Writing is never easy. It has long been a battle. I doubt often, and fiercely, and the line between believing I have something or nothing at all to say blurs.
But despite the difficulties, for the past year I have had the great privilege of writing for this paper and for all of you reading. When my first piece was put into print it was the very first time anyone besides my family or my teachers had read my words. And I’ll be honest, it was terrifying.
My solution to the “mortifying ordeal of being known” as Tim Kreider put it? Well, I simply pretended no one would ever read it! I pushed it into the furthest, deepest corner of my mind and each month searched my heart for its most pressing matter, and let those thoughts onto paper as if no one but me would know of their existence.
But as time went on and as I received letters from wonderful people, I let a little light peek in through my boarded up door. I decided to let myself be scared, but take in this incredible experience anyway. And I am so much better for it.
Here are some of the most powerful things this endeavor has taught me:
First: Deep down, beyond all that makes us different, we want the same things.
You will have no trouble at all finding someone who tells you that we are irreparably divided. That this is the worst things have ever been, and we are on the very brink of collapse.
But, to put it simply, they are wrong. This past year has proven that to me. For we have all witnessed the very opposite.
Humanity showed up for each other like never before. We filled streets for the things we believed in. We delivered groceries to our neighbors in need. We stayed home to protect each other. We clapped each night for our healthcare workers. We relied on the kindness of strangers to get us through. We sang and wrote and created art to keep us going.
That is nothing if not proof of our goodness. We have always been one.
We have always wanted to be good to each other, and to have others be good to us.
Second: The thing that scares you the most is often the very thing you need to do next.
I never in a million years could have predicted any of this for myself. It is scary to put yourself out there, and to not know if it will be worth it.
Because this project, for me, has always been about feeling less alone, both in the things I care about, but also just in who I am. Life is hard. It likes to shake you up a bit. And writing is the ultimate act of bearing your heart to the world in the midst of being tossed about. It is revealing, even when you try to force it not be.
The reaction to my articles blew me away. I hadn’t expected a single letter, but I received many! I take that as the highest compliment. To everyone who wrote in, even if it was in disagreement, thank you.
And if there is something you want to do, but scares you like nothing else can — do it anyway. In spite, if you must. I promise you will surprise yourself. And if you stumble, remember you only learn from doing it wrong.
There is a famous quote by Mary Oliver that goes: “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” It is beautiful, but it can also feel heavy. We can’t ever really know what we want to do with our whole lives, for we are in a constant state of change. So I want to also leave you with these words by Albert Camus: “You will never be able to experience everything. So, please, do poetical justice to your soul and simply experience yourself.”
That’s all you must ever do.
Third: You may have noticed that my column is titled, “The Thing About Hope”. You see, I set out one year ago to discover what exactly that thing was through these articles. To find the golden thread that connected it all. Well, I am proud to announce that I have, and it is as follows.
The thing about hope is that it is a product of being alive. By being alive, you are forging hope where nothing used to be. You are the wildest dreams of those that came before you.
We are all the living, breathing, builders of hope. It is here because we are.
And I am here because you are.
Lastly, I wouldn’t be here without the incredible guidance of my editor, Mr. Ray Miller-Still, and everyone at the Courier-Herald. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
And thank you all for reading. It has changed my life. My wish for you is that you find a new dream whenever you need to, and you chase it.
For what it’s worth, this has been mine.