It was my first time facing a group of millennials and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was serving as a panelist at the Indiana University Media School Career Day. As an alumna with a journalism degree from IU, I was there to talk about writing careers.
How would I relate to a generation steeped in technology and global influences when my college memories included snail mail, interviews conducted on landlines, an electric typewriter, and learning to “burn” and “dodge” photos in a darkroom?
I was lying face down in a dimly lit room, listening to the sounds of a harpsichord or sitar or something equally soothing, willing myself to be soothed. I’d been looking forward to this massage all week. I’d finally convinced myself that I deserved it and that I would not, under any circumstances, regret the expense. It wasn’t regret that followed me into the room, but a sticky cloud of anxiety.
Why did I drink coffee before my appointment? And why, why, why did I get on Facebook? I should have known better than to start my day wading through negative stories.
I’ve mentioned before that I work with a coach. Recently he had me take a “needs assessment.” I thought it might be like one of those quizzes in Cosmopolitan magazine, revealing that I need to buy more silky blouses, or light a scented candle. Or maybe it would be similar to a “love languages” test and tell me what I already know, that I need a lot of hugs.
I was surprised to learn that my number one need is for PEACE.
When my daughter was in fourth grade, she sang a solo in her school’s production of Schoolhouse Rock. I was sitting in the auditorium behind two men. A few bars into her rendition of “Elbow Room,” one turned to the other and said,”I’m guessing this ain’t her first rodeo.”
Of course, I was thrilled to hear this compliment and it was all I could do to keep myself from tapping the guy on the shoulder and gushing about how she takes voice lessons and dreams of being a stage performer.
It all begins with some stinky, stained carpet.
After years of living with an elderly dog and then a puppy, the carpet in my small sunroom is trashed. This is the room where I write, and the smell is distracting. (For the record, nearly anything has the power to distract me from writing, but still…) Something has to be done.
So I go to Home Depot to price carpet, then come home and start dragging furniture out of my daughter’s room. That makes sense, right?
The title of my first book, ‘Hello Loved Ones,’ comes from an “endearment “ used casually by the father of the narrator when he comes home drunk after long unexplained absences. He tosses these words at his children, who are starved for his attention, before leaving them. The novel looks at the importance of love in action and questions whether love is determined by blood or by choice.
My suitcase was open on the bed, half full. My best friend was in the room with me, telling me to stop packing. I wanted her to shut up. I was becoming angry, and it was that particular anger that comes when someone tells you something you already know.
We were both juniors at Indiana University and I was soon to catch a flight for London to do a semester abroad. It was my dream, I’d lined up a program, and I had the student loan to pay for it.
British author David Mitchell says, “Travel far enough, you meet yourself.” These words came to me as I was about to embark on a dream vacation to Paris, the city of light and love, with some of my favorite people in the world: my daughter and two dear family friends.
While I was excited to share the adventure with them, I knew the beauty of the trip would be in the various and unique ways we each find enchantment. Of course I wanted to pose in front of the Eiffel Tower and float along the Seine, but more than that, I wanted to discover: How would my heart be changed?
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
My flight from Los Angeles to Chicago touched down just before rush hour, making the trip home last a solid eight hours (ten including the time change). It marked the end of a busy two days spent sharing one room with three 17-year-olds, navigating LA freeways while listening to hip-hop, taking college tours, visiting friends, and wedged next to a stranger devoted to friendly chit-chat. It was a wonderful trip, but it reminded me that there is one personal item essential to me (even when I don’t have time to unpack it):