very many. I think it showed. My 1-2 minute opening “spiel” was awkward, erratic, and probably not very much fun to listen to. I felt the people across from me flinch as I said the words “eating disorder” out loud – perhaps I shouldn’t have led with such a jarring phrase. The second it left my mouth, I regretted it. “This was a mistake,” I thought. “This is personal. I shouldn’t be sharing this with the world.”

Should I?

The first person I talked to seemed rather startled by what I had to say. “Oh…” she trailed off as I waited expectantly for her reply. It took her a second to figure out how to respond. “Oh. Wow.” Not the worst response I could have gotten, but not exactly the one I was hoping for, either.

The second person I talked to laughed nervously when I told her what my Book title was. “Um, whoa.” At least the conversation moved a little bit from there. “That’s amazing. I can’t imagine going through something like that.”

I got better at talking the more I talked. By the time the coordinator sat down and said, “got time for one more conversation?” I was an expert in my own subject. Words started pouring out of me, words that I didn’t even know were true. “I have an eating disorder,” I said boldly. “And I was given this shitty, God-awful experience for a reason – so that I could share it.”

There are moments when I surprise even myself. That was one of them. Until that moment, I don’t think I fully processed that my voice, my blog, my writing…had saved my life. I don’t think I’d ever realized how much I owed Little Growing Pains, the brainchild that became the life source. I learned that I had a story, a story worth telling, a story that had the capacity to change other people’s lives as well as my own. I learned that everything I’d written was worth more than I ever could have dreamed.

I walked out of the Library that day prouder than I can ever remember being. There’s nothing quite like knowing how much your words matter.

The Empty Journal

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A year ago, I bought this journal at a craft store. I laughed out loud when I saw it, because it was just so incredibly perfect. “The creeping sense of impending disaster and the all-encompassing fears both specified and vague that colonize my mind, body, and soul” – that’s pretty much my everyday life, right? (And in case you can’t read the fine print at the bottom, it says “even though optimism may be unself-aware and ill-placed, I know I’ll be happier as a blind fool than as a clairvoyant apocalyptic.”)

Now if there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I have an uncanny ability to fill a journal. I’m constantly buying new ones because I can never quite keep up with the pace of my own writing. So it is seriously weird that I’ve had this awesome journal for a whole year and only filled five pages.

Here’s my problem…it’s prompted.

The beginning of every page begins with “What I’m hanging hope on today:” and that seems unfair. Because hope is a nice idea and all, but when a page starts off with a heading like that, all of a sudden I feel guilty writing down anything negative. Because how can I finish that sentence? “What I’m hanging hope on today: my body image really sucks”? Or “What I’m hanging hope on today: my roommates and I just had explosive diarrhea simultaneously and we only have one bathroom”? And I can’t just ignore the prompt, because it’s sitting right there staring at me and making me feel worse about feeling bad.

Every time I write in that journal, I say I’m going to do it more often. That I’m going to suck it up and write what I want, prompt be damned. But I never do. Although I am a person who generally craves order and organization, when it comes to writing, I think the best thing I can have in front of me at any given moment is a blank page. No prompts. That way I can write in poetry or metaphor or prose or even draw, and there’s nobody looking down their nose and telling me I can’t. So many times I want to write about things other than hope. I want to write about fear and loneliness and vulnerability and how it feels to fall in love with someone from thousands of miles away. I want to write about my family and how beautiful they are and how much they truly love each other. I want to write about the way I feel when I have too much to drink and the emotions spill out of me like running water and I’m left face-to-face with something ugly and scary. It doesn’t give me hope. It gives me life. It means I’m living. And living is oh so very painful. To quote William Goldman, anyone who says differently is selling something.

I’ve moved on to other journals since I started this one. In fact, I’ve completely finished at least two since the last time I wrote in it. Still, I keep it. The cover makes me laugh, and the sometimes funny/sometimes inspirational quotes inside are fun to look at.

Perhaps my inner optimist is disappointed in me. I doubt it. I usually find some way to see the bright side of a situation, even when nobody asks me to. And maybe I’ll find use for such a book someday, when my thoughts bleed out loud rather than on paper. Until then, well, whatever happens, it’s gonna be okay.

Sometimes You Learn

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Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.

Sometimes you win. You wake up to an email telling you that you’re finally employed. You dance around your room without your glasses on, only to trip over your nightstand and fall face-first into the radiator. Sometimes you learn.

Sometimes you win. A boy with an adorable smile tells you that your imperfections make you beautiful. For once, you can see yourself through someone else’s eyes; the fierce loyalty, the shy crooked smile, the eyes that draw the world in like a whirlpool. You fall in love with what he sees, but he doesn’t. It was never meant to last longer than a moment. Sometimes you learn.

Sometimes you win. Sometimes the words flow easily, like Ernest Hemingway meets Niagara Falls. Everything comes together perfectly, a flawless concoction of letters and words and phrases and sentences that steams with meaning and glows with passion. Sometimes they’re lost in your head, swirling through the pathways of your brain, unwilling to fall out the way you’d like, leaving you tired and angry and meek. Sometimes you learn.

Sometimes you win. You look around at your messy living room and your mismatched throw pillows and you think, “this is mine.” You never thought you could make it on your own, not after everything you’ve been through, but here you are. It could use a good vacuuming; you should run the dishwasher. But you’re here, your feet resting casually on the coffee table, cheap Christmas lights twinkling in the windows, typing words that a thousand people will read. You are everything you never thought was possible. Sometimes you learn.