Some of my favorite words are so old that they were passed down before writing was a thing. “Sing, Goddess, the wrath of Achilles,” ringing out from the first line of Homer’s Iliad may as well be the Sirens' song for me. Some things are more recent, but they have stayed with me. “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Forsan et haec olim memnisse iuvabit. (“Perhaps one day it will be a pleasure to remember these things.”) I am in awe of these extraordinary words.
I am no literary snob, though. I read all sorts of works, and I am prone to reading books without bothering to read the description on the back first. Have you ever tried it? Just pick up the book, and go for it. Why ruin it? Some people go clubbing. I go to the library. Just like people who know how to party, I have a few tried and true spots where I know I'll have a good time. The wealthy-old-man-centric-canon club is hit or miss for me. I won’t spew negativity because we’ve got scads of that, but there are just some things that don’t need to be perpetuated.
The words that we exalt through publication have meaning for us as a culture, and they bring immortality to their speakers and writers. There is another class of language, though, and that is what I am in love with today. What we say to each other can have as much power as those things that we put on pedestals. For instance, one time someone said to me, “Will you marry me?” and it changed my life forever.
When I graduated from high school in 2007, my great-uncle, Sammy Bill, wrote me a short note. He has always been kind, but he outdid himself. He gave me some pretty important advice, but the kicker was when he wrote, “Never let anything stand in the way of your dreams.” We tend to toss platitudes around when people reach milestones, but his words had gravitas. Maybe it’s because his talk isn’t cheap.
There’s so much talk today, and people are competing to tell their stories because everyone wants to be heard. If we all yell loudly, then maybe others will listen to us more, right? Isn’t this post just another attempt for me to be heard? Well, if you’re still tuned in to this broadcast, here is what you should know: Your words are important. Your story matters. Even if what you have to say is complete bunk, the energy of what you are saying is still pervasive. What you say to someone can have the power to make or break their day. Your sentences can be a life-sentence – for better or for worse. Your words can be the catalyst for or the crusher of profound acts of courage. That is a huge responsibility. Don’t toss your syllables without assessing where they’re going to land and how long they’re going to be encamped wherever you put them.
I want to write like Stephen King. I want to spawn beautiful magic like J.K. Rowling, make you afraid of Francisco Fumero like Carlos Ruiz Zafón , and break your heart like John Green. (I cried at least the last 150 pages of The Fault in Our Stars. The cat was staring at me, but I just couldn’t stop reading it.) I want love to conquer all, and I want best friends to be forever really. I want to come up with something that is compelling. It all seems lofty and farfetched. Then I remember the unpublished words of Uncle Sammy, and those are louder than the people asking me how I am actually going to put my degrees to use. "Never let anything stand in the way of your dreams," is louder than the crackling recording on loop in my head saying, “You are crazy for trying.” Like a few crusty old tales of the canon, some stories should be shelved in favor of new voices from different backgrounds.
I hope that you get your story told, and that people will give you the sublime gift of listening to you. I hope other people tell their stories to you, and you will offer both your ears to that process. I hope that what you send into this world is conveyed with discernment. You never know – you may say (or choose not to say) that one thing that changes everything for someone.