Publishing is hard. Life is hard. But sometimes in all of our commiserating about the challenging parts, we don’t take enough time to celebrate the wonder and the magic. To hold our delicate, fragile blessings in our hands and marvel at their beauty.
The playwright Thornton Wilder once said, “We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”
So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, in the spirt of being alive, I am counting all of the many things I am grateful for this month. Many of them are too personal to share in this format. But at least one of the things on my list might inspire you to think of the things you would put on yours.
My first year of high school, I was on our school dance team. I’m not sure why I tried out. Maybe because several of my friends were doing it and it seemed like a good way to spend time together. Maybe because my mom had always hoped I’d be a cheerleader and dance team seemed like the next best thing. Or maybe because my boyfriend played football and I liked the idea of performing at his games. I don’t really remember my rationale. Only that at some point I made the decision and there I was—waking up at 5 a.m. every morning for practices, dancing in competitions, being fitted for adorable little outfits that cost a fortune.
One day, after I’d been on the team for about a year, one of the senior girls decided to give us a motivational pep talk in the locker room after practice. She ended her speech with something to the effect of, “C’mon, girls, we’re all here for one reason—because we love to dance.”
I remember that moment with sharp clarity. I remember thinking, is that why these other girls are here? Because, actually I don’t love to dance.
It was a pivotal insight for me. I realized it was pointless to spend time and effort on things I only tolerated when I could be doing things I loved.
I quit the team and joined the newspaper staff.
Writing didn’t come with cute costumes. It certainly didn’t come with any discernible increase in popularity (quite the opposite, actually.) But it came with the deep satisfaction of truly loving something.
Some of my happiest memories of high school are of the newspaper lab with all of my friends doing our best to put out quality content each month. To write meaningful columns. To cover stories in brave ways even when it got us in hot water with the administration.
I had experienced the high that came with performing in front of a big crowd, but it didn’t come close to matching the high of the late nights at school, blue pencil in hand, pasting up copy that I’d written, edited or helped design. The smell of the wax machine in the air. The palpable buzz of excitement as we raced against a deadline.
Several years later, I became Senior Editor of the newspaper and one day had the occasion for a pep talk of my own. I spoke the words, “we’re all here because we love to write.” I saw a freshman in the back flinch. I saw the realization in his eyes that he wasn’t where he wanted to be. My heart went out to him. I hope he eventually found something he was passionate about. And whatever it was, I hope he never let it go.
I’m so lucky to know what I love to do. I’m so grateful I found it at such a young age. And even though it took a while to get published, and even though the publishing part could vanish at any moment, I still know that I love to write, that writing makes me happier than almost any other activity. And no matter what else happens, that’s a gift that I’m grateful for every day.