I could end my post there. But I won't.
Yesterday, I had two classes. I slept through both of them. Probably not my best decision, but still it felt awesome. When I finally got out of bed, I read for most of the afternoon. And I went to my favorite professor's office hours for paper help, but ended up just chatting for a bit. I found out that she and my other favorite professor are best friends, and that made my day. It was sort of like finding out that Jonathan Safran Foer and Nicol Krauss are married.
After that perfect afternoon, Winnie and I went into Philly. She wanted to get her ears pierced, and I love piercing studios, so that was awesome. Getting holes stabbed into ears is always a fun adventure. Unfortunately, the guy who pierced Winnie's did them a-symmetrically. So we had to go back and get it re-pierced. It was sort of awkward. But the second time looked great! So that was good. We came out of the subway next to Independence Hall, and that was cool. Philly history and such.
Ishkabibble's had real life Philly cheese steaks for dinner. It was the first red meat I've eaten in 2.5 years. And, I hate myself for saying it, but it was pretty good. And it was one of those things I had to do. The only way to justify living in Philly and not having a Philly cheese steak is to be a vegetarian. Since I am no longer a vegetarian, it had to happen.
And from there we went to the Free Library of Philadelphia where Cheryl Strayed was having an author event. I really love Cheryl Strayed. Her book Wild was one of my favorite things I read this summer. She's one of those author's that's honest and vulnerable in a way I literally can't fathom. And she's GOOD. Like really good. So I was excited to see her.
Cheryl Strayed did not disappoint. It was hands down the best author even I've ever been too. Mostly she just talked. She just told her story. She was incredibly real. She talked about learning how to lift the things too heavy to lift. And being brave enough to break your own heart. And how writing is the same thing as long-distance backpacking. Some authors *cough Terry Tempest Williams cough* are like "I'm so smart and I can say beautiful things but they might be bullshit." Cheryl Strayed was like "hey I'm a person and I'm kinda fucked-up and I write about it." And I was drooling over her. It was one of those times (and this happens more often than I'm comfortable with) that she talked about writing and what writing means to her and I was like yes that's me! I'm like that! I'm not going to go to law school I'm going to be a writer! Oh, and at the end, she talked about texting Oprah. OPRAH. CHERYL STRAYED TEXTS OPRAH. That is the kind of incredible that she is. She's perfect.
We stayed late to get our books signed. We were in the second row when she read, so by the time we were out of the auditorium we were literally the last people in line. I thought it was worth it. I got to walk up to her and geek out (because I'm never good at meeting authors and having class) and now I have a signed copy of Tiny Beautiful Things (I didn't get my copy of Wild signed because I'm not sure what happened to it; I either lent it to someone or it's in my book black hole in Utah). And so now I'm very excited to be reading Tiny Beautiful Things.
Because we stayed late, we missed the last train back to school by like 4 minutes. It was raining when we left, but it was okay because I got to try out my new Kiev boots in the rain. They were highly waterproof, so that was good news. Since we had an hour to kill before the next train came, we went to Max Brenner. We had crepes with all kinds of chocolate and bananas and toffee and carmel ice cream. They were, of course, perfect.
PS. Cheryl Strayed one excerpt from Wild and she read this. Hearing her read this was amazing.
Dear Seeking Wisdom,
Stop worrying about whether you’re fat. You’re not fat. Or rather, you’re sometimes a little bit fat, but who gives a shit? There is nothing more boring and fruitless than a woman lamenting the fact that her stomach is round. Feed yourself. Literally. The sort of people worthy of your love will love you more for this, sweet pea.
In the middle of the night in the middle of your twenties when your best woman friend crawls naked into your bed, straddles you, and says, You should run away from me before I devour you, believe her.
You are not a terrible person for wanting to break up with someone you love. You don’t need a reason to leave. Wanting to leave is enough. Leaving doesn’t mean you’re incapable of real love or that you’ll never love anyone else again. It doesn’t mean you’re morally bankrupt or psychologically demented or a nymphomaniac. It means you wish to change the terms of one particular relationship. That’s all. Be brave enough to break your own heart.
When that really sweet but fucked up gay couple invites you over to their cool apartment to do ecstasy with them, say no.
There are some things you can’t understand yet. Your life will be a great and continuous unfolding. It’s good you’ve worked hard to resolve childhood issues while in your twenties, but understand that what you resolve will need to be resolved again. And again. You will come to know things that can only be known with the wisdom of age and the grace of years. Most of those things will have to do with forgiveness.
One evening you will be rolling around on the wooden floor of your apartment with a man who will tell you he doesn’t have a condom. You will smile in this spunky way that you think is hot and tell him to fuck you anyway. This will be a mistake for which you alone will pay.
Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue. You are a writer because you write. Keep writing and quit your bitching. Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet.
You cannot convince people to love you. This is an absolute rule. No one will ever give you love because you want him or her to give it. Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else.
Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.
One hot afternoon during the era in which you’ve gotten yourself ridiculously tangled up with heroin you will be riding the bus and thinking what a worthless piece of crap you are when a little girl will get on the bus holding the strings of two purple balloons. She’ll offer you one of the balloons, but you won’t take it because you believe you no longer have a right to such tiny beautiful things. You’re wrong. You do.
Your assumptions about the lives of others are in direct relation to your naïve pomposity. Many people you believe to be rich are not rich. Many people you think have it easy worked hard for what they got. Many people who seem to be gliding right along have suffered and are suffering. Many people who appear to you to be old and stupidly saddled down with kids and cars and houses were once every bit as hip and pompous as you.
When you meet a man in the doorway of a Mexican restaurant who later kisses you while explaining that this kiss doesn’t “mean anything” because, much as he likes you, he is not interested in having a relationship with you or anyone right now, just laugh and kiss him back. Your daughter will have his sense of humor. Your son will have his eyes.
The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.
One Christmas at the very beginning of your twenties when your mother gives you a warm coat that she saved for months to buy, don’t look at her skeptically after she tells you she thought the coat was perfect for you. Don’t hold it up and say it’s longer than you like your coats to be and too puffy and possibly even too warm. Your mother will be dead by spring. That coat will be the last gift she gave you. You will regret the small thing you didn’t say for the rest of your life.
Say thank you.