Okay, so, I have made it 23 years to the day without devolving into maudlin paroxysms of gratitude and adoration on the internet, but I’m not sure how I’m supposed to avoid it in the face of this. We had a good run, the vague semblance of composure and me; I’m sure that I’ll look back fondly on the times we spent together, like a photo album full of pictures where I am NOT, uh, puffy and teary-eyed and so overwhelmed with love that I keep making this face that, based on the reaction of the dude across from me in the coffeeshop, makes me look like I’m going to stand up and start committing serial murders for reasons of unhinged, unfiltered joy. Which is, in case that wasn’t clear, what’s been going on since Postcard linked me to the best birthday present I have ever received, bar none.
So, uh. I’m going to try to say thank you now. Please bear with me, as this is going to be rambling, DEEPLY tl;dr, entirely overwrought and embarrassingly inadequate, but I do mean it with all my heart.
To start with something that is going to seem irrelevant, but will make sense in a minute, I promise: one of my earliest memories is of sitting on the tiny, low-resting shelf that connected the antique wooden vanity that sat at the far end of the living room in my great-grandmother’s apartment. My great-grandmother was, unquestionably, the strongest woman I ever had the great fortune to know, and my single biggest role model: a teacher, she raised two children alone after her alcoholic husband left in the middle of the night, carrying herself and both those kids through the Great Depression and raising them into exceptional people. Then, when my grandmother’s threatening divorce became a reality, my great-grandmother stepped up and helped to raise her girls, including my mother, another of the strongest women I’ve ever known. In her early nineties, she let my mother’s first kid, her first great-grandchild—this wide-eyed little blonde girl who started talking too early and still hasn’t figured out how to stop—tuck herself up in the bottom shelf of that antique wooden vanity during visits. I scuffed up her woodwork, and she read me stories. And then, then I told her stories, stories that she pushed and pulled and coaxed out of me, stories she built with me, stories that I, at this point in my life, have forgotten everything about except the most important thing: how it felt, sitting in her living room and making them come to life.
She left me that vanity when she died, just over seventeen years ago now. I still have it, the drawers stuffed full of the notebooks and journals I’ve scrawled into over the years, that shelf I used to sit on piled high with books. I was too young, for those years when our lives overlapped, to know her as well as I would have liked, but she taught me to love stories, and then, with the kindness and tenacity that characterizes everything I’ve ever been told about her, to tell them. It is the single greatest thing a human being has ever done for me; it has literally shaped my entire existence. Of everything I’ve ever encountered, experienced, loved, lost, read, written, seen, heard, trusted, feared…of everything that has EVER happened to me, there has never been anything strong enough to unseat that kid who’s still sitting on that shelf in my head, grinning so big it hurts and doing her best to weave new realities (and stop scuffing the woodwork).
So here’s why I tell you that story: when I say “I have wanted to write for literally as long as I can remember,” I am really not kidding. More importantly, for as long as I’ve been old enough to be cognizant of the incredible gift that woman gave me, I’ve wanted to inspire other people to create. I don’t flatter myself with thinking I could do for anyone what she did for me—I’m not sure that I’d want to in any case, since defining someone else’s identity is very much outside my purview—but the chance to give anyone even the slightest motivation, even the smallest push, towards any sort of creative expression…well. I could never express what it means to me. I could never even come close to putting it down in words.
And the thing is, guys, the thing is that I’ve already had such an incredible experience in the world of creative expression; I’ve already been so lucky it’s ridiculous, I’ve already learned so much, I’ve already gotten so many amazing opportunities, met so many amazing people, and encountered so much amazing fiction and art that it really does fucking stagger me every time I think about it. I have ALREADY gotten the chance to tell stories that people have wanted to hear, and I have already had the incredible opportunity to inspire, in whatever small way, the utterly mind-blowing creativity of others. I am already so grateful that I find myself choking on it far more often than I don’t, and if I don’t say that enough, it’s because I don’t think that I could ever say it enough—it’s because I’m honestly very afraid that I’d never be able to stop. So to get online this afternoon and find this entire blog full of these earth-shatteringly fantastic stories and poems and fanmixes and songs and artwork that people put together for me, full of these messages about inspiration and hope and A MILLION ADORABLE BEARS and so much love that I can’t even comprehend it—when I say it’s a life dream realized, that is not a joke. When I say I can’t thank you enough, I mean there actually aren’t enough combinations of syllables available to me in the language I speak to manage the task of expressing it. BUT I’M GONNA TRY, SO:
First of all, to Postcard, who pulled this together (and goddamn, speaking of Strong Women I Have Known): baby. I know we talk all the time about how the Atlantic Ocean is a life ruiner, and it is and I think we should kill it, but then again…well, then again, I am so glad you grew up across an ocean from me. Because, the thing is, I would not trade a single thing about you, not for anything; you are the best person I have ever known, and the best friend I have ever had, and I honestly don’t know who or what I would be if I hadn’t met you. You have saved me in so many ways, and made me laugh so many times, and heard me when no one else would have, and put up with me when anyone else wouldn’t have, and I love you so much that it’s probably a little ridiculous, or, at very least, more than slightly illegal. This is the best birthday present I have ever gotten, and the fact that you took the time to make it happen and put it together—and, of course, the fact that you take the time to make me happen, and to put me together, because god knows you do all the fucking time—is its own gift, one I’m pretty damned sure is never gonna be topped. And that would be true if we had an atmosphere between us instead of an ocean, so just…just thank you, and please do not actually move to the fucking moon or another planet (INCLUDING PLUTO) because I will have to follow you and space travel makes me nervous, and I love you, I love you, I love you.
And, now, to YOU GUYS, to everyone who contributed to this AMAZING THING I CAN’T EVEN BELIEVE EXISTS, and to everyone who follows this hot mess of a blog, and to everyone who has ever left me a comment or sent me a message or read one of my stories and, as such, made me a Real Writer by the only standard I care about (to wit, that There Are Words and Someone Has Read Them): I have one more story, and then, I swear, I will shut the fuck up.
See, a month or so ago, my father read an article in an airport-purchased Esquire that got us talking about the definition of heroism. He, and the article, argued that the word has become so ubiquitous that its original meaning has been lost in the shuffle, and I didn’t know how to explain to him that I know for a fact that that shit is some bullshit. Maybe I still won’t say it right, but the thing is, this community, and this silly name borne of an innocent enough mistake, have given me the incredible chance to brush up against so many human lives, so many people that are all happening right now. I have seen so much talent and so much creativity, so much strength and so much growth and so much fucking kindness that it’s counterbalanced a few years of life experience on my end that really should have crushed my faith in people. But there is nothing I believe in more than people, nothing that, for me, could possibly be more worth believing in—and that’s all on you guys, every last bit of it. You have taught me so much, intellectually and emotionally, you have shown me so much warmth, you are all so strong and so capable and so beautiful, and I will never stop being so thankful it hurts, for that and for this and for all that love you’ve been so generous in offering to me. So the idea that heroism has been rendered obsolete is, really, pretty fucking ludicrous, don’t you think? I talk to people who are fighting battles and changing lives and summoning all this bravery and compassion every day, so, you know what, consider it me and Phil Coulson, sitting here believing in heroes.
I get told, a lot, to try to live in the present instead of the future or the past. So: today I am twenty-three, and I am awed, stunned, staggered, grateful, and so, so honored, both by your kindness and your willingness to let me be, in whatever small way, part of your lives. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I really, really can’t say it enough.
All my love,