Eighteen & Again

Someone posted something on Instagram recently (and now I can’t find it) about life at 18 vs. life now. It occurred to me that it’s been 18 years since I was 18, and of course that intrigued the writer in me. So I thought I’d explore the comparison of those two milestones in my life.

At 18 …
I wanted to be a published author, along with all the glamour that came with it
At 36 …
I am a published author, along with all the stress and anxiety that came with it

At 18 …
I had undiagnosed OCD
At 36 …
I’ve been in remission for a decade

At 18 …
I thought true love was just around the corner and I’d likely be married by 22
At 36 …
I still hope true love and marriage are just around the corner

At 18 …
I was so extroverted I had to force myself into 10 minutes of being alone each day, at the urging of my favorite professor
At 36 …
I am so introverted I have to force myself to make plans with people

At 18 …
I could eat breakfast food for every meal
At 36 …
I can eat breakfast food for every meal

At 18 …
I had always been ultra-thin, but felt like a kid
At 36 …
I’ve battled with weight issues for over a decade, but (usually) love my curves

At 18 …
I had almost no health issues (outside of OCD)
At 36 …
I’m a web of interrelated diagnoses

At 18 …
I wanted to know that God found me acceptable
At 36 …
I know he does

At 18 …
I had spent one semester at Northwestern
At 36 …
I have spent 18 years at Northwestern

At 18 …
I didn’t even know yet that I enjoyed the company of children or teens
At 36 …
Kids are my purest joy, and I write novels for teenagers because I love that stage of life

At 18 …
I hadn’t even met most of the people who would be my friends as an adult
At 36 …
I continue to amass the most incredible friends this earth has to offer

At 18 …
I had not yet read any of the books I would later say had changed my life (outside of the Bible)
At 36 …
I’m excited about what life-changing stories are still ahead

a bunch of v-day-related ranting

Oh, February 14th.  Seems like just last year I was thinking, Ahhh, but I won’t be alone next Valentines Day.

Ooops.  Wrong again!

Sometimes I can sound a little bitter about being single, but I actually don’t always hate it.  I can be super selfish with my time, go to Barnes & Noble whenever I want, buy whatever I want.  I can drop everything and go to California for a weekend.  I don’t have to cook for anyone.  More time for ministry over the years.  And, though this might sound strange, years of watching friends marry and be married has taught me a ton about what I want in a husband, in a marriage, even in a wedding ceremony.

But good old V-Day.  It’s never very fun to be single on Valentines Day.

I have nothing against Valentines Day.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with choosing a day to make a big deal out of love.  I don’t really care about the commercialism even.  I think, if you’re blessed enough to have someone you love, you should celebrate your relationship every day.  But why not make a big fuss over it one day a year?  Sometimes it seems like the couples who don’t celebrate V-Day are trying to make a statement I don’t exactly understand.

I was talking to a friend the other day about how I’m glad I didn’t marry young.  It’s true, even though at the time, it was all that I wanted.  I think students at Christian colleges get married way too young; the culture expects and demands it.  It’s not their fault.  They feel ready, and hey, maybe some are.  But I know I am so much wiser now, healthier now, Jackie-er now than I was ten years ago.  I have been forced to learn and do things that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.  I know every facet of my identity in a much clearer way– heck, when I was in college, I was only starting to tiptoe into those waters!

I’m not saying college students shouldn’t get married or that it’s bad to marry young.  Well, maybe I am, a little.  Let’s be honest, there’s no formula to these things.  (Although I will say that almost every failed marriage I’ve seen has come from couples who married pretty young.)

Meh, I’m going to get myself in trouble on my blog.  On Valentines Day.  Listen, don’t yell at me too much.  Remember that I am all alone and show me grace.

I still love love.

Also,

Ahhh, but I won’t be alone next Valentines Day …

😉

v-day

 

 

an honest post

Okay, all of my posts are honest … I guess I should have called this a vulnerable post, but I’m not going to go back and change the title because all my posts are published on my Facebook account, and I don’t want to draw too many extra eyes here.

I turn 31 two weeks from today.  Thirty-one.  I know it’s not, but it feels old.  (It’s the oldest I’ll have ever been, ha!)  Life is so different than what I thought it would be.  Some good, some bad.

I have more joy and freedom than I have had since I was a young child.  I survived a ravaging war against OCD and found victory.  I have an assurance of salvation that was brought about by a paradoxical embrace of uncertainty.  I have better friends than I could have ever imagined for myself.  I love my job as a recruiter and would have never guessed I’d be good at sales.

On the other hand, I think about myself as a senior in high school, and I had my own little plan for life (How do you make God laugh?  Tell him your plans.): I’d go off to college, meet the love of my life freshman year, marry him after graduation, get an advanced degree, write lovely little poems that everyone would clambor after, and have a family.

No graduate school.  I am pussyfooting my way through fiction.  My first manuscript was rejected by an embarrassing number of agents.  And I am completely single– don’t even have a crush.

I look around at the friends of mine who are living my old dreams, and I don’t resent them (most of the time)– but I do feel light-years behind other people my age.  They have masters degrees, 2.5 children, own their own homes, have husbands who work hard for them so that they can stay home with the kids.  I live an apartment, hang out with college kids, take joy in being published in no-name literature journals just so I can update my writer’s resume in the hope that I will fool someone on a grant committee somewhere into giving me money.

My dream has changed a little.  I’m not sure if it still includes children.  I adore children– my friend Tracy’s three daughters (Emma, Ava, and Elsie) are so dear to my heart that I’m not sure I could love them more even if I’d birthed them myself.  But I’m not sure I want to be a mom– I feel a little too selfish with my time.  I want to write.  My novel is (at this time) my baby, and I’m scared I would resent anything that took my attention away from it.  I don’t know.  We’ll see.  I’ve learned to hold plans loosely.

But I do want to be married.  Like, yesterday.

There have been so many boys, so many crushes, through the years– I burned through them like fuel for my poetry fire.  And I don’t regret liking these men or “letting them go.”  My friend Kristin says, “When God loves you, everything is mercy.”  I am grateful to be where I am.  I trust in his holy plan, believe in his masterful timing, even if that is that I remain single forever.

But I hope I don’t.

I have areas of brokenness in my life that I want to fix before I meet someone.  Sometimes.  Sometimes, I want to meet someone who will love those broken parts and pray with me for healing.  I am glad I didn’t get married straight out of college– now I look back and realize that we were just babies then!  Working at a university, I see these students getting engaged and I think, You don’t even know who you are yet.

Maybe that’s okay.  They can learn together, grow together, change together.  But I have seen plenty of failed and/or unhappy marriages amongst people who married young.  I’m just making observations, not offering judgment.

I know I’m rambling, using this blog as a diary of sorts, which I try not to do.  Maybe it’s okay once in a while.  For this one honest, vulnerable post.

I try to never view a husband as life’s greatest gift, because I know that it’s not.  Not by far.  The gift of salvation by grace, the gift of daily knowing and loving my sweet savior– these are my life’s greatest gifts.  I remind myself that a husband is just icing on the cake I already have.  But I still want one.

Two weeks, and I will be 31.  I already have Jesus Christ, who is a more permanent lover than any I could imagine; I own my faith; I have control over my mental illness; I have a job that I love and enjoy; I don’t own a home or have a graduate degree, but I write almost every day and believe in my story, believe I have messages on my blog and in my life that speak to people.  Life is good, but sometimes I am still lonely.

And I am going to dare to say that that is okay.  I’m not sure, but I think so.

cheer up

Date a Girl Who Writes

Recently, I posted Rosemarie Urquico’s marvelous essay entitled “Date a Girl Who Reads.”

This is meant to be its companion essay, written by yours truly, Jackie Lea Sommers, entitled “Date a Girl Who Writes.”  Enjoy! 

Date a girl who writes.

You know the type—she’s the one in the corner booth with her earphones in, battering the laptop keys to high heaven.  The one who, despite appearances, is not really in the restaurant at all, but in a world of her own making, or else with one foot in and the rest of her looking up a synonym for blue and debating whether the sky is more of a cobalt or an indigo.

A girl who writes can take you on a date to Venus and have you back in time for dessert.  Five minutes with her, and she will usher you through the gates of philosophy and religion and metaphysics.  She’ll make an explorer out of you.  You’ll need to run to catch up.

Creativity rolls off her in waves.  She can think of beautiful ideas and make them real.  She is quirky, fun, witty, and wise.  She notices everything, and all of it matters to her.  Can’t you see her eyes flickering from the old couple playing cards in the corner to the whipped cream melting into her cocoa?  She also just memorized every detail of your sigh, and now she is thinking of the name of an obscure artist and of the waitress’s accent.

Date a girl who writes because she is observant and smart, and what is sexier than an incredible vocabulary?  Think of how many different ways she’ll be able to tell you she loves you.

Writers are quirky, strange, fascinating peopleYou will never be bored if you date a writer.  In fact, your life with her will be a wild adventure.  The highs will be a pleasure, and the lows will remind you that you are alive and that truth and excellence matter.

Date a girl who writes.  She’s funny, a storyteller; people are drawn to her at parties.  But you’ll be the one who brought her, and think how proud you’ll be!  Every interesting thing you do or say will go immediately into her notebook and crop up somewhere in the future—a lasting posterity.  You’ll never have to buy a cheesy greeting card again.  All you’ll need to do is write a heartfelt message; she prefers when things don’t rhyme.

While it’s true that sometimes it will seem you’re taking the backseat to people and situations that aren’t real, she still loves you.  If you want to bring her back to where you are, wrap your arms around her and ask about her draft.  Ask questions and listen carefully to her answers.  If you help her out of her writing rut, trust me, she’ll reward you.

Date a girl who writes because she knows that the best stories make you laugh and cry, and so your romance will be infused with amusement and passion, jokes and joy.  She makes the connections you can’t, looks for lessons in life, makes sense of the chaos.

If you date a girl who writes, you can be confident that she will work at your relationship—she is used to second, third, and seventeenth drafts without giving up.  She willingly returns to conflict day after day.  She won’t leave when you fight—she knows the climax comes before the denouement.

Bring your A-game.  Remember that she has probably already dreamed up the most incredible Prince Charming, one who is tall and has gray eyes, irrational fears, strong arms, and a twisted sense of humor.  If you want to compete with her protagonist, you’re going to have to step it up.

It will be worth it.

Because when you date a girl who writes, the two of you will happen to life and not the other way around.  She will teach you how to make a moment extraordinary, how to appreciate this beautiful world spreading its arms to you both in majestic invitation.

a poem I wrote

I wrote this back in college, but I was thinking of it recently when I was up north at my summer camp.  The poem is about a boy with whom I shared one wonderful week– and after that, things fell apart.  In college, this was my assessment of the situation (which, for the record, took like three years to heal from.  One week, then three years.  Boys.)

Invitation

It appears to be about the temperature,
the way your body reacts to the sun,
how you kissed my hand and left.

You sang raw songs aloud, white flags
you spited for the sake of the sun,
a clumsy surrender to the afternoons,

later blaming the northern countryside for
the way it slows your blood,
allowing more time to warm.

And so you dressed your hurts in city shade,
where haste is the liquor to rinse your mind
of that summer and the way your hands were soft.

I left St. Paul and welcomed the day’s damage
because of the lessons that leak into open sores.
I make the most of my summer wounds.

But I want you to know—I would have helped you adjust:
dark faces shadowed by a background of pines,
only the moon with no warmth of its own.

Remember, dear, the northern nights are cold.

when half-gods go

I remembered this past week a poem that used to matter a lot to me in college, especially for its ending lines.  I discovered it around a time of my life when I was clearing a particular boy out of my romantic life– a boy I was very close to, one I cared about a great deal, who was one of my best friends at the time.  He was marvelous and hilarious and gorgeous, but I knew he wasn’t the right one.  He was what Emerson refers to below as a “half-god.”  I couldn’t settle for a half-god.  Because when half-gods go, the gods arrive.

Give all to love;
Obey thy heart;
Friends, kindred, days,
Estate, good fame,
Plans, credit, and the muse;
Nothing refuse.

‘Tis a brave master,
Let it have scope,
Follow it utterly,
Hope beyond hope;
High and more high,
It dives into noon,
With wing unspent,
Untold intent;
But ’tis a god,
Knows its own path,
And the outlets of the sky.
‘Tis not for the mean,
It requireth courage stout,
Souls above doubt,
Valor unbending;
Such ’twill reward,
They shall return
More than they were,
And ever ascending.

Leave all for love;—
Yet, hear me, yet,
One word more thy heart behoved,
One pulse more of firm endeavor,
Keep thee to-day,
To-morrow, for ever,
Free as an Arab
Of thy beloved.
Cling with life to the maid;
But when the surprise,
Vague shadow of surmise,
Flits across her bosom young
Of a joy apart from thee,
Free be she, fancy-free,
Do not thou detain a hem,
Nor the palest rose she flung
From her summer diadem.

Though thou loved her as thyself,
As a self of purer clay,
Tho’ her parting dims the day,
Stealing grace from all alive,
Heartily know,
When half-gods go,
The gods arrive.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Still waiting for that Mr. Right!!!!

 

Date a Girl Who Reads

Date a Girl Who Reads by Rosemarie Urquico

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag.She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.

Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent.  Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.

Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilightseries.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.

Untitled

Say anything; I want to try on your life like a suit coat for the fit.
This works – bashfulness catching your tongue at my question
so that the air expects words that do not come,
leaving empty space to dangle like mistletoe, pregnant
with potential.  Keep your secrets, then – only don’t look away.
Your brown eyes are ripening grace and fever in me like sun on a vineyard.
Your intensity pitches a spreading fire in my chest, and I need no bolder story.