When I say I’m a hopeless romantic, I don’t mean that my idea of a perfect day is one spent curled up on the couch watching period movies and crying over Mr. Darcy (although sometimes it is). It doesn’t mean I sit in my room staring out the window wishing (although I do that plenty, too). For me, the ever-loving poptimist, it means seeing more than what meets the eye. It’s a lot like faith. The substance of things hoped for. The evidence of things unseen. It’s hard to describe what it’s like being inside my head; you can never judge what’s going on between the walls of my skull from the expression on my face, because it never matches (unless I’m bored, in which case “just shoot me” is a fairly good word-picture). People frequently ask me “Are you okay? You look sad” or “Are you mad at me? You’re frowning” and my response is usually a startled “No…?” I tend to forget where I am, who I’m with, and what’s going on around me because I get distracted by seeing beyond what’s actually there. The sound of car honking in the distance sends my mind on an urban adventure, one with lots of colorful maps and a backpack and strangers I’ll never meet and places I’ll never see. A flash of color – it might be a flower, or a candy wrapper – brings faeries to life;a shadow on the wall is a ghost or a phantom lurking outside the window asking to be let in. The blinking of an airplane in the night sky is a shooting star, and it works just as well for wish-making. Each city light is a new world of possibilities. A woman walking down the street with a scarf and a mocha from Starbucks has her own story, and I wonder if she’s in love with anyone, or if she goes home at night to a big, lonely apartment, or whether she’s ever lost someone close to her. Is that person happy? Are they sad? Have they been through something we can’t even imagine? A couple holding hands, a brief glimpse inside the open door of a bookstore or a coffee shop, someone sitting on the street corner playing badly on a cheap musical instrument, the way the clouds are brushed in that very particular way across the sky – sometimes it’s almost overwhelming, and the only thing to do is take a deep breath and drink it all in and mull over it later, and watch it come out in strange, odd, wondrous forms when I write. I’m the most forgetful person I know. I forget what I had for breakfast, what I wore yesterday, an argument I had, something I was supposed to do, but I never forget strange, meaningless details that are only meaningless until they spring to life somewhere between a word and another word. That flash of faerie-color might become its own story. The woman with her mocha might become a character. That strain of music I heard is a feeling which might become an entire theme from which I base a book. Some of the things I notice will never make it to the page. They’ll stay forever locked up inside my chest, like a box of colorful photos I can pull out and look over on rainy days, if I’m not too busy taking more pictures (which I usually am). But I know they’ll always be there. This ramble probably doesn’t make sense, and that may be because it’s four in the morning and I can’t sleep. In trying to clear my mind up for you I’ve probably only muddled yours, but you might come away with a sense of the sort of hopeless romantic I am. Everything is a story. You’re a story. Everyone you see is a story, and stories should never be judged by the covers they wear.
When I say the word ‘adventure,’ what do you think of? Do you think of globetrotting around the world with an airplane followed by red map-markers, Indiana Jones-style? Do you think of setting out to hike the Appalachian trail? Do you think of Bilbo charging up the hill, waving his note and shouting, “I’m going on an adventure!”
Adventure can bring a lot of things to mind. For me, adventure is the time I went hiking with childhood friends in the forest behind their house. We got lost, picked flowers, and were late getting back. I got in trouble. It’s still one of my favorite memories. Adventure is training an ornery horse who wants you off his back at all costs. Adventure is flying above a forest floor strewn with pine needles on a zip-line, swinging your body to the right and to the left to avoid running into trees.
Or adventure could be something smaller. Adventure could be walking up and saying hello to someone you don’t know. Adventure could be pulling over to the side of the road and charging into the jungle to snap a picture of wild flamingoes. Adventure could be volunteering for something you’ve never done before. Adventure could be taking a walk outside when you don’t feel like it, or getting together with someone you only know online. It could be striking up a conversation with the person you think is cute. It could be staying up until four in the morning giggling with your sister on the hard floor of her room. It could be showing something you love to someone else and hoping against hope that they’ll like it, too.
Adventure is one of those Things. You never know when one will sneak up on you from behind. Or perhaps it will do a full-front tackle and knock you out of your comfort zone. It might be something huge and grand, like travelling across the world, or it could be something as simple as a phone call, or listening to a new band, or sending a handwritten letter to someone you used to be friends with.
Every day is filled with these tiny, microscopic adventures, if we take the time to see them for what they really are. And now and then, you should go out your front door and have a real adventure, one that involves doing something far out of the ordinary. Treat yourself to an adventure and you never know – you might find yourself hunting for more.
It’s one of those days where I don’t even know what to write. I wrote a chapter in The Meaning of Always and half a chapter in Acceso; that’s not the sort of writing I mean. Blog-writing. I have so many thoughts today that I don’t know how to calm them down, put them in single file, and get them organized. It isn’t because anything in particular has happened; just school and writing and priorities and music and coffee and a new blue sweater. The usual, lovely, confusing bits of life.
Frequently, I feel like I’m more than one person. Like I’m actually dozens of people, all who have their share in what I say, look, do, think and feel. Not in a bipolar, multiple-personality-disorder way, though; just in a ‘this is how it is’ kind of way. What makes me cry one day makes me laugh another. I think it’s like Ernest Hemingway said, ‘Writers aren’t actually people, they’re a whole bunch of people trying to be one person’ – though I don’t think it always just counts for writers.
I know some people who are as steady as a rock. You always know how they’ll react and you love them for their predictability. You can always count on them. I am not that person. Mom has said before that I’m very hard to read. I find myself unpredictable. I don’t know what will make me cry or laugh. I don’t know why I find this funny and that completely boring, why this excites me and that makes me want to curl up in bed and go back to sleep. Some days I feel like wearing a cozy pastel sweater with leggings and pearls and putting my hair in a bun and running on lists, and some days I feel like wearing all black with studded, black accessories and shoes and leaving my hair to do whatever it wants to.
Some days I feel like writing something happy and romantic that makes me sigh and feel good, and some days I feel like writing something gut-wrenchingly sad that makes me cry and even depresses me a little. Some days, people’s words sting like poisoned arrows even though I try not to show it, and some days I can tease and banter back and forth until the cows come home. Some days I want to listen to happy, perky music and some days I want to listen to darker, sad music. Some days I don’t even sing in the shower, which is unusual for me. (I have a mental playlist of Shower Songs. I don’t know why, but they always seem to come out in the shower).
Some days I want to surround myself with people and chat with three dozen of you in one day and call five different people and write a million letters, and some days I just want to be left alone. Some days I want to read Frankenstein and some days I want to read Winnie the Pooh. I find myself confusing, but no matter how confusing I am, I’m okay with it.
I guess, really, that’s life. Life isn’t one long stretch of black and white; it’s a riot of color and noise and sound and texture. It would be awfully boring if it wasn’t. The only steady thing is God; no matter how disoriented and chaotic my life can be, public or private, He is always there to hold me and laugh with me and show me things to enjoy and help me share His joy with others. So if you feel like you don’t know which way is up and your life has become a kaleidoscope you can’t make sense of, it’s all right. Don’t worry about it, because that’s life.