I just watched last week’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy, and I liked how it dealt with the former military IT technician who (mistakenly) felt that she wasn’t deserving of veterans’ services. I’m not sure if they timed that to air right before Veterans Day on purpose or not, but it dovetails nicely.
My brother-in-law did a tour in Afghanistan for the Marines. It simultaneously feels like forever ago and just yesterday. I had never really known someone on active duty before, and I can’t tell you what a strange mix of emotions it caused. Anxiety about his whereabouts and well-being. Frustration at my own ignorance and helplessness. Hope and faith that everything would be okay. Pride in his service and sacrifice.
Needless to say, his homecoming was a sweet relief.
Now, like before, I feel mostly disconnected from that world, but it did leave an impression that will never fade away. A raised awareness. An immense sense of gratitude.
Thank you to all the men and women who are serving, have served, or plan to serve. In whatever role and capacity. The rest of us may never fully understand what you go through, but we appreciate what you contribute to your team and to your country. Take care.
We got engaged in a book store, and married in a tree house.
Afterward, we all went on a riverboat cruise for lunch.
In the afternoon, we enjoyed a private painting class.
And we capped off the day with an amazing dinner by a fabulous local chef.
Two weeks later, we held a reception in Andy’s hometown to celebrate with more of our family and friends.
A week after that, we held a reception in my hometown for the same reason.
As you can see, it’s been a wonderful whirlwind.
Getting back to normal life is both nice and difficult.
“How To Sell Diverse Books: A Bookstore Owner’s Advice” via NPR Books
Sometimes we’ll be in the store and we’ll see a kid looking at a little stack of books — maybe we’ve recommended those books to them. They might’ve chosen a book with a kid on the cover who has a different race than their own. And the parent kind of unconsciously steers the kid away from the book. They’ll say, “Oh you’re interested in that book? Do you really think you’re going to read that one? What about this one?” And the child hasn’t been aware of anything different about the book, but the adult is.
• • •
So, funny story.
The other day, Andy and I were waiting to be seated at a popular brunch place. We stood outside the restaurant, enjoying the fresh air and chatting with the other six people in our party. All of us were coupled off, but I happened to be standing at one end of the group, engaged in conversation with my friend and her husband.
Out of absolutely nowhere, this skinny young man walks up to us, grinning. My friend and her husband happen to live in the neighborhood, and just the way the new guy looks at them, without introducing himself, makes me think that he knows them. He turns to me and holds out his hand. “Hi, I’m Adam,” he says.
I return his handshake. “I’m Kristan.”
There’s an awkward pause. I wait for my friend to explain their connection. She doesn’t. Instead, she and her husband have started talking with another couple in our group. I turn back to the new guy, confused.
He’s young and gangly, with a sort of cheerful, nervous energy radiating all around him. He’s dressed like a typical student, in a loose shirt and gym shorts. And there’s a thin translucent bandage running across his eyebrow onto his forehead, but I don’t ask him about it. I don’t really get the chance. He peppers me with questions first.
“Are you waiting to eat here?” (Obviously.) “Do you know these guys?” (Yes, we all went to college together.) “Where did you go to school?” (Carnegie Mellon.) “When did you graduate?”
So on and so forth.
After several awkward minutes, I realize that my friends don’t know this guy at all. He just walked right up to our group and inserted himself! Is he planning to eat with us? Does he think the wait will be shorter? Is he just lonely? WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?
As all these uncertainties are running through my mind, I’m also politely trying to keep up with our dialogue. At some point, he asks me what I do. (Writer.) “Oh, what do you write about?” (Right now, a fictional story about teenage girls in China.) “Do you really think an American audience will be interested in that?”
Somehow I maintained my composure and simply said, “Yes of course. Why wouldn’t they?”
He didn’t have an answer.
At that point, my friend took pity. Whether on me or on Adam, I’m not sure. Either way, she stepped in to ask me about my engagement ring, and soon Adam skedaddled as suddenly and inexplicably as he had arrived.
• • •
The funny part of this story is that (according to everyone else in our group) this guy was trying to hit on me — while I stood 3 ft. away from my fiancé? — and I was completely oblivious.
The sad part is that this guy was probably one of those kids mentioned in the NPR quote above. He clearly didn’t read diverse books. He didn’t develop a curiosity about otherness. He isn’t aware of how endlessly fascinating our world is, and how valuable it is to learn about foreign people and places. Which means he can’t fully appreciate how rich his own community is.
The other day I hand-wrote a letter to my friend Angie — something I haven’t done in far too long — because I was craving that mental-motor connection, and because when I write to her, it’s very free-form. Whatever I’m thinking and feeling gets laid out on the page. It does not get evaluated. It does not get analyzed. It does not get polished.
“Where is the place for rough drafts in life anymore?” I asked my friend. The irony of course being that my letter to her was one such place.
With Instagram and Facebook showing constant highlight reels of people’s lives — and as a writer struggling to make her way through a competitive and fast-evolving publishing landscape — it often feels like every word I write and every photo I take has to be perfect.
But perfection isn’t attainable. And perfect is the enemy of good.
Especially here. Sometimes I forget that this is just a blog. This can be a space for rough drafts. People come here looking for genuineness, not perfection.
It’s been a busy, stressful summer, and I’m not sure that autumn is going to be too different. But I want to feel differently about it. I want to feel energized by the activity, instead of drained. I want to be inspired instead of deflated. I want to be productive instead of overwhelmed.
Most importantly, I want to give myself permission to be imperfect. To revel in my rough drafts. Because rough drafts are practice. And practice may not make perfect, but it does make better.