I just want to be truthful with you.
On this quiet Tuesday night, I want nothing more than to just sit here— my fingers curled around a fresh cup of coffee (I am trying to adjust to this whole ‘getting dark early’ thang — and just lay down the truth, as if you and I were the type of people who had been doing this sort of thing for years.
If you ask me how I am doing in this moment, I have to say one word: “Blessed.” Not in some cheesy way. I am blessed. I don’t always feel it in my core but I also think I need to stop giving my feelings so much credit. I am blessed, even if I don’t always feel blessed. The things around me are good. I live in a beautiful city. I have a beautiful, little home. I get to come to my own office space every single day and create around other creatives. I am working on a second book. The holidays are just around the corner.
And I just need a space— a place to be honest— where I can say that I have grown so much in the last few months. Since starting and finishing my first memoir, since moving to a new place, my heart has grown and broken and reassembled itself and been made new. And so much of that is because of you.
I don’t say that to butter you up. I don’t say that to get more readers. I could honestly care less about readers coming back to a page. I don’t even want readers— I just want the kinds of people in my life who’d show up at a diner at 2am and eat pancakes with me if I needed them there. Are you one of those? Tell me, for real: blueberry or chocolate chip?
I have had the utmost pleasure for the last few years to get to know people all over the world.
It’s like a secret second life I don’t talk about that often but, if you get me going, I will never shut up about it. Ever since I wrote a blog post on October 10, 2010– saying I would write to anyone who needed a love letter– my life has never looked the same. My inbox stopped being an inbox and it became a place to find your stories & triumphs & heartbreaks & songs sitting and waiting for me every single day. I don’t say it often enough but that is my favorite part of this whole thing— getting to read you and know all about you. I seriously gush about you to all the people who circle in my circles. I can’t get enough of the things you tell me. I am strangely (and lamely) like a proud grandmother to all the little victories you drop into my inbox. You email me after first dates. You email me with successful (and terrifying) Tinder stories. You tell me about your broken hearts. I read every word because I know you are out there– you are out there. And even if I can’t see you or sit beside you, I have to be real: I’d give anything to see you if you needed to be seen. My god, I really hope someone sees you tonight.
You know, just to crack my heart open a little further, I got an email a couple of months ago from a girl who told me, flat-out, that she hated me. “I hate you sometimes,” she wrote. “And no, I am not going to choose prettier words the way you always manage to do. It’s my sheer, plain, simple truth: I hate you sometimes.” She hated my fonts. And she hated my references to coffee. More than anything, she hated that I wasn’t real. That she only could get virtual shred of me. She thought I was fake for that reason, that I claimed to see people even though I could not “see” them. There was just so much hatred spewing from her words.
I wrote back to her nearly immediately. I told her she was a really beautiful writer. She had fire inside of her. She should use those words for good because that’s our biggest problem today: we know words have the power to wreck people and we all want the power to be a wrecking ball to someone other than ourselves sometimes.
I told her what I ache to tell you everyday, face-to-face: I do the best I can with what I’ve been given. And I do my best to show up for people. And I mean every single word that I write in a way that it actually makes me chest hurt because it feels like something is falling out of me. I can’t sit here and try to make you believe that but I would not be doing this if I didn’t feel the dull ache every single day. I feel it. And I know the emptiness. And I just want to do something that counts. And so I take the people God has given me, and I take the blog space I have, and I take the pages before me, and I try to make something beautiful every single day. And I fail myself sometimes. And I don’t feel like I’ve made the mark every single day. But I try.
But she was right, I wanted to tumble so hard into her life. But I couldn’t. I can’t. I want to be everything to everyone– but I can’t be. And if I always try to be, then I will miss the chance to be something to someone. I will miss the sacred chances to be “someone” to just a few.
You might think it’s silly but I have read thousands of emails — thousands upon thousands.
They are all the proof in the world I need to just stand here in my corner office in Atlanta and tell you what I really think about you: I think you’re brave. I think you’re cooler than you give yourself credit for. I think you’ve been through a lot and you try to play it off like it’s not that big of a deal. It’s a big deal. And hey, it’s okay to cry. I cry about 16,000 times a day. I play this specific commercial to make myself cry. I have a whole folder on my desktop entitled “For when you need to weep, babycakes.” You don’t ever have to be ashamed of crying.
I think you carry around these broken pieces of yourself for too long sometimes. I mean, who doesn’t? And I think some of you are afraid to let someone really wonderful in. Someone who could shake up your entire existence and that scares the living snot out of you. Because changing seems scary. And love seems scary. But fear is not a driver. No, fear cannot sit in the driver seat when it comes to your life. That’s not fair to the parts of you that have always deserved joy & good things & that strange-somersaults-in-your-stomach feeling when you sit beside someone wonderful.
I think you’re a boss. And a baller. And all these other words that you’ll probably just laugh at but I wish you could see it as truth. One of you emailed me a few months ago and you told me he walked away last Tuesday and you feel like the strength came back on Sunday. And another person emailed just to follow up and say, “I beat it. I really beat it.” And cheers to you— you beat cancer. You’re amazing. You’re freaking amazing. I am just so honored to be beside you in these moments, even if it is miles and screens and years and life that keeps us from knocking knees beneath the table.
I think and I know and I believe and I see that some of you are stuck. You are stuck inside of this box that other people have constructed for you. You feel trapped. You feel alone. You wish you didn’t check your phone so much. You wish you were really living but life feels like a waiting room more than anything on most days. You don’t realize the power you hold. You don’t see how capable you are. This isn’t some fluffy, juju pep talk, this is just the honest truth:
You. Don’t. Get. To. Do. This. Again. Really and truly. We don’t get to plan things. We don’t get to say when the time is up. And we wait too long to get brave. We wait too long to gather up the threads of our lives and just call them all gold. Because that’s what you have in your hands right now. You are carrying gold. Your struggles. Your insecurities. Your hopes. Your ambitions. The fire that sits inside of you and burns so hot and you think that no one understands it. But I do. I do understand that feeling.
I know that feeling of being unable to sleep at 2am because everything you want to do is rattling inside of your brain and falling out of your chest because you just want to be seen and known and valued and told that you’re worth it. That you could do it if you tried. And I don’t know how to do much more than just cheer you on in that. Because I do believe in you. I believe in you even if we’ve never met. And my reasoning for that is simple:
Once upon a time, I desperately needed someone to look me in the eye and tell me I was golden. I needed them to tell me that I could go out there and I could do amazing things. It would have never mattered to me if it was a loved one or a stranger, I needed to hear it all the same.
So maybe this is for you (and please know that I write this with everything inside of me): I think you can do it. I am betting all of myself on the fact that you can do it. It will take discipline. It will take a devotion you haven’t tapped into just yet. It will take everything inside of you but I know you can do it. I know you can. And I will show up every minute of every day if it takes just that to push you from that same old spot you’ve been standing in for too long. That same spot, where you never move and you never breathe and you never go, is heartbreaking. Your heart is supposed to be broken like bread and passed all around, not left in pieces on the floor.
I met a girl named Sarah a few months ago at a youth conference I spoke at.
I came off the stage to find Sarah waiting for me. And before I could even catch my breath to say anything to her, she was rattling off every shortcoming she could name. “I’m not good at this… and I hate myself for this… and one time I did this… and it make me feel this way… And I cut last week… And sometimes I don’t think I even want to be here.”
There was this strange sense of awkward insecurity in the way she spoke to me, looking down a lot and fidgeting with her hands, as if she were waiting for me to turn in the other direction and walk away.
Instead, I grabbed her shoulders. I literally pulled her in for a bear hug, of sorts. I drew her in as close as I could. And I just whispered into her ear so that only she and I could hear it, “Sarah, you’re okay. Stop looking for a reason to not be okay. You got up today. You’re right here. You’re okay to me.”
It was this really quiet, grace-filled moment where I was surprised to find I reached out to grab onto her so tightly. And she just broke down into my arms. She was sobbing. And we just sort of rocked back and forth together for a short spell of time. I don’t really know how long we rocked for. I think all the words in the world stopped working for a little while.
And this is the strange part— the really strange part— where I wish, more than anything, that I could just force my arms through this screen and grab you tight. Seriously. I wish that more than anything— that I could just give you enough truth to carry you through this week:
You’re okay. Stop looking for a reason to not be okay. You need to make a step this week. That’s what I need of you— one step. One step that you’ve been afraid to make. One leap that you know is the thing that must come next. I need you to go out there this week and I need you to take that first step.
And then come back to this space and let me know what you did. I want the email. I want the report. I want you to know that someone is in your corner. And, at the very same time, I want you to know you were not made for the corner. It’s time you let that insecurity go.
You’re right here. You. Are. Right. Here. And yes, I know you fight up against the fact that it doesn’t matter, that it wouldn’t really matter if you were gone tomorrow. I think we all fight that sometimes. And I think it would matter. I do think you matter. I think you need to be here now.