“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
— The Velveteen Rabbit (or How Toys Become Real) by Margery Williams, 1922
We didn’t fall in love.
We fell into late-night conversations about frozen foods and foreign countries.
We fell into the same melodies. Or perhaps it was me following the songs, hoping I’d find you, but songs aren’t rainbows and you’re real, just not here.
We fell into our seats and fell into silence and eventually we fell away from each other. I suppose that’s how it happens, and I’ve never been coordinated or good at catching things that are falling down or falling apart and I couldn’t catch what we didn’t have.
So here I am juggling memories and dreams and throwing out words, hoping you’re better at catching what I meant to say than I am at catching on.
But the truth is neither of us were coordinated and none of this was love and it’s better to hold onto what we didn’t have than throw it away in hopes that you will catch my drift. Neither of us live by oceans and the only tides are those that sweep away memories of fall and the times we didn’t.
They say these are the days that will define us, and on first thought that sounds like a joke, a pithy saying that prides itself in youth and dreams.
But these days add up to years and multiply into lifetimes and the equation is like a definition. These moments become compilations and I hope my funeral is a symphony.
I’ve never been a fan of John Mayer. Until this week. His melodies have kept me company as I edited photos and cooked burgers and washed dishes. Perhaps these are all strange bits of growing up. Anyhow, this song is lovely.
I’ve never been phyisically crushed. I drive like a grandma and have avoided major car accidents. I don’t play sports. I’ve never been beaten. My only broken bone was caused when I fell on my arm while twirling—at age 5. I’ve always been wonderfully coordinated.
But I’ve heard the sounds of breaking. I’ve heard glass shatter and pages rip and hearts and beats drop and lives be torn apart. My life isn’t crushed, at least not in the sense of my body. But my chest aches. like hands nervously wringing a handkerchief. I’m being wrung out in my soul and I hope I’m being refined.
I’ve been single. Am single.
23 years of existence.
This isn’t a sob story or a weird tumblr version of a dating profile. It’s an honest story.
Apparently, traveling the world, writing stories, wearing acid-wash, going to Bible school, and listening to One Direction aren’t very conducive ingredients for a relationship. Or at least they scare most men away.
Most of the time (at least since teenage-hood) I wished I was in a relationship. Some days I was angsty. Some days I envied my friends who were in relationships or married.
Now I’m in the least distracting city I’ve every lived in. I have the most married friends I’ve ever had. This is the perfect breeding ground for discontent.
I was restless for nearly a year after moving to Iowa. I wanted grand cities or vast wilderness or something more exciting.
I’m learning to love the skies I’m under. I’m learning that the people around me are more important than grand cities. I’m learning that sometimes the vast wilderness is my soul and I’m learning that cultivating goodness within that wilderness is more important than being great.
I’m not writing a life that’s a sonnet to lure a man in. I want to live story of holiness. If that means a man fancies my story and comes beside me and we faithfully live and struggle and love together, so be it. Honestly, it’s a dream of mine. But if not, that doesn’t mean that the days and the words of my life are wrong or I’m alone in this world.
Here’s the thing: being single doesn’t mean always going it alone. Yes, you don’t always have the constant of a partner and there are lonely days and nights. But there are other co-adventurers for this part of the journey. And this journey is exciting. It means spontaneous Greyhound rides and walks in cemeteries at dusk and turning broken-down-by-the-road into a photo shoot adventure..
I’ve been single, but I’ve never enjoyed or taken advantage of its freedom like I am doing now.
I can work out-of-state for a week. I can spontaneously intern in California. I can take a day trip to a tiny coffee shop with 6-ounce cappuccinos. I can wear denim every single day. I can decide to travel to India next summer (it’s not definite yet). I can sit in bed and eat dark chocolate, drink tea, listen to John Mayer, and write about singleness and adventure. My main factors are God, his word, and my own life. The simplicity is freeing.
Instead of focusing on relationships, I’m learning to cultivate community with other creative, story-telling ladies around the country. Brittany and I drink coffee and drive around Iowa and brew up ideas every week. I spent three days in Colorado with Katie, who I met in France, but became better friends with over social media. We drank coffee and drove through the mountains and she introduced me to her family and friends and favourite coffee shop and we explored antique stores.
My first year in Iowa was, in some ways, lonely. It’s not as if I wasn’t around people. But I recently read this: “Loneliness isn’t about proximity to others. It’s about feeling understood” [Robin May Fleming]. These ladies and I understand each other. We strive to write good stories and create good art, but most of all to dream and adventure and to live good stories wherever we are at.
I’ve never been so enamored by the truth or captivated by adventures and dreams. And I’ve never been so content being single.
This doesn’t mean I’ve sworn off men. I’m currently crushing on a fellow with worlds in his eyes and a soul full of stories. Perhaps he finds me fascinating, too. Perhaps he doesn’t. That’s okay. If he doesn’t, it just means that’s not my story. My story can still be good. And he can even be a character in it, even if he’s not the romantic lead. Our stories have collided and what’s rising out of the collision is a good thing, even if it doesn’t end in romance. That’s okay. I’m okay.
A good story doesn’t have to be a romantic one. Or perhaps it is a romantic one, only it’s finding romance in the world: in the moment the airplane’s wheels leave the ground, in the smell of freshly-brewed coffee, in late-night drives, in sunrises and new days, in rountine and in the unexpected, in kinship, in grace.
Perhaps our problem is that we limit romance to the way it plays out in a movie, and nothing else is beautiful. I want to seek holiness and beauty and if a man finds my soul intriguing, perhaps we can adventure together. But I’m okay with that not being my story. At least not right now. I’m okay adventuring and being alive and I savor these moments of being understood and this little community of storytellers. We will change the world with the stories we tell, and I’m determined, single or not, that my story will be a good one.
I don’t post many of my photos here—mostly words. However, this photo is darker than I usually shoot, and I love how haunting it is. So here’s a glimpse into another part of my life: the one where I travel the country and ride in limos and don’t sleep and photograph the most important days.