Field Notes: Vol. 4

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Perfect for waiting rooms. Stock up on reading.

Self-preserving. I say no more.

For all da entrepreneurs: this book.

New college list.

And then the angels sang… you know you’ve wanted this for a while.

If a limited edition backpack could define my whole life…

Kick in the pants.

If I could tell you any story, it would be of the time I left just because.

Ending it first.

Her letters. They pretty.

Brightest weekend wishes to each & every one of you! I’ll be curling in bed with some coffee and good reading, spending time outdoors & getting my church thang on. Stay bright.

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A “life is so fragile and quick” kind of letter.

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I used to think I would live a really short life.

I mean, I used to spend so much time wondering about funerals, and eulogies, and people slipping through my fingers when I was younger that I wondered if I’d die young. I couldn’t picture the white of my own wedding day. I never envisioned the texture of my children’s hair. I guess I wondered if that mean’t I would live a shorter life.  If some tragedy would happen to me. If I’d be here one day and gone the next.

I know that’s morbid. It’s not the way to start a letter but the news told me yesterday that life was fragile. And a funeral told me last week that time is kind of like scratch-off tickets: you win sometimes but most of the time you’re just gambling.

My mind winds back to you and I, sitting in the middle of a driveway and I couldn’t quite pin down the words to describe how my hands were shaking. August was the queen that night, her humidity hissed and tangled through my hair. We set down a blanket. Laid on top of it. Laughed under stars. You’d brought a boombox to sit between us, weaving the power cord all the way from the garage so you and I could hear love songs play on the radio. Delilah-style. Just like old times. Before we knew we were capable of changing and wanting different things.

Everything around me in that moment seemed to tell me, “You are getting older but you’re still so young.”  I’m sorry, I haven’t figured how to stand in the chasm of that space yet. 

You see, I want to go and do and be. I want to fill my life with action verbs. But I’m still human and I’m still fearful. I’m still the one who whispers to herself at night, “Don’t dream too big. Don’t fly too high.”  I’m scared of rejection. Of things I can’t see. Even though every quote on Twitter tells me to seize life like a lover in the airport, I am still fearful of a life where I fail. I’m still always wondering what it would be like to stand in the middle of a crowded room and be the one not chosen, the one no one ever asks to dance.

So that’s why I am writing this. Because even if I am fearful, there is much to say. And it’s selfish to let my insecurities speak louder than my love. I don’t care if my life is big or grand or short or long, I just want to make sure I told you everything when I had you. I don’t want fear to be the pilot, flying an airplane full of unsaid words. 

First thing I’d like to say: I tried. I tried so incredibly hard to be good. I know it’s always up for debate as to whether humans are “good” or not, but I know I never wasted a day without trying to be the best I could possibly be. It didn’t always work out that way. And a lot of times I was way harder on myself than I needed to be. But I tried. I tried to love you right.

I hope you know I always tried to look up at you. I tried to look away from the screen. I tried to smell the flowers and hear the rain. I tried to feel life, and feel feelings, and cry when life pushed it out of me. I tried to place myself in situations where my palms would still get sweaty, and life would still surprise me, and people would still break me. I mean, I didn’t want for people to break me but I’m learning that’s just half of our existence: being broken by people who tried to love us right and dancing in the redemption that comes with putting the pieces back together. 

I tried to stay hopeful. I tried to say the right things and not let anger speak first. I tried to believe in angels and forgiveness. I tried to believe in people: always, and constantly, and first.

I tried to constantly be this better version of myself even though I look back and think I should have just let myself “be” sometimes. I should have left my eyebrows intact in the 8th grade. I shouldn’t have given myself those bangs in the 5th grade. I didn’t always need to be a better version— sometimes I just needed to tolerate the person I woke up as that morning.

I mean, evolving is good. Learning is good. Becoming better is better. But there could have been the nights where I ate the ice cream, and took off my shoes to feel the sand, and just decided to speak or not speak. There should have been the days where I didn’t start the argument, where I didn’t need to be right, where I wasn’t so cold just because you hurt me and I thought “getting even” was a strategy. There should have been nights where I left you and nights where I didn’t leave you. I’m sorry if I never held your hand when you needed it more than whatever words I said to try to fix the things that only God could touch. 

People say “have no regrets.” To me, that’s just silly. I have regrets. I live inside those regrets sometimes. And if it weren’t for those regrets, I wouldn’t know how to make my whole life run smoother. And kiss people harder. And squelch my pride. And say things while I have people standing right in front of me. And not say things when I know words said selfishly have the power to keep two people standing in one place forever.

That’s the other thing I’ve learned as of lately: people aren’t things. You can’t keep them. You can’t control them. You can’t get mad at life when it takes away all your precious pawns. You can’t make a museum out of who a person is today, that never gives anyone the freedom to become someone different tomorrow.

I think back on that night when we were sitting on the bed, facing the white wall. The night with the beer bread. And I wish I found the way to whisper out the truth to you, “You could be a different person overnight if you wanted to be. I’m just so afraid you’ll let Plan B fit you.”

I’d like to go back and say that to you— you and all the “you”s I have in this world. Plan B doesn’t fit a single person I love. I won’t care any less or more if you choose that path but I just see so much potential for people that it breaks my heart. I see their possibility. I see their goodness. And maybe my friends tell me I am too hopeful but I’d rather see what you’re capable of then be the one who gives up on you when you just needed someone to stand beside you and help you claim the bright things for your life.

So this it. My end of the world my letter. My “God forbid” letter. My “this life is so fragile and quick” letter. And it’s just a lot of hopes I’d like to place in an envelope and tuck in your mailbox: Hope that you’ll say the hard things. That you’ll make the tough choices. That, when life tries to make a leader out of you, you won’t shy away.

Your heart is credible, so listen to it speak. Life is messy: choose to laugh at that instead of cry. Keep people’s feelings at the forefront of your mind but don’t always sacrifice what you want for making other people happy— sometimes you have to make yourself happy.

Don’t search so hard for this happiness thing. People will make you feel like it’s the sort of thing you uncover with a metal detector or a shovel or a magnifying glass. Happiness is tiny glimpses of “okay”ness slipped into the ordinary days. It is cool drinks. And bare feet. And sunburn that looks gracious and kind-of beautiful on your shoulders. Happiness is barely ever big or boisterous, the thing that comes traipsing into the room to make a big scene. Happiness is microscopic on most days, it flows in and out of your daily life. And, on the days when happiness isn’t there, don’t bully yourself so hard: remember we had so many grey days that one vacation with the yellow shovels… funny how I remember the grey days best.

You might never feel ready for the world. Or for other people. Or for someone who wants to hold your hand. Maybe ready isn’t the point. Maybe we get so consumed with the “finished products” and the “ready moments” of this lifetime that we forget real life was just quiet moments we never fully enjoyed. Instagram swept all the mystery away with a filter.

Just choose life. Just choose the people around the table instead of always choosing the ones who are miles away waiting on you to double tap their photos. They’ll be there when you turn back to the screen.

Choose who you have right here, right here. It’s precious. It’s urgent. When they ask you to go get margaritas after dinner, go without reserve. You can buy groceries the next day. Choose long drives. Choose screaming Taylor Swift at the top of your lungs. Choose saying “yes” to dates, even if you don’t know if they’re “the one.”  I guess I just want to beg you to let people in. Welcome them in. Just let people hold your hands and buy you dinner. Let them compliment your smile. Let yourself feel beautiful for five minutes.

Choose dishes left in the sink for nights beneath the stars. Choose random chats in Target with the cashier. Choose using people’s names more often than you don’t. Choose slow dancing in the kitchen.

Remember to give people the decent shot they deserve— you said it yourself, you’re always so hopeful people will take a chance on you.

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The devil, the fighter, and Jimmy with his roses.

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My Uncle Jimmy died on Saturday.

I found out about it on Sunday morning while roaming through a random Target in the middle of Greensboro, North Carolina. I was trying on shoes I didn’t need when the call came through. My mother told me they were taking the ferry to Long Island the next day. One shoe was on. One shoe was off. Looking like Cinderella in a maxi dress with combat boots, I found out he was gone.

That’s the weird thing about losing someone— you expect everyone around you to stop what they’re doing. You expect them to get it. You expect them to put down the shoeboxes and stop surveying the hairspray that give the most volume. You just expect everyone to be still for a few minutes. That’d be nice.

And it would also be nice to walk up to the cashier, the one with the bright red shirt, and say to her, “You get it, right?” It would be nice for her to nod her head and then you’d get to tell her that your favorite memory with Uncle Jimmy happened when you were a sophomore in college. Twenty years old. You were so taken at the time by a boy who read you Walt Whitman poetry as the rest of the world lay sleeping.

It was America’s birthday. You wore a bedazzled dollar store crown made out of tacky red, white & blue parts. You knew it looked stupid but you didn’t really care because your aunt wore one too. And Uncle Jimmy told you that when he saw his wife for the first time, he knew he would marry her. She probably would have begged to differ— she was younger than him by a few years and hardly even knew he existed. He showed up one day with a dozen yellow roses, anxious to hand them off to her. She looked at them for a second, said thank you, threw the roses on a nearby picnic table and ran off to be with her friends. Still, he knew it was her. She would be his girl one day.

That was your favorite story of Uncle Jimmy’s— how he knew it was time to fight for what he wanted. And it was the first story you ever told yourself on repeat when you needed a reminder that some things in life are worth fighting for.

I’ve wanted to write about fighting for things for a while now.

It’s been sitting restlessly on my to-do list just like that, “Write about fighting for things.” But I didn’t really know what to say. Honestly, I still don’t. Every time I go to type something there is this little whisper that hisses inside my head, saying, “Telling me people to go after what they want is selfish. What if they can’t? What if you are filling people with false hope?”

And so I’ve stayed quiet. And I’ve shut up. And I’ve realized, in the days that have drawn in all around me, that not talking about fighting for things is a lot easier than coming outright and telling someone: hey, there is something I’ve always wanted— a job, a different grace, a crazy dream. I want it so bad it keeps me up at night. Is that selfish of me? Is it okay with the world if I still want it, even if I’ve already told myself no?

That’s often the anchor that pulls me down. It isn’t always others. It isn’t always the circumstances. It’s mostly myself. And spoon-feeding myself with the idea that I am not worthy enough, I am not good enough, I am not smart enough. There is someone out there who always gonna be so much more “enough” than me. That person will be the one to get the things I want. 

Even in writing this, I’m afraid of the ways you might be sitting off somewhere thinking to yourself, “but you don’t know the way life has broken my heart.” You’re right. I don’t. And I can’t say that life won’t break your heart a million times more. It probably will. It’s heartbreaking to hear the words “you didn’t get it” and “I’m sorry” and “try again next year.” I get that. 

But then why is there still a whisper that speaks against my mess? Why do I still hear something saying, louder & deeper than my hesitations: You’re still standing here. So it isn’t over yet. What you want is worth fighting for. Please don’t miss out on one of the most worthwhile things of this lifetime: the fight. The struggle. The battle for what is most worth it to you. 

The first time I wrote about Uncle Jimmy and the yellow roses was in 2010.

Around Valentine’s Day over four years ago. It was about true love. It was terribly bad writing. I thought everything in life was simple and you could tie it all up in some pretty white bow. I sat in the parking lot of Target on Saturday morning and reread the words out loud of that post out loud. And I laughed because I was a completely different human. I probably would have never had the courage to say boldly enough back then: you’re worth fighting for. 

But I remember that Uncle Jimmy got a hold of that first piece of writing. And he kept it with him for a long time, a folded up piece of printer paper with my words on it. And he let people read it. And he let strangers and doctors and the cleaning lady know I was out there in the world trying to be a writer. His niece’s daughter— trying to be a writer.

I remember him being really proud of me. And I remember how that feeling— that feeling like someone wanted to claim you because they were just so proud of you— meant everything to me. It kept me fighting to become a writer- a real writer. And he didn’t know it, and I didn’t know it, but two years later I would quit my job for a dream. My safe, secure job. It would happen instantly after months of praying. One day I would be sitting across from a mentor in the industry and I would watch her mouth the words to me, “If you don’t go for this now, while the steam is here, I am afraid you will forget how to go for it at all.”

That would be enough. It would be enough to mobilize me to march into my supervisor’s office that next Monday and quit my job.

And, just as I was ready to announce my six weeks notice, all the power in the entire building would go out. And I would be standing there, wondering if it was a sign from the universe that I shouldn’t be quitting. Friends, I was so terrified. I mean, I was trembling and shaking and thinking all these ugly thoughts in my head: you can’t do this. You can’t possibly make this work. You want to be a writer? Cool. Funny. Awesome. Good luck.

As everyone around me proceeded to pack up their things and leave work for the day at 2pm– thrilled to know half of the tiny town in Connecticut was having an unexpected power outage– I stayed in the doorway of my boss. I told her I had to say something, even in the dark. I could not leave until I said something.

And when it was over, I got into my car and I cried big, thick, “I am so fearful” tears. I remember Florence & the Machine coming on the radio. Just this one line pumping through the speakers: And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back. So shake it off.

In the 30 seconds it took to say out loud– I am leaving this job at the start of July— I did not become a different person. I didn’t become a fearless person. I was still me. I still cared too much. I still fell for strangers. I still misjudged the amount of mexican food I could handle. I still messed up (a lot) and failed (a lot) in the years to come. That was actually the first day of what would turn into a daily battle, a daily fight to live inside of a dream job I wanted for myself. And it would be tears. And sweat. And doubt. And judgement. And Yes. And No. And fighting in the face of maybe not getting what I wanted after all. And having to be okay with that. 

But my mind was made up. And I did give up the devil that day in the car. I did decide that I was going to build a life out of words, no matter how crazy that seemed to admit out loud. I had an Uncle Jimmy moment. And I think him and I could agree on this: fighting for what you want won’t always make you a new person. And it won’t guarantee some red carpet or some dream coming true. You won’t always get the job. You won’t get the girl. You might not get picked. But maybe you will. And maybe “winning” or “getting it” or “arriving” has never been the point. Maybe we just came down here to learn how to be relentless, little fighters & good keepers of one another. I don’t know much but I know this: so much of life is worth the fight. You are never wrong to want to fight for the things that make you come alive. 

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Field Notes: Vol. 3

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Digital to-do list. Best app I’ve seen.

Commissioned this gal for a painting & I cannot gush about her work enough. Big plus: She’s a gem-and-a-half.

For the people who wanna do something.

Fitness blogger in NYC. This girl dominates my heart.

Girl power.

On a keychain binge.

You need to read everything she’s ever written. Specifically this. She’s my new favorite person. Place. Thing. Blog. Whatever.

You asked where I got my sweet leopard kicks.

But really… the best ever.

Sharpen up, babycakes.

Are you “that” person who sends too many emails too late at night? Game changer.

Best friend found this yesterday. Easily watched it a dozen times. Just for giggles in the middle of your workday.

Here’s to many hopes your weekend will be filled with lots of waffles & late night banter & chick flicks. Fill me in on your beautiful weekend! Got any good plans? Any sweet parties I can crash?! 

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This was never a hopeless place.

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You asked if we could go for a walk because you had something to give me.

We were the last two standing in the living room. Whatever mascara left on my face was huddled in the corners of my eyelids, clutching to the last few lashes it could find. I didn’t even nod my head to tell you yes before we were walking out the door and charging down the street, as if we knew the directions we were going in.

“I hate goodbyes,” I told you.

“I hate them too,” you whispered back into the dark. “It’s like I wish I were a octupus and I could keep everyone all in one place.” I guess it doesn’t work that way. No, I guess it really doesn’t.

Originally it was going to be your life and my life, packed and tangled and sitting in two cars as we drove down the highway with our arms hanging out with the window, letting the wind pursue the gaps in our fingers. And then suddenly—swiftly— it was just my car getting packed. And just my life getting thrown into boxes. And it was just me, surrounded by all our best friends, as everyone told me goodbye. You watched from the corner with tears in your eyes and I almost wanted to point at you and announce to the whole room, “It rips us the most.” Everyone probably knew that already though; it’s just that no one said anything.

So on that last night, before life changed for good, we went walking down the street and we left our cars parked in the road. And we didn’t talk at all about the lesson life thrusted upon the both of us when we found out you would stay and I would go: there are no such things as hopeless places. People just don’t deep enough to find the hope surrounding them.

We stopped at a playground and you figured the gate would be locked. Lucky for us, it wasn’t. We toured the playground saying nothing and touched our hands to the spring rider ladybugs and slides and seesaws, looking for a place to sit and face one another. We chose a bench and you started to cry.

“Ever since we became friends, all this stuff is always coming out of my eyes,” you laughed. “It’s all your fault.”

I couldn’t argue with that. I am the hurricane and you are the rock. I cry over things that haven’t happened yet. Milk that hasn’t spilt yet. I always used to wonder what made you a rock. I still wonder that: what made you a rock? What made you so solid that you never tipped or wavered or acted like the world could hurt you until me?

“I think I’ve cried too much tonight,” I told you. “I don’t think there are anymore tears left for me.”

Just an hour earlier, I’d been heaving and huffing while people took turns to pray for me. And I wished I could reach up my hands and tell them to stop. I wish that would have been okay to say that when they placed their hands on my shoulders or my lap, like, “Please don’t touch me if you plan to let me go. Can’t you just tell me I need to stay here forever?”

If someone had told me that— that I couldn’t go anywhere, that I had to stay right here— I might have listened. I might have unpacked my car. I might have deleted the playlist that would take me 16 hours south. I might have just pretended that all of it had been crazy— the feeling I was supposed to leave, go, pick up, walk away, start over, rebuild, and all the like.

“It’s your card,” you told me. “But I am going to read it to you.”

You ripped the thing out from the envelope and suddenly I was wrong. I started crying. You cried more. It was in that moment, waiting for you to say something, that I realized suitcases were never about the lace you’d pack or the jeans you’d fold to fit inside. Suitcases were just a bad invention thought up by an inconsiderate inventor who probably never wondered how many people would try to find a way to wedge someone they loved inside of that small space with the latch on the side. I pictured closing you up in that suitcase and releasing you free when we got to where we were going, laughing at the world and saying, “Ha! Ha! Ha! You couldn’t keep us apart.”

Was it okay that I was mad at the world as you spoke? I was so freaking angry with the world, or life, or God, or whatever thing it is that lets two people meet and then pulls them apart. We were young. We didn’t get it yet. We didn’t know that life was just a series of letting go moments. And we wouldn’t learn, for at least another month, that sometimes letting someone go is the best present you can give them. The two of you don’t even know that you’re looking for a gift. The two of you don’t know that sometimes it’s the geography, the shift in the trees and the people, that will break a person out of the cocoon of their past and finally let the word “free” go out from their lungs. Sometimes maps are giant, colored permission slips to be someone you never allowed yourself to be.

You read the card out loud to me and you gave me a feather to hold in your hand. You’d found the feather just before. Long and skinny, it had once been very lucky to be tucked into the wings of such a pretty bird. And you didn’t know, because I didn’t tell you, but I’d written words in my diary earlier that made so much sense to me as I held that feather in my hands: I am ready to leave this place. I lost everything I needed to after that broken heart came sweeping through. It came right off of me like feathers fall off the wings of the birds that are finally flying southward bound for home. So yes, the feather meant something more to me, even if you only wanted to tell me that I was gonna fly.

As you read, you cried and thanked me. You thanked me for being something I never knew I was: someone who would always choose dreams over money, and freedom over fear. Someone who wanted the late night diner trips. And the lack of bedtime. And the good stories and the good people and the good church services that don’t make you feel scraped clean at the end of them, they make you feel alive and thankful that God made you with a fire that doesn’t dim so easily.

In that moment as you read to me, and I held that feather, I was suddenly the girl I always wanted to be: someone who had no interest any longer in being the girl on fire. She’d much rather set the world on fire with all the quiet and beautiful things she did.

In the last of your sentences, you told me to go. And this time, when you said it, the word looked nothing like “stay.” And I was suddenly so thankful you told me to go. Because no matter what you’ve ever told me, I have always listened and trusted you to be right.

We walked away from that night. 

I didn’t look at you from the window of my car because I didn’t want to see you crying. God, I hate goodbyes and I hate reliving goodbyes after they’re gone. And I turned on the radio and did what I’d done since I was thirteen years old, pretending whatever song came on the radio would be like a fortune cookie– predicting what would happen next. I turned the dial. Closed my eyes. And Rihanna poured into car.

We found love in a hopeless place. We found love in a hope-less place.

The song was irrelevant. I turned off the radio and started to drive.

I whispered into the night the things I didn’t say to you when I had the chance, when you were right beside me on that bench: “I believe in you. I always have and I always will. You’re capable. You’re good enough. You said so yourself, you wanted to be a bird. So memorize the separating factor between birds and all the other things: they figure out how to fly and then they stop imagining what life looks like when you touch the ground.

So be a bird. Be a bird. Some of us are fit to fly. You told me that yourself. And some of us will harbor broken hearts for an entire lifetime all because we never gave those wings a chance. Don’t be that broken bird.”

The car kept turning down familiar roads and I laughed to myself. Just the next day I’d have to use a map to get anywhere. It would change just like that. I turned the radio back on and Rihanna was still there.

I laughed again. We found all the hope. This was never a hopeless place.

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Field Notes: Vol. 2

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You asked me where I got my planner. This is the promise land.

Get ready to die & go to script heaven. Kal be the real deal. Fo sheezy.

If you wanna fall in love with an Atlanta blogger… meet Folly.

This sermon. Ummm… hello.

Pucker up. This is the right sort of crack for your lips. I’ve pinned my loyalties.

Mostly, I wanted to thank him for insisting I could be happy.

Adorable products. Andddddd… you get to send sweet little munchkins to school.

This is the best print ever created.

This TED talk is hilarious. But it’s great for the singles.

I’ve been sneaking these into all my packages lately. Especially the yellow ones.

Here’s to many hopes your weekend will be filled with lots of pillows & hammocks & Frank Sinatra ballads & old classic novels. Pretty please, if you have good suggestions to be featured through “Field Notes” then send my way ((hannah@hannahbrencher.com)).

(( photo cred. ))

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Riding in lifeboats with ghosts.

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With permission, I have posted the email below.

Afternoon Hannah,

I’m moving to Athens, GA in three weeks. I know absolutely no one. I’m taking out a loan to start graduate school after I worked so hard to pay my way through undergrad to be debt free. And I’m going into a field I’m not 100% sold out on. And when I leave this Texas town that I’ve called home for the past four years I’m leaving behind my best friend. Only, he doesn’t realize it. He ended our relationship right after graduation in May because he doesn’t have his life figured out and cannot ask me to wait around. We were friends before we ever dated and have remained friends even after. But for whatever reason, the guy who shared my common desire to talk deep things and look beyond the surface level, he isn’t that person anymore…not with me anyways.

And that’s the thing. I woke up one morning in June and realized that I’m going to be okay. I’m ready to move on and let go. And I’m so excited to venture into the unknown. But like how a ticking clock ‘s tick becomes louder when you start to listen, this nagging in the back of my mind still remains. He was my friend…and still should be. The world awaits for me and I see him settling for mediocrity. Staying where it’s comfortable. And I’m torn. What if I’m the one person who can speak into him? Should I? People are happy that I’m ready to move on. Heck I feel pretty good about myself too. But I can’t watch him sink in the clear water of conventionalism while muddy challenges are meant to be seized. What do I do with someone who always asked me to hold them accountable, talks of appreciating those who are willing to say the hard things? Am I crossing the line? I’m supposed to be “letting go”. I don’t know if this is the right thing to do and I don’t know if anyone else would do it. I don’t even know if he would receive it.

But I have two-ish more weeks. I’ll see him at church and when we go visit the old lady we’ve been seeing every Friday night for the past two years. And then August 4th will come and he won’t see me again. And he doesn’t even realize what he’s losing (at least it appears that way).

Any words?

Future Georgia Newbie


Dearest J–

I have this friend from Atlanta who thinks we all have ghosts. That is exactly how he said it to me one night as we were driving through the mountains of north Georgia: “We all have ghosts.”

“Mine has green eyes,” I told him. I didn’t even flinch. I knew exactly what he meant. I knew I was guilty of my own ghost hosting— keeping someone around to haunt my memory. Finding threads of him in love songs. Dwelling on the “what if.” Letting the “what might have been” rock me to sleep at night. 

People notice when you have a ghost. Not always but usually. Some people see it quicker because they have their own ghosts.

And while I’m not an expert or a ghost buster, I think a ghost gets born out of a constant wish that maybe you and another person might have more to say to each other. Like maybe you never reached the point of finally saying everything. And maybe, just maybe, if you can manage to keep a person in your orbit or your memory a little while longer then you’ll never have to face the real truth: you can’t fix everything. You are a human. Not a fixer. Not a maker. Not a lifeboat with enough seats to save a slew of green-eyed boys if you needed to. 

I’ll write that again: You’re aren’t a lifeboat.

There is a savior mentality stitched into most of us. We want to save. We want to fix. Because thinking we can be saviors and lifeboats is so much easier than letting go of someone we learned how to love with our whole body.

And this guy probably doesn’t need saving. I could be wrong but I think I might be right. You just want different things and that’s hard to swallow. Maybe you two are the pretty, yellow parallel lines in the middle of the roadway— you’re both going somewhere but you might not touch again. 

And I only say all of this because I used to think I was a lifeboat and I used to (wrongly) think the whole world— my family, my town, my friends— were for my saving purposes. There was a harsh little wakeup call waiting for me around the corner of that prideful purpose I’d given myself: Not everyone wants what you want. And not everyone wants to save the world. Some people want air. Some people want a family. Some people want dreams they can’t even touch. Calling is different for everyone but the mistake is made when we start thinking the way we measure our own success defines what other people’s mediocrity looks like. 

You want something different for that guy of yours. You might be willing to fight for it, struggle for it, and claw for it. But, sadly, that doesn’t mean you’ll win out for him in the end. He has to want to win himself. And we don’t get to put our own definitions of “winning” onto someone else. 

It took me a long time to stand in this space of believing all of this for myself. I wasted a lot of time telling a love story that always ended the same— that green-eyed boy never went back to who he used to be. I really should correct that for all my years I said it wrong. While it’s true he never went back to who he used to be, I really should have been saying something different all those years, “He never became who I wanted him to be. And that’s the expectation I should have never put on him, this expectation that he was supposed to please me with his becoming.”

One random Saturday night in college I met a boy at a party.

I was two years into having a ghost with green eyes. This guy was tall. He was Irish. I think for five minutes I thought about how Irish our babies would be. I was just happy he wanted to talk to me. You know that feeling, it’s just really nice to feel like the center of someone’s universe within a sea of red solo cups. I liked the way he leaned his head against the door frame and watched me talk. We left the party holding hands. I remember there was this strange fog that seemed to sit in the air that night, as if there was some sort of shelf we couldn’t see holding that fog at eye level. We got to the spot where our paths split and he kissed me at the bus station. I wasn’t really used to kissing strangers but I liked the way his eyes looked when they were on me.

And then he pulled back and stared at me.

“Someone hurt you really badly in the past,” he said. “I can see it in your eyes. I’m sorry.”

He released me from his grip. “I don’t want to be that guy to you but, if we keep this going, I will be.” 

At that exact moment, Joey Potter and Dawson jumped out from the bushes and screamed, “YOU’VE BEEN PUNK’D!!!!!!” 

No, that didn’t really happen. Not the Dawson and Joey part. But yes, he said those words. And yes, you are right, I think he was probably hiding the fact from me that he wrote the scripts to Emmy award-winning dramas when not in biology class. I mean, those are Dawson’s Creek words. 

I winced when he said that because I already knew the ghost standing in my own eyes. And I wanted so badly for the ghost to release me. 

I turned to walk away from him. I trudged up the hill to my apartment with tears in my eyes. I pulled my laptop out off of my desk when I got back to my room and I started to type a letter to him— the ghost. I wish I could remember all the words but I know somewhere in there I said what needed to be said for the last few years: I had expectations for you. And you didn’t meet them.

It had always been his fault to me until, in that moment, it wasn’t any longer. It was no one’s fault: We loved one another once. And then life brought us in different directions. And we would both be okay. He just wasn’t mine. I just wasn’t his. And maybe a ghost gets born on the day you can’t accept the hardest fact: someone else will love them, someone else will love them in a way you know you can’t. 

And then it was over, J. Like that. It was over when I finally found the final words. I still thought of him, yes. I still found him in random songs, yes. But I let go when the truth tumbled out of me: you can’t always love someone how you hoped to after they choose to become someone other than who you thought they’d always be.

Some people call that forgiveness. Other people call that closure. Sometimes it’s just letting go. Letting someone off the hook you built for them. Final words shift the atmosphere though. 

If it’s going to kill you to not say something to him then say it.

Maybe write a letter. Send it or don’t send it. But try your hardest to find final words for this because your mind is already made up on certain truths that trump your hope to keep you both standing in one place: you’re going away. You’re starting something exciting and new. It’s gonna be good. You don’t love him the way you used to. You both have different callings. The past is a square tin box that looks smaller every time we go back to it. But no, it isn’t your job to try to fit yourself inside of it.

And as for that boy not seeing what he is losing? I guess we don’t know. But you should take the inventory when you walk away for good. You should know exactly what anyone in this world loses when you walk out of the room– not in a prideful way or a boastful way, just in a “you’re kind of awesome” sort-of way.

So here’s the inventory, the thing you get to pack when you head over to Georgia come August 4th: You’re whole. You’re doing this. You’re gonna be okay. You’re ready. That’s the big one: you’re ready. And after the “ready” comes the “set.” And after “set” comes “go.” So take the ready in your fists and make the set, J. And when you make the set, be sure to go. I guess that’s all that is left to say: You’re ready to go– without all the lifeboats and without all the ghosts.

hb.

I would appreciate if we could keep the conversation going for J. Please post a comment of blessing, a lesson, a mini love letter. Whatever you please. She is reading and I know she would appreciate it too.

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Here’s to temporary.

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Sitting on the countertop, legs crossed one over the other, I thought to myself, “Maybe I am a pushover. Maybe I am too easily swayed.” The thought tumbled back and forth my head. I switched positions. Snaked my Converse between the metal handles of the cabinets below me. “Maybe I just knew what I wanted. Or what I was afraid to want but knew I needed.” 

It makes no difference really. The truth of the matter is this: I didn’t let God back into my life in a church. It wasn’t with my hands pressed against a Bible. It was in the car. A 1999 green CRV if you want to picture it in your head. I loved that car more than anything and, when it got totaled, it was devastating to see it go. Like losing a best friend who always managed to hold all your junk and changes of clothes and CD collection and stray cups of coffee in one place. But I just remember being in the car one night and hearing a song on the radio. I’d never heard it before. And every inch of that song— the words that came pushing through the speakers to get to me— drove me to tears and started me talking to the ceiling of the car, as if it were a telephone and God was on the other side. 

Maybe I want to come back. Maybe I just don’t want to be alone. I don’t really know. I don’t really want a rulebook. Maybe I just want to know how to make my life matter. Could you show me that? Are you there, God? 

It was in that song, in the first two lines, that I felt everything like I’d never felt it before. 

“He is jealous for me / loves like a hurricane, I am the tree.” 

I’ve never loved something more than those two lines. I’d heard of the God who was a dictator. I heard of the God who was a ruler and much like my high school principal. I’d heard of the fluffy God who could maybe grant you everything you wanted. That God then proceeded to make no sense when faced with the truth: people you love die. Boys you love leave you. Bad things happen to good people. Life hurts.

But this sort of God? The kind of God that could get jealous for me? I knew jealousy. I knew the power of that feeling. I guess I was just at a point in my life where I never thought anyone would get jealous for me. Thinking God might get jealous for me, that was powerful. And that was all I really needed to know. I just wanted to believe there might be the kind of God who had no problem just saying, “Hey, I want all of you. Not the scraps of you. Not whatever is leftover after you let other people play tag sale with your heart. I want everything you’ve got. Your good. Your bad. Your ugly. Don’t you change a thing. Come to me, just as you are.” 

I told the girl, the one sitting across from me on the countertop, that it only ever took that song lyric and the anticipation that God would want me that badly to be able to say, “I’m all in. I’m all in if you’re all in.” 

She asked if I knew the background of the song. I didn’t. The next thing I know, I am clutching her iPhone watching a YouTube video featuring a man named John Mark McMillan. He’s the one who wrote that song. It’s called “How He Loves.” The whole song is really perfect. It’s the type of song you kind of wish could grow arms and legs and talk to you like people do because, oh my goodness, there’d be so much to say to that song. 

In the video he is on stage. You can’t see his fingers but you know he is keeping the slow steady tune of a guitar while he talks to the crowd. He tells what I imagine is probably a couple thousand people that he once had a best friend named Stephen Coffey.  And it was Stephen Coffey who once prayed out loud in a church meeting, “I would give my life if it would shake the youth of this nation.” The next day, Stephen Coffey died in a car accident. And it was only because his best friend John didn’t know how to do much more than try to have a conversation with God that this song was written. 

I try to picture what Mark was feeling when he got down on his knees and tried to talk to God but my heart doesn’t even know how to get that place. Maybe you’ve stood in that chasm before though. I’ve only seen the smaller scales of asking God the bigger questions, “Why? Why do you let things like this happen? How can they be for the better and the good?” It makes no sense. Then again, a lot of life makes no sense. 

But it was the death of Mark’s best friend that would stir the words of that song “How He Loves” and manage to shake millions upon hearing it. I mean, millions. I’m just one of the plenty who managed to come tumbling back to God because of those words. I have John Mark McMillan and Stephen Coffey to thank. 

After the video was over I handed the iPhone back to my friend. I couldn’t help but look at things differently after watching that clip. I mean, I am probably already the more morbid one in all my friend groups but I was sitting there and I couldn’t shake the feeling inside of me that just kept saying on repeat, “All of this is so temporary. And your problems are so small. And people lose the people they love every single day. And what is there to speak for your life if you are gone tomorrow?” 

That could happen. Really, it could. I might not be here. You might not be here. We never know. It’s a strange gamble. But I want to make it count. I so badly want to make it count. It’s a story like Stephen’s— his life a sacrifice for the millions who would come to commune with God because of his best friend’s grief— that make me realize this whole life will never be about the answers we think we need to find. It’s not about the planners we fill. It is not about whether we get asked on that date of if we get chosen for that love story. It can’t be about those things— it has to be about something bigger. Don’t you think? 

It’s bigger than the ladders you learn to climb. It’s bigger than the acceptance you think you need to gain. It’s bigger than the latest product. Or the ways in which this world tries to barter with us for happiness. I mean, it’s bigger than you. And your loneliness. And all the ways you manage to kick yourself down and breathless before breakfast. That’s probably the hardest and most refreshing lesson you will ever learn: life has very little to do with you. You get to show up. You get to make moves. You get to touch lives. But no, you don’t become the starring role. And you don’t get the guarantee of having more time. And yes, that is terrifying. But urgency is beautiful, especially when you come to the spot inside of yourself that speaks the truthiest truth of all truths: life is about people. And thankfully, there is no shortage of those. So what do you want to give to the people who surround you? And how do you want to show up? 

I’ll probably never write a checklist or a numbered list regarding what I think life is all about.

There’d only ever be one number on the list and one box to mark off: Love. That’s it. That’s all. We’re all just soldiers in this one constant battle called “Love.” And “love harder.” And “love faster.” And so instead of making more lists to convince myself a good life is all about the number of times I make it to the gym or the amount of green and leafy things I manage to consume, I only ever try to do one thing. It’ll sound crazy but I try to imagine myself and my best friend, sitting on my bed just the way we always did when we were still in college. We’d sit there for hours— indian-style with mugs of Lipton tea between our hands. The white lights would sprawl around the room like ivy and we liked to pretend that time would keep standing still for us. I like to imagine she and I coming back to one another—  years after all of this growing up stuff is over— and finally getting to sit back down on the bed to talk about life. How it was to us. Where we stumbled. Where we grew. And I try to think to myself: When you get to your best friend at the end of all of this, what kind of stories do you want to tell her? That’s the secret to how I step out and try to live my best daily: I think about the kind of life I want to tell my best friend about one day when we are old and grey and I want to make her real proud. 

I don’t think she’ll want to know about the calories. She won’t care for a second about the boys I handed my phone number off to (okay, maybe a little). She’ll just want to know the answers to the good stuff: did you love? Did you serve? Were you willing to give your whole life just so it might shake the existence of someone else?

I just hope the answer to all her questions is yes. You have no idea how badly I want the answer to be yes. 

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Since some Mondays are worse than Sallie Mae, I created a little breakfast club/secret society to help kick Mondays off right. You are reading me right. Every Monday. Me. You. We roll out via email and your morning brew. I promise to meet you with only the good stuff. Highly recommended for movers, shakers, and original gangsters. No rules. You feeling me, boo?

click here to join the wait list for the Monday Morning Breakfast Club Email

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Field Notes: Volume 1

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hey you– 

Gosh, I’ve wanted to do this forever. When I say “this,” I really mean– have a little more fun with this space and come out from behind the writing every once in a while. I come across so many cool companies, heart-gonna-fall-out-my-chest missions, swoon-worthy words, and inspiration on a daily basis and I often wish there was a place to stockpile it all. Like, where do you put all your coolest finds in a week? And if that space does not exist yet, do you create it? 

So here’s to creation. Here’s to having a bit more fun on Friday. Here’s to sharing favorites and swapping inspiration like trading cards. Here’s to the beginning of what I want to call “Field Notes”– a collection of the most baller people, places, & thangs on a Friday. 

Onward.

hb. 

These art prints are currently all over my new bedroom.

And these art prints are screaming “HUSTLE” all over my office.

This book has become my go-to gift for friends in a transition spot in life.

Her words. Swoon.

I mean, if you can’t make the real leap– go temporary but stylish.

She’s funny. She’s real. You’ll laugh & cry & want her to be your best friend. Meet Roo.

Also, she designed this notebook. A lot of you have asked me where I got it from… dat’s the link.

This mug is bigger than my head. And I use it daily. It was made for the kinds of days when you just want to wrap your fingers around a big cup of coffee and dominate the day.

I can’t stop listening. Surrsly. This band. Two words: Southern Skies

The workout that is kicking my butt daily… and I am obsessed.

This company — and their mission — steal my heart.

I mean, you had me at peanut butter.

Happy weekend, friends! Sending you light & love & many hopes that you’ll find your Saturday & Sunday filled with good coffee & good conversations.

(( photo cred. ))

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It was all you had to give when you were asked to give it all.

“I poured my brain and heart into this, and maybe I’ll hate it in two years, because that’s the nature of being my age, but for now, it’s the most powerful thing I can give.”

Lorde.

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The ground didn’t shake.

The trees didn’t bend. No earthly element was pushed out of its place when the book was done. The whole week before, I’d been anticipating what would happen when I placed that last period down. Would I crawl up into a ball on the floor and cry? I mean, that wouldn’t be so different from the events of every other day after my writing hours were through. Would I finally feel a sense of peace? I’d been taking Doubt and Insecurity and Fear into the wrestling ring of my mind for the last few months and I wanted to be able to dole out a final punch of Victory that would wipe them all out. 

I had no real idea what would happen, outside of me or inside of me, when I finished my first book. The one I’ve been working on for seven months now. I just knew I had to keep typing, and keep going, and keep trying until I reached the point where I could whisper or scream, “It’s done. It’s over. It’s through.”

It was a Friday night when the first draft of the book was finally, finally finished. I remember it was dark outside already, since it was January. Earlier in the day I’d taken a walk. In the rain. Like a zombie, letting the little water pellets fall all over my skin and not really caring that maybe the neighbors thought I was crazy for walking in the rain in the thick of January. I remember praying to God, deeper prayers than usual— “Please, get this out of me. Please. Let me be finished.” 

That’s what no one ever talks about (or rarely talks about) when it comes to writing a book— it’s painful. So painful. In a way that I don’t actually know how to type but there are words waiting somewhere for me. And this is no disrespect to people who’ve felt other forms of pain, I am not trying to dishonor you. It is only to say that getting a book out of you– resolving a story that is still happening all around you– isn’t a fluffy feeling. It hurts like hell. And some days you don’t leave the room you’re writing inside of for ten hours. And other days you can’t do much more than cry. And then some days you are slamming the keys screaming, Yes, Yes, Yes! because you’ve reached a point of breakthrough— and everyone loves a breakthrough. 

And every so often I would scroll my mouse to click on the notifications for new emails. A mental break from my own words. And I would click the emails with ugly subject lines. And I would read the stories of people I’d never met who told me about loves lost and passions coming back. They left their heartbreak in my inbox like mints on pillows in the hotel room. I couldn’t respond to every single one so I’d just take a sticky note and I’d scribble down their name. I’d post it on my wall. I’d say a quick prayer. And I’d keep going. I’d keep writing with them in the forefront of my mind.

And I can only describe it all– all the hours in the writing room– as this: writing a book is like giving birth. There is the carrying of something inside of you. That something is a precious something. There are the slow and throbbing contractions. There is the heavy labor that leaves you ugly crying on the floor. There is the release— the solid release and assurance that the pushing is over. It is out of you. It is done. You can see it in your hands. You’ve somehow said all you needed to say. And it doesn’t matter if it is pretty, or right, or relevant, or following all the other writer rules— it is true. And it is yours. It is your truth sitting on the outside of you. And it is exactly all you had to give in the moment when you were asked to give it all you had. 

Most days in the book writing, I beat myself up the hardest not for the words but for the numbers.

The age that I was. I beat myself up for being young. For thinking I had anything worth saying at the age of 25. I mean, I’m 25. I’m 25. I’m 25. Can I write that again? I’m 25. And I understood why people would people look at me strange and say I was young to write a memoir. I agreed. And it probably could have been easier to just write a letter and pass it out instead of opening my mouth in agreement every time someone worried alongside me about my age:

Dear everyone, 

I am 25. Yes. 1988 was a great year. I loved being born into it. But I am starting to realize age— old or young— is an excuse. And I won’t be the kind of person who lets a number stand in the way of me knowing that life is fleeting and a lot of times we don’t get promised the things we thought we would be promised. And our loves go away. And our best friends die. And our skin shrivels. And we get sick. And it’s all scary and beautiful and reason enough to start something now. Right now. This second. Don’t even finish the letter, maybe. Go if you have to go. Life is waiting for you. 

Really, there is so much to prove my undeniable youth to the world— I still haven’t mastered the proper use of sunblock or a conventional oven. I still miss my friends from college. I still do some sort of wicked, daily dance with Sallie Mae. A boy in a random coffee shop is still capable of being the most important thing in my orbit. 

I can’t speak for marriage. I can’t speak for divorce. I can’t speak for having enough money to take myself around the world. I can’t speak for a courage I never had to hike a trail on the other side of a country or sell all my belongings and start a new life. I can only speak for the parts of me that ever wanted do something wonderful. I can only speak for how it sometimes feels like you are drowning in a world where everyone is superglued to their devices and their networks. I can only speak for how it feels to be so uneasy with sitting alone with yourself but how I wanted to gain enough confidence to finally be able to say, “I know exactly what sits at the root of me. And I’m not afraid of it any longer.”

I can only write this book from the perspective of a girl who wanted certain things when this story started— to find God, to fall in love, and to do something that mattered in the world. I can speak for that. 

— hb

Like I wrote earlier, the ground didn’t shake when I finished the book.

And nothing really felt different around me. I took a hot shower, ran my fingers through my hair as if the scrubbing motions could wash everything off of me now that it was over. I was finished. I dried my hair and put clothes on and I wore my favorite beanie and I went out to find a burger the size of my head and a glass of wine. It wasn’t what I thought it would be and yet it was all I really wanted. 

I guess I thought I would feel bigness all around me in a moment like that one— one where a first book gets finished and turned into an editor. A lot of times though— excluding weddings, or busy hospital rooms, or parties where we wear a new age— there’s no bigness to the moment that changes your life. There’s just you, in a quiet room, letting something go. There’s just you, in a bustle of a busy restaurant, finally feeling free. 

I didn’t even talk about the book that night. I kept it’s finality in my lips like a secret. I was tired of talking. For five minutes, I just wanted to be in love with a truth I’d been waiting to hold for so long: I did something I never thought I could do and it wasn’t the craziest thing in the world to believe in myself. I was actually right to believe in myself.

That’s who will you lead you in the book.

If you pick it up from a bookstore and hold it in your hands at the start of March, that’s who will wave at you from the very first page and ask you politely to take her hand— a girl who wanted to know that one day she might wake up and actually believe in herself to be something more than a mess in the world. She’ll write about letting go, and holding tighter, and waiting for things. She will write about grief and triumph and the things that have always been bigger than her but she wanted to understand them so badly anyway.  

She’ll be 22. She’ll be unreliable and yet so committed to the journey. She’ll be insecure and yet so eager to find confidence the way you find old socks beneath the bed.

She’ll be a girl who rarely knows what coffee to order, nevermind who to fall in love with. A girl who once thought being “chosen” by a guy was the end goal, the reason to show up and fight. A girl who, when she was 22-years-old, looked down and realized: the world is so incredibly big and my hands are so incredibly small. The two don’t seem to match up. But she was a girl who knew that the world never stopped needing people who were hungry for more, and she needed to not miss her casting call for that. 

A girl who, as cheesy as it seems, wished she could figure out why people sometimes call this whole life a “love letter.” Yes, she wanted those answers. And so she went out into the streets of New York City, and the subways, and the libraries, and the churches, and the coffee shops to answer that one question for herself— how do people ever get to the point of falling in love with their own life? 

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