Originally I was going to write about my time in New York. I was going to tell you what I was doing there and why and how and who I met. That was the plan. It might still happen. It might not.
You see, today I boarded a train from Penn Station in wet and gloomy New York and traveled down the eastern seaboard to wet and gloomy Virginia. As the disappointing Wi-Fi flickered in and out, I passed the time reading over the notes I’ve written over the past three days and refreshing my Facebook page.
Just before arriving at the station in Ashland, VA – a town that looks like it’s frozen in the film Pollyanna – I managed to connect to the internet long enough to read this week’s post on Owl City’s blog.
When I finished reading, I stared out the window and thought,
“Adam Young is my soul mate.”
(Like I didn’t know that before.)
Now, I don’t mean that in the same way an eleven-year-old girl says that Justin Beiber is her soul mate. Ew. No. I’m 25 years old and over celebrity crushes. (That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.)
What I do mean is that I connect with Adam. On some strange level, I get who Adam Young is. We’re the same.
In his blog, Adam explained why he chooses to perform under the name “Owl City.” Seriously? Literature for the win:
Mid-semester I read a short story by Ambrose Bierce for one of my required english courses, a story called “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” that had a profound effect on me. It wasn’t until later that I discovered the 1962 French film adaptation that ended up changing my general outlook, my frame of mind, my point of perspective, and my entire life from that moment on. It was a hammer between the eyes and I remember driving my white beat-up 92′ Caravan to work at Coke with tears in my eyes because of the ironic and obvious spiritual comparisons between my life and the impact of the story…
People tend to ask me “why Owl City?” and it’s not the kind of answer I can explain in thirty seconds during a loud meet-and-greet while the opener is soundchecking in the same room two people are trying to converse in. Even if you and I had half an hour and a quiet coffee shop, it’s not that simple.
Make of it what you will. After reading the story or watching the film, I always walk away feeling like I’ve gotta start living… an emotion I believe we all need to feel more often than we do.
Each time I think about it, the character in the story is me… and all I have left is a little bit of time.
That’s why Owl City.
There are three reasons why I geeked out enough over this to blog about it:
- 1) As I said, literature FTW;
2) “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” is a profound short story that deeply moved me when I was in high school, yet for some reason I don’t meet many people who have read it; and
3) It’s so very easy not to live.
“I always walk away feeling like I’ve gotta start living…”
I can remember leaving the Almaty International School campus one day three years ago with one of my colleagues discussing our jobs. We were both new teachers, both to the school and to the profession. During the course of our conversation, I admitted that the only thing that made me truly happy – truly, deeply satisfied and joyful – was writing. I had gone half the school year without writing or reading anything other than a textbook, and I had about driven myself mad.
The job itself wasn’t bad – it just wasn’t for me. The problem was that I wasn’t ready to admit it yet.
My colleague did not understand this because, you see, she loved teaching. I didn’t.
(And let me just say one thing: if you’re a teacher, and you don’t love your job, quit. Those students deserve better than you’re able to give. )
While I was talking with my colleague, I mentioned that I had begun to write again. Nothing much, just little poems here and there. Poetry is a way for me to express emotions – which generally means emotions based on unrequited or hurtful love, yet even with the subject matter so dark and self-absorbed, I was happier.
And then this colleague said something so simple and true: she told me that if I wanted to write, I should just write.
I taught for three years in Kazakhstan. Upon returning to America, I had no idea what to do with my life. Other than teaching – because even though I didn’t have the desire to do it, I knew I could.
It took months for the idea of writing to sink in. I had nothing to do, so why didn’t I write? I had once said that I wanted to work until I could make enough money to go hide away somewhere and just write – why didn’t I do it now?
Because it is so scary.
What if it’s a waste of time? What if I’m not actually any good at it? What if no one will publish it? And not everyone can be JK Rowling or even Stephenie Meyer. And honestly, isn’t calling yourself a writer when you’ve never been published a bit pretentious? Aren’t you really just lounging around in your PJs on Facebook and Twitter? Tumblr? Writing’s not a real job – at least, it’s not a real job for you, puny mortal.
I’ve realized something in the past three months since NaNoWriMo: God loves me so much that not only did He send His Son to save me from eternal damnation, but He gave me a purpose. He gave me talents, He gave me dreams, and He continues to do so.
See, God cares about your soul, yes, and where it’s going to go when you die, but He also cares about what it’s doing now here on this earth.
‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’
For me, living means many things. It means traveling, music, and people. It also means writing and literature.
For Adam Young, literature did what it is meant to do: it conveyed truth, and it spoke to its audience.
Literature has done the same for me.
Here are ten works of literature that have inspired, influenced, and spurred me on to developing my life as a writer:
Henry James (1878)
- “At the little town of Vevey, in Switzerland, there is a particularly comfortable hotel…”
“An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge”
Ambrose Bierce (1890)
- “A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down
into the swift water twenty feet below…”
“A Rose for Emily”
William Faulkner (1930)
- “When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old man-servant — a combined gardener and cook — had seen in at least ten years…”
Bridge to Terabithia
Katherine Paterson (1977)
- “Ba-room, ba-room, ba-room, baripity, baripity, baripity,baripity — Good. His dad had the pickup going…”
A Wrinkle in Time
Madeleine L’Engle (1962)
- “It was a dark and stormy night…”
Lois Lowry (1993)
- “It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened…”
Tomorrow, When the War Began
James Marsden (1993)
- “It’s only half an hour since someone – Robyn I think – said we should write everything down, and it’s only twenty-nine minutes since I got chosen, and for those twenty-nine minutes I’ve had everyone crowded around me gazing at the blank page and yelling ideas and advice…”
Frank McCourt (1996)
- “My father and mother should have stayed in New York where they met and married and where I was born…”
Ian McEwan (2001)
- “The play — for which Briony had designed the posters, programs and tickets, constructed the sales booth out of a folding screen tipped on its side, and lined the collection box in red crêpe paper – was written by her in a two-day tempest of composition, causing her to miss a breakfast and a lunch…”
Birds Without Wings
Louis de Bernières (2004)
- “The people who remained in this place have often asked themselves why it was that Ibrahim went mad…”
Does literature speak to you?
Are you living or existing?