Keep painting the world, dipping all your brushes into the same big bucket called “A Better Place.”


I learned at sleep-away bible camp in the 5th grade that God had messed up in making me.

One) It is beyond me why a bunch of camp counselors would make a bunk full of homesick, Bible-toting adolescents draw pictures of what they missed the most. Two) While others around me struggled to capture the soft features of their mothers and the shades and shadows of their fathers, I learned I was a real artist. But it was only because my bunk mates were drawing their families and I had drawn a bed. Drawing a bed is pretty hard to mess up.

As the pictures were hung up, one by one around the cabin, it was then that I saw how screwed up of a human being I really was. Susie’s family, Rachel’s dog. Alyssa’s teacher. Hannah’s bed. I contemplated taking a canoe out to the middle of the lake (even though I failed my swim test) and just waiting. Eventually some author would come along and write a book about me, place me in the character realm right next to the Grinch who stole Christmas and Ebenezer Scrooge. Two other individuals who didn’t know how to handle other people either.

Contrary to popular “Hannah Katy” rhetoric, I have a very hard time letting feelings show. I have never been a hugger, I am not used to being touched and (I will just admit it right now) I don’t like animals in the least bit. Believe me I tried to adore the furry friends on the front of folders in elementary school, it just was not happening. Phrases like “I love you” and “I miss you” often lose their way to detours put up by my own insecurities.

I sometimes wonder, if we were to read the description and qualifications of being a human off of Craig’s List, would we apply for the job? We would never be guaranteed to know if the position was short term or long term. We might find it appealing to experiment with abstract concepts of Love and Happiness and Loss, we might wonder why a position as extensive as this is unpaid. We would more than likely question why no manual exists to help us out when things fall apart. We might wonder why, when we grow older in the position, we will move miles and miles away from ones that we love. And we will label it life. And Living. And Becoming Masters of the Art of Missing Others.

I genuinely used to believe that I could skip this whole “missing” business, if I did not get too attached to anyone then I would never have to miss them. I could go on missing my bed, not my family.

We could get rid of missing each other altogether, why not do that? The whole thing is pointless. It’s hard. It’s not fun. It’s quite heartbreaking. But  it might be better to miss someone deeply then to miss out on ever knowing them, in fear that “Goodbye” might one day emerge from their lips.

Te Extrano, as the barbers across the street might say. I miss you. I miss you when the subway pulls up but you are not waiting alongside me to take the ride into Manhattan. I miss when the world falls asleep at night but I am used to your laughter as my bedtime story. I miss you when the coffee pot drizzles in the morning, when my “real laugh” comes out. I miss when you when I see a big white van and I think to myself: We should all be riding together in there again, singing songs about changing the world. I miss you when a little child asks to hold my hand; I gladly outstretch five fingers but I know your five fingers don’t stretch back.

I miss you as the leaves start changing their wardrobe, blushing a luscious shade of red before falling to the ground. I miss you as the world begins gathering closer, stores begin hanging wreaths before Halloween candy even leaves the shelves, and the holiday season tip toes towards us.

I miss you. And some days I want to take up topography so that I can rewrite the maps. Put Timid Towns of Massachusetts Next to Burly Boroughs of New York City. Draw the Confident Coast of Cali Next to the Vibrant Villages of South Africa and Peru. Take the Chicago Skyline and Sew It Right Above All Our Heads.

It does not work that way, in the same way that we cannot keep every person we love by our sides forever. My best friend gave me a card on the day I left for New York, it reads quite perfectly: “In the end, I think that I will like that we are sitting on the bed, talking & wondering where the time had gone.

You are There and I am Here and, as hard as it is, I will resist chopping off the T from There to place you Here. I am becoming fine with missing you, I even believe I am lucky to have you to miss. So maybe I don’t inherit your smile or words on a daily basis but I trust that someone else does, someone who might need it more than me right now.

I trust the world enough to know that we are separate for a reason. We go to our own corners of the world to spread Love & Influence. Compassion & Radiance. You take Chicago and I will take New York. We’ll all meet up somewhere in the middle, missing each other wildly, but with a collection of stories that we could have never found if we had chosen to never part.

From Worcester to South Africa, Chicago to Peru, San Diego to Lawrence and back to North Haven: Be safe. Be strong. Keep painting the world, dipping all your brushes into the same big bucket called “A Better Place.”

12 thoughts on “Keep painting the world, dipping all your brushes into the same big bucket called “A Better Place.”

  1. Goodness gracious, Hannah. The way you create words simply amazes me. I can definitely see an “Essays of Hannah Katy” in the bookstore someday in the near future.

    I compare this a lot to my relationship with my mother, who is also my best friend. I know there is going to be a time when I’ll have to move away from her, maybe far away. It scares me, but I know it’s an experience that will only make me stronger.

    1. Can we cross our fingers together? I would love nothing more than to sit on a book shelf one day.

      It is hard to be distant from the people we love, especially the mamas. I miss my mom all the time but, honestly, it fuels and fires me up to do the best that I can knowing that she will be proud, no matter where I am. Everything I do, I do for her and the ones that I love. It is a wonderful way to miss people: by dedicating our selves through them.

      Best,

      Hannah Katy

  2. Hannah, I’ve never heard anyone describe the act of missing someone so beautifully before! I am struggling with missing a lot of people right now: you and others who graduated, my roommate who is in Spain for the semester, friends from home, even my dog. This post really helped me to put all of that back in perspective. I love the idea that, “So maybe I don’t inherit your smile or words on a daily basis but I trust that someone else does, someone who might need it more than me right now.” I think we often forget that separation can be something both others and ourselves can benefit from, thanks for reminding us all of that. Watch the mail for a letter from me in the next couple of weeks! Miss you!

    1. Cannot wait to receive your snail mail! My favorite.

      I know how hard it is to miss everyone but I am glad to have helped you in some way… You watch out in your mail box as well. Something is coming your way…

  3. This was exceptionally beautiful. I think as hard as separation is, it can sometimes bring extra things to a relationship that may go unsaid or undone if the person was always right around the corner. Surprises in the mail, or a friendly face over a Skype date. Emails just to say you’re thinking of them. Distance is really difficult, but if everyone puts that little bit of extra effort in, it doesn’t have to be quite so bad. And often we’re separated for a good reason – to learn things, to experience things, to bring something to new people’s lives – that will enrich us ourselves, so we can become that much better when we return to our old friends.

  4. You always paint the world so beautifully with your words. How do you do it?

    Distance has a way of making relationships stronger, making us realize how much we want someone in our lives, how important they are. Many of my friends are away at college right now, so this is a lesson I have to remember often.

    1. Hm, good question. The answer to how I do it actually lies in this very post: I write because my heart is full because of the wonderful people who inspire me on a daily basis. I am completely indebted to them for filling my heart and for believing in me, so I use writing to give that out to the world. It is my way of saying thank you to God, my family, friends and perfect strangers who have rotated my life in a way that it is never the same after having met them.

      Thank you for reminding me why I write again and again.

      Best,

      Hannah Katy

  5. again, beautiful hannah. i relate to this one so much. it was beautifully written and your imagery seems to be exactly what im feeling and not able to say. hope new york city is wonderful. i’ll be in and out during the next few weeks, maybe we can get lunch?

    love and miss you, laura 🙂

    and ps. cant wait for you to be on a book shelf either. i would actually very much appreciate that! 🙂

  6. I loved this entire post, so I’m having a hard time commenting. I feel like I always say things like “wow” or “that was so good.” I need to create new words… Because you always amaze and impress… I loved the part in regards to Craigs List and the questions we might have if we were applying for a job to be human. (Have you heard the song ‘Human’ by Natalie Grant? You might enjoy it!). Anyway, ‘wow’ and ‘that was so good.’ Love your writing and your thoughts.

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