The Break Up Of Growing Up.

Here’s to the end, Minor in Writing blog. My days with the Sweetland Center for Writing went from many to few so quickly. We went on our first date just yesterday. But now we’re being forced to break up. Why does this always happen to us? We often have to cut ties with the things that have been so good to us, so healthy for us, so inspiring of our souls.

It’s time, Minor in Writing blog. It’s time, dear Sweetland. My Michigan experience has been nothing short of an evolution, a growth, a development. I’ve written, revised, restarted, rewound, and repeated. A beautiful, challenging, heartbreaking, satisfying time it’s been. With words and language, I’ve grown up. Sort of like this.

Best Three Days.

There is a beginning so there can be an ending. There is a start so you can have a finish. My early morning weigh-ins, days of memorizing bout numbers, and nights of scarfing down my only meal have come to a close. After a Michigan career devoted to working in Big Ten college wrestling, four years of unpacking adidas cardboard boxes and the triumphal elimination of Pedialyte and concocting shake recipes in arenas across the country, I’ve reached my end. At the 2014 NCAA Wrestling Championships in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, I brought home my fourth All-American honor, or so I pretend. I’ll love the three days of the NCAAs forever — the best three days in all of sports. But this is about something that lives beyond four years of an undergraduate experience.

Enter, James English.

English is a sixth-year senior at Penn State University. (Sure, the numbers don’t add up for a student-athlete’s time in college. Long story, one of persistence.) The Division I wrestler has a story not to be summed up by a cliche phrase or a cutesy analogy; he deserves more than that. English and I, perfect strangers with stake in the same sport, went out together. His last day was my last day. Our stories ended on Saturday, March 22, 2014. But James English’s story may  just out live mine.

Through the frustrating days and the rewarding days, I’m humbled to have had the opportunity to live my Michigan years alongside these people. People with heart. Decent people. People who demonstrate the human condition’s simultaneous toughness and vulnerability.

The best three days.


Disclaimer: I love a good tagline. I love simple, clean missions. I love short sentences and purposefully-chosen words. When Facebook big-wig Sheryl Sandberg started saying things like “lean in” and “ban bossy,” I listened. Sandberg said we need more female leaders. I agreed. Sandberg said women need to be bold and engage in high-level business because we have minds too. I agreed.

But why do we have to #banbossy? On my foundations and morals of language, I disagree.

I read a piece in The New Yorker that epitomizes my internal struggle. Margaret Talbot writes, “For one thing, ‘bossy’ is a useful descriptive word that invokes a particular kind of behavior. It’s not actually a synonym, derogatory or otherwise, for leadership or authoritativeness, nor necessarily a criticism of women who embody those qualities. What it usually connotes is someone who is not in fact your boss, or a boss at all, telling you what to do. It’s the kid in your social-studies class informing you that you’re doing the assignment all wrong, or the person on the bus dispensing unsolicited advice on child rearing.”

Sheryl, why do we have to ban bossy? Shouldn’t we just readjust the way we use the word? Can’t we appropriate it to positive, proactive presences instead? By banning a word, Sheryl, you diminish the meaning that we have the opportunity to express with language. You mar its richness. Sheryl, #don’tbanbossy.

Tweetable Moments.

Why is it that we, the 2014 version of the human race, feel the need to document our day’s moments in 140 characters or less? Why is the light blue app with little bird the first place our touch screen-trained fingers go? Is the moment less of a moment if we let it pass by, as almost all moments do, without digital evidence of its happenings?

These are just questions, and I don’t really want answers. I just want to send these cosmic questions out into the void. So goodnight, dear void. 

Freak Flags.

Everyone is their own weird. It’s really is beautiful, poetic thing, weirdness. It gives you color, energy, life. It gives you a soul to shared with the world, as weird as it may be.

I think this space, this Minor in Writing blog, should showcase more of our weirdness. We should let our freak flags fly. Walking through town, in the open spaces and crowded street corners we call our own, we carry our weird with us. Why not be who we are in the social performance of the World Wide Web? Too many times, I find myself annoyed that people are trying to filter their world, filter themselves to those  looking to know them.

I’ll start.

My weirdness is fully exposed in one situation: while playing Apples to Apples.

The ambient noises of coffee shops is incredibly soothing.

I love kombucha. (Google it.)

Minimal objects and clean. That is how I live.

A sauna sweat heals all.

I watch more wrestling than humanly healthy.

Snail mail is the best thing. Best, best thing. Send it more.

I always pick the handicapped bathroom stall in a public restroom because they don’t make me feel as claustrophobic.

Your turn. Let it fly.

Happy Heart Week.

I love the heart of Valentine’s Day. Maybe it’s the candy hearts telling you you’re magic, or celebrating all the best shades of pink, or your mom leaving sweets, new socks, and a stuff giraffe on the kitchen counter next to your powdered sugar-dusted blueberry pancakes in the morning, or you and your best friends making a public spectacle of just how single you all are and just how awesome you still think you are.

I love that there’s no love filter. I love that it’s socially acceptable — God forbid encouraged — to say how you feel. To tell people that they’ve touched your life. To be real in relationships, as real as we should be every day.

The human race needs to get over the notion that things are bigger than us and that our moments aren’t powerful enough to be acknowledged by lovers and strangers alike. We’ve just got to get past it. We don’t have a world of 6 billion that’s only changed by the lucky ones; we have 6 billion understandings of a world. If we can love just one, value even one, we change the whole thing. Let February 14 be the day. Eat the smooch-shaped sugar cookie, take one bite out of every single chocolate in the box, and make sure someone knows they are magic to you.

(And, of course, Disney does it again — “Blank: A Vinylmation Love Story.”)


Broken Chalk.

Fingers clenched tightly around her literary sword, knees tucked beneath her as a collapsible bench, a wave of sun-bleached, wind-wrestled hair tossed over her left shoulder, she stares at the clean asphalt as if lost in a black darkness. Pressing down with her hand, muscle memory moments from leading the surge of letters about to be scripted across the landscape of nothingness, creating something, the chalk breaks. It crumbles into five chunks of uselessness, no longer able to be grasped by those tiny fingers or wore down by the image still waiting in the dreamed drafting stage. The chalk breaks.

Her name is Zoë and she is nine-going-on-nineteen years old. She watches reruns of The Brady Bunch, has a seriously brag-worthy rock collection—brag-worthy to whomever one would gloat about rocks—plays field hockey on any surface, and specializes in homemade, authentic guacamole. A natural fascination with all things living, Zoë “releases” an ant from the confines of her house. She is a creator of moveable trinkets, bracelets, key chains and pipe cleaner identification tags. Zoë walks the block and a half home after school each day to feast on a snack menu of Doritos and roasted seaweed. If you ever carelessly forget to put the dots above the letter e at the end of her name, don’t expect a Christmas gift; her dots at the end are just as important as capitalizing her z at the beginning. A few years ago, she instituted a weekly dinner standard uncommon for that of child: whereas kids opt for meals of Moose Tracks and Superman, Zoë declared Tuesday nights strictly vegetarian. She has the coolest bike tire mudguards in the neighborhood and can hit a tetherball like a semi-pro. Zoë is the smaller packaged, more compassionate and forgiving soul of me. Zoë is my best-self soul.

I first met her in the month of September, the month when bouquets of newly sharpened pencils and Trapper Keepers are so in. Zoë had just moved to Michigan from the Chicagoland suburbs that reek of Costco shoppers and P.F. Chang eaters. She put on a brave face when her parents told her they were leaving the only home she has ever known and moving to a state shaped like a winter garment. She was pulled out of a nucleus of friends and relocated to a town of strangers. Weeks away from her eighth birthday, Zoë stood in front of me with a facial expression only to be defined by supreme disappointment. This mitten state wasn’t as cool people made it out to be and she couldn’t get a decent piece of real pizza anywhere. I assured her that things would look up if she gave us a chance. With words scratched across a used envelope, I welcomed her and told her to trust us, that we would supply here with ample tetherballs and always remember her dots above the e. Her response:

OK, I will try really hard. 

Months passed before I would see Zoë again, and even this interaction was a simple wave across the competition arena as she watched her dad and I worked for her dad. The lone child of two highly intellectual parents, Zoë is the sweet crème filling of their family. Her mom, lifetime sociology academic and newly minted PhD, and her dad, highly competitive and Division I college coach, are intensely passionate people who adore their kid. Her dad’s job brought their family into my life, visits sparing and brief at the start, frequent and hours of guac and Brady laughter as time has passed. Her handwriting has improved immensely, yet her words are just as simple, just as powerful as in her first note to me. Every word matters. Every word has a purpose. And after hundreds of cards, “sisters forever” drawings, and more scribbled envelope conversations, I believe that Zoë is happy. That she did try really hard. That she’s pushed me to try really hard.

Her chalk broke, but she found a way to draw anyway.


A Beautiful Body.

The older I get, the harder this gets. They tell you that you that confidence rises as you grow older, wiser, more educated, more worldly. That insecurity subsides. That opinion becomes kinder, more rationale and grounded. That support turns unwavering. That you will finally, really see yourself, all of you. Yet sometimes, I think  we live our whole lives trying to remember the most basic things.

1. At this moment, I have a goldfish-dressed-in-an-astronaut-suit temporary tattoo inside my left forearm. I will always find joy in the child-like.

2. At this moment, I’m also wearing not one but three Rainbow Loom bracelets. (All the rage.) I will always be bold, even in the choice of neon rubber bands around my wrist.

3. At this moment, I am gorgeously myself. I will always be gorgeously myself.

Here’s to our beautiful bodies, because you have a beautiful body. And if nothing else, dare to write words like this because they are important. Write them. Say them. Mean them.

For You, Boston.

As a devote Boston Red Sox fan, I cannot go more than 90 seconds without shouting “#WorldChampions!” Let us all just take a moment and let the Fall Classic win soak into the depths of our souls. (Pause, pause, long meaningful pause.) Didn’t that feel great?

The raged, full-bearded group from Beantown brought home the World Series trophy and humanity rejoiced. They don’t own razors and we love that (or hate it). After all, they #WonToday with those forest chins.

And I give you another example of sport being more than a game, a game being longer than nine innings, but a length of unrestricted Time: a city’s legacy.

Here’s to the good guys, the BoSox, and to a city with the best heart. Here’s to victory anthems, mostly made of 140 characters, that celebrate to heal.