Category: Personal (Page 1 of 42)

Roxane Gay and writing about oneself

“Having a Heart, Being Alive” by Roxane Gay

I am a fiction writer who stumbled into writing nonfiction. Though I had written a handful of essays as a younger writer, I spent most of my time writing stories and trying to lose myself in the lives of imaginary others.

I also resented how as a woman, it seemed like to write nonfiction, I had to savage my own life to find stories people would be willing to hear. I wanted to keep my stories to myself.

When I began to write more essays, I thought carefully about the choices I would make in exploring myself. What parts of my life was I willing to expose? What parts of my life was I willing to share? I didn’t want to simply bare my pain and have that be enough. At the same time, I was tired of carrying my past around, unexamined.

Why do these explorations of myself matter? How do I make them matter? How do I make my words more than catharsis, more than mere excavations of pain?

I’m still finding my way to the answers to these questions.

There are never going to be universally satisfying answers to these questions. That’s okay.

Like this:


The gift of being loved

For my 30th birthday, Andy gave me an incredible gift.

Every day for an entire year, he wrote me a postcard. That’s 365 postcards. 365 days of commitment. 365 love letters, random thoughts, amusing poems, fond memories, doodles, notes of encouragement, and more.


I cried when I realized the scope of what he had given me. The dedication and discipline that it took. The thoughtfulness. The tenderness.

He never missed a single day. He bought postcards from all over, sometimes even when we were together, quickly sneaking them to the register while I was browsing a different part of the store. He made time for his project — for me — during business trips. He even managed to write these postcards while we were traveling to and from Taiwan, never mind that we were together on planes and in airports for 36 hours straight each way. I had no idea.


It took us about 5 hours to read all of the postcards once. We’ve started going through them again, savoring this round, marking favorites. It’s another level of joy and love that we’re getting out of this gift, together.

This is what people mean when they say it’s the thought that counts. This was not an expensive present, but it’s worth far more than any dollar value.

Starting with 30, people tend to dread getting older, especially the big milestone years. But if Andy is going to come up with surprises like this, how can I do anything other than look forward to each birthday and feel grateful at every age?

Like this:



For over two weeks I’ve been trying to write a brilliant post full of wisdom to mark the milestone of my 30th birthday. But one of the things I’ve learned over the past 30 years is that sometimes less is more.

Also: Marking occasions on the internet is not as important as living them


If my next 30 years are even half as wonderful as my first 30 have been, then I can have no complaints.



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soccer sunday 005


Day 3 at sea 014

3-9 floreana, dolphins 049 colored

Riley's #1 love? Kibbles.

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There are dozens of additional photos that I would have loved to include here. Unfortunately I have no idea where they are now after our recent move. But even if I could find them, I would still have to leave so many out. How do you narrow down 30 years of life, love, and memories to just a handful of images? How do you capture the breadth of family, friendship, and fun that I’ve been so lucky to enjoy?


When I was a little girl, 30 felt like a far-off galaxy. Too distant and nebulous to fathom. Or even bother thinking about.

Now here I am. Exploring these strange, beautiful stars.

Like this:


Home (part 5)

It’s the first house in weeks that has caught your eye. Timeless brick, attractive landscaping, and oh man, those hardwood floors. You click through each photo, waiting for the “but.” The catch. The compromise. But there is none.

It’s even better in person. You’re not supposed to fall in love — not yet, not yet — but how can you resist that sunny window seat in the attic dormer? Or the inviting front porch where you can unwind in the evenings? Or the fenced, shaded yard where your dog can roam and your future children can play?

It’s what you’ve been waiting for. The “quickening” sensation in your chest that your realtor described. A sense of rightness. Of possibility. You spend several days walking the nearby streets, poking into local businesses and getting a feel for the neighborhood. No, you’re not supposed to fall in love yet, but something is blooming inside you. Your lips flower into a smile.

It’s a whirlwind process. Offer, counter offer, contract, loan, inspection, negotiation, closing. Less than 30 days after you first set foot on the property, someone hands you the keys.

It’s so surreal.

It’s yours.


It’s over a hundred years old, but brand new to you. You can barely take it all in. There’s so much space. So much to learn. Cast iron radiators, plaster walls, knob and tube wiring. You have no idea what you’re doing, but that’s what makes this an adventure. Even the dog has to discover all the sunny spots anew.

It’s a blank canvas. An eternal work-in-progress. You both want so badly for it to be just right, right away. But perfect doesn’t exist, and even good enough doesn’t happen overnight. Take a breath, take a break. Take it one day at a time. If you just keep going, you’ll get to where you want to be eventually, probably without even realizing it. (There’s a writing metaphor in that, by the way.)

It’s dripping onto the baseboards when you’re painting a room. Then fixing a leaky valve in the basement. Breaking the blinds when you’re cleaning a window. Then finding a cool new light fixture for the dining room. Hitting brick when you’re trying to hang a picture. Then hosting a dinner party for some wonderful friends, and realizing that this — jokes, drinks, warmth, love — is what it’s all about.

It might not be guaranteed, but it’s more than a maybe.

It might not be forever, but it’s a future.

It’s a dream come true, and a dream unfolding.

It’s a mix of hopes, expectations, and the unknown.

It’s the next chapter in your most treasured story.

It’s time to turn the page.

Like this:


Home (part 4)

It’s a leap of faith. He asks you to follow him to a new city, and you say yes. You’re moving in together, but it doesn’t feel like a sin. Just the opposite, in fact. Like puzzle pieces clicking into place.

It’s a jumble of hand-me-down furniture and college dorm cast-offs. The big blue recliner. The IKEA drawers that don’t align quite right. The creaky bed, with two comforters because someone hogs his blanket in the night. He springs for a new sofa though, big and comfortable. And a new flat-screen TV too.

It’s every bit as much yours as it is his, even though your name isn’t on the deed. You fill a closet with your clothes. You buy a piano as a graduation present to yourself and then play it (occasionally) in the spare room. You vacuum, wash dishes, and do laundry. You help decide where the paintings and souvenirs should be displayed.

It’s that first night with a new puppy, who is so soft and adorable and whimpering. Just this once, you sleep on the floor next to his crate. You both barely get any rest at all, but you both feel better anyway.

It’s watching Twilight with girlfriends from work. Cooking together and setting off the smoke alarm. Hosting four other couples for dinner, everyone cheerfully crammed into the living room, playing charades and euchre. Dog-sitting for neighbors. Watching deer wander through the backyard, their ears pricking at the sound of your dog’s bark.

It’s where you finish writing your first novel, just before the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve.

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It’s where you finish your second novel, too, the one that gets you an agent.

It’s where you dream and work and despair and push through.

It’s where you realize that you’re already living the life you want. Now you just have to enjoy it.

Like this:


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