I do. I really do. So, WARNING: this is going to get sappy.
And while it has been nice to have a romantic partner on Valentine’s Day, my appreciation for this day of Love does not come from that connection. I love Love. I love Loving people and being Loved by people.
Feeling valued, seen, appreciated is the best feeling in the world, and all those things are wrapped up in Love. I have been fortunate enough to be Loved by many people throughout my life, in different ways and varying degrees, and they have been Loving enough to share that with me on Valentine’s day along with other days through out the year.
I spent most of my life very single–or without a romantic partner of any kind to be more precise. I didn’t learn Love from romance.
When my curious friends and relatives would ask if “there was anyone special” in my life some of my favorite responses were:
- Oh yes, I have my best friend Alison!
- Yes, I’ve actually fallen for this guy named Will… Will Shakespeare.
- Well, I have you guys, so of course there is!
And while I delivered these quips with a hefty amount of wit, there wasn’t sarcasm–I meant what I said. My family, my friends, my studies–they are special because I Love them all.
Because I did not have anyone romantic to celebrate for 22 out of 23 of my past Valentines, I learned to celebrate the Loves I did have: my friends, my family, my passion, my faith, my self.
Of course, now that I get to add Kendra I enjoy celebrating her, but I don’t want to lose celebrating all the other parts of my life that I Love.
So, happy Valentine’s to you!
Celebrate the Love in your life, no matter how big or how small. Spend today giving out Love! Tell your friends and family “Happy Valentine’s Day!” Buy yourself chocolate and a card, not because you are celebrating “Single’s Awareness Day” but because you can Love yourself without any shame (and do that even if you do have a romantic partner)! Give your pet a special card and treat! Drink that wine you have been saving for a special occasion!
Find the tiny joys you Love–your favorite novel, bubble baths, a clean house, a messy house, your sexiest clothes, your comfiest clothes, the first buds of spring, cloudy-not-too-cold days, even just making it half way through this week.
I know not everything is sunshine and roses. I know there are times when I feel unloved or that there is nothing I can Love in my life. But today I am choosing to celebrate Love.
And if you are reading this, I can’t say I Love you (though I very well may), but I can say I hope you are Loved and I hope you Love. I hope you find joy in the small things and in the big things. I hope you can celebrate Love in your life today, as well as beyond.
On December 19th, I (finally) got my first tattoo.
The phrase comes from the concluding words of Edwin Ginn’s autobiography:
“The rules that have governed me in the conduct of our business have been strict adherence to principle, punctuality, and the improvement of every moment; and if you will follow the man who has succeeded in this world you will find that his idle moments have been few, that when the hour struck he has been at his post, and that he has rigidly followed the path of duty. The policy of this house has been along strict, arbitrary lines. The life of a (publishing) house depends not upon the amount of business secured, but upon the principles which guide its conduct; and so far as I am able to judge, financial success is almost sure to follow the lines of uprightness. This world, as I have studied it, is governed by the law that good must prevail in the end and that evil contains the sees of death. For a time we may vary a little from the right without apparent loss but in reality decay begins the very moment the tiniest seed of corruption is sown; and the man who has not been actuated by principle in the accumulation of wealth enjoys but a short-lived triumph. The true business of this world is to make men, not money. May it be our purpose in the future, as it has been in the past, to see to it that every one we come in contact with, if not made better, is certainly not harmed in any way because of us.”
A few words about Edwin Ginn and I why I decided to get some words of his on my body, even though he is not Shakespeare or even an author of anything besides his autobiography and a few incendiary pamphlets in the 1880s against the American Book Company .
When I began writing my Masters thesis, I was curious about paperback Shakespeare–where it came from and how it ended up looking like it does today. I started investigating the 1960s but rabbit holes led to rabbit holes and I stumbled upon Edwin Ginn: a fiery publisher who used his built from the ground publishing company to defy the strongest conglomerate of text book publishers in the name of defending students.
After going toe-to-toe with the text book monopoly, Ginn spent the last few decades of his life leading the peace movement through philanthropy. He also began and ended his career by publishing groundbreaking formats of Shakespeare’s plays, hence the connection to my original inquiry.
In his editors notes at the front of his company’s text book version of Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare he remarked:
“It seemed wise to omit the portion of Lamb’s preface especially applicable to English schools, as the following quotation would indicate: ‘Instead of recommending these Tale to the perusal of young gentlemen, who can read them so much better in their originals, their kind assistance is rather requested in explaining to their sisters such parts as are hardest to understand.’
Such a recommendation would be hardly appreciated in our schools, where the misses have equal advantages with their brothers, and do not feel the need of such assistance.” (published 1903)
A champion of literacy, independent businesses, peace, and girls reading Shakespeare without help from anyone–how could I not love him?
After almost a year of studying him, and another six months missing studying him, I decided that his life had played a crucial enough role in mine to warrant a tattoo. (If anyone is wants to know more Ginn and/or my thesis, just buy me a drink. I could talk for hours.)
Now, about the quote itself:
When I first read those closing lines of his autobiography, they got stuck in my head like song lyrics. There was such hope and conviction in them–I wanted, and still do, to believe everything he saw in the world. Sure, he is a dead, white, rich guy, but after a year of researching his business I can confidently say he put his money and energy where his heart was: reforming the textbook system in the United States and campaigning for peace.
The line “certainly not harmed” seemed like a pure and clear goal: I pray that I only improve the life of those around me, and at very least don’t make anyone worse off. Of course, there are days, weeks, months even, where I am sure to fail.
I become petty, lazy, vindictive. But, thanks to some very permanent ink on my arm, I won’t be satisfied being there. I can remember who I am in this moment: someone committed to peace and to serving others.
Getting the tattoo at the end of 2017, a year mostly defined by moments of violence, anger, and prejudice seemed especially appropriate. No matter how dark this world gets, I am committed to actively advocating for peace and believing in good by being the good.
There is someone you need to meet: My girlfriend, Kendra Wright.
We met through work–an office romance, one might even say (vegan-organic eatery romance doesn’t have the same ring to it).
For the first few weeks though, I was in a sleep-deprived induced stupor and, completely unbeknownst to me, Kendra was an emotional-turmoil induced stupor. I wouldn’t learn about that chapter of her life for six months.
As my show closed, and sleep let me have the energy to see the people I worked with I noticed a few things about Kendra. While everyone got along well enough with everyone else at work, Kendra was friends with everyone at work. Her universal friendship was not a facade–she didn’t talk poorly of fellow employees. She never let inside jokes become exclusive or mean spirited.
Everyone’s mood improved when Kendra showed up for her shift and it wasn’t just because of her skill with puns–she was an incredible worker.
We all had our stations we preferred–I would (and still do) avoid the dish pit–but Kendra went wherever she was needed and stayed until the task was done. Working with Kendra made me want to be a better employee and a better person.
So, after impressing her with my skills in mimicking accents, I decided to take our work friendship outside the workplace: we took a day trip to Charlottesville. I had to drive a friend to the airport and wanted to explore the town. To my joy, Kendra asked off work and joined me.
We wandered around the slightly defunct mall, went to a trampoline gym, ate frozen yogurt, and visited a brewery. After the hodgepodge of a day, we returned home exhausted and pleasantly surprised at how much enjoyed each other’s company.
As the weather warmed up, Kendra and I found more times to hang out after work. We would hear about a new brewery and visit it. She found out I never had a chai latte so she showed me where the best ones were. I introduced her to Joss Whedon television shows. She showed me her favorite late night star gazing spots.
After not too long, when monthly work schedule came out, I counted how many shifts I had with Kendra –not how many weekends I had off.
If I worked morning and she came in for the afternoon shift, I checked the clock more frequently the closer it got to noon.
Then one day while watching netflix, I mentioned casually how much I loved having my head rubbed and next thing I knew our new normal involved my head on her lap and her fingers in my hair.
I never felt uncomfortable around her, whether I was feeling goofy, exhausted, frustrated, joyful, heartbroken. I wanted to share laughter with her in the good times and cry on her shoulder in the bad.
The only secret I felt like I had to keep from her was that, for the first time in my life, I felt like I was falling in love.
And keep that secret I would have. I firmly believe that I never would have had the courage to risk our friendship to see if she reciprocated. Despite our discussions of politics and faith and past relationships, neither one of us had discussed our orientation or even thoughts on same-sex attraction.
Luckily, she is braver than me. One morning she asked if I treated my other female friends the same way I treated her.
I choked out a “No” but didn’t offer any further help. She persevered and observed, “It’s not platonic, is it?”
I can’t remember if I shook my head or said anything, but we came to an understanding: it wasn’t platonic. I don’t know when that shift happened–had we moved onto Dollhouse by then?–but it did.
Since that conversation over a year ago, we have experienced life together more intimately and I still cherish every moment I get to explore another aspect of this person, whether it is seeing how she deals with a clogged sink or with a broken down car.
We have seen some really good times together–watching our fish grow up, seeing shooting stars, cooking dinner together–and some really rough times together–the stress of grad school, stalled cars on the highway, miscommunication between us, family crises.
There will be more of the both in the future. Kendra and I will navigate them together, sometimes not very successfully, but despite the difficulty we are committed to doing this life thing together.
Feel free to join us.
One month of the summer has slipped by and I have accomplished nothing, more or less.
As far as my thesis research, I have gotten really good at carrying impressive books in my bag without ever opening them.
As far as my personal health, my yoga mat remains rolled up in the corner where I put it when I moved into this house.
As far as my creative endeavors, one page of my sketchbook has new scrawlings. Continue reading Like a Pro(crastinator)
The world has been a rather terrible place recently.
First, the attacks and negativity from the presidential candidates fills the spaces when another national crisis or tragedy doesn’t demand headline space.
Then, the Stanford rapist received an unbelievably lenient sentence, simultaneously highlighting the racism, sexism, and classism in society, as well as the massive holes in our justice system.
And those are just events in the United States, not counting the tragedy, war, and violence around the world.
Now, the terrorist attacks at the gay dance club in Orlando has destroyed innumerable lives and families.
I don’t know how to respond. Continue reading Processing
This morning, I finished the last of the requirements for my first year of graduate school; such an event should, probably, be marked with some self-reflection.
The year has been good. Challenging, and frustrating, and confusing, but very very good. Challenges were met, frustrations were overcome, and confusions were clarified. Naturally, new ones spring up immediately, but the obstacles make the journey interesting, so I won’t complain.
When you love something, someplace, or even someone, there’s a natural hesitance to get to know it better, at least for me there is. A year ago (to the day actually), I was ending my time at Messiah–a school I grew to love, but my time there did not start that way–and looking towards starting my time at MBC–a town and school I loved from my first google search. So, when the time came to move and start classes, I felt scared to get up close and personal with something, someplace, I adored from a distance.
My fears were unfounded.
Not to say everything here is perfect–there are plenty of quirks and issues–but the issues that we face are superficial, not integral. The actualities of the program and company might be imperfect, but the people working with and through them are good people attempting to do good things.
Reflecting on this year, the number of amazing opportunities I have had astounds me.
Within a month of starting classes, I performed on the Blackfriars Stage in a staged reading of The False One.
Over the course of a weekend, I heard more brilliant thoughts and met more brilliant scholars than ever before.
In my first semester, I performed as Hamlet, the Gravedigger, and Beatrice.
In the span of two weeks, I helped mount of a full production of The City Nightcap with Sweet Wag Shakespeare.
In my second semester, I directed one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite shows with some my favorite people.
In the course of the year, I have seen dozens of performances at the American Shakespeare Center, all of which make me laugh or cry, or frequently both.
Over a semester, I delved deeply into Macbeth and mounted a pretty freaking awesome production with my classmates.
In ten rehearsals, under the direction of my mentor I took on my biggest (full) role to date, and not only ended up with a decent performance, but had a blast doing so and learned a ton.
Looking back on all of this, I don’t know what I did to be so lucky to be doing what I love, where I love, with people I love. I am humbled and confused and incandescently happy.
Let’s do it again next year, eh?
The collapse of Faith didn’t start where you might expect. As the Book tells us, Faith needs belief and action and all that, but the crumbling corner was not a lazy apathy or seed of doubt. Faith withered from a point of weakness overlooked not only by pessimists and optimists, ministers and theologians, conservatives and liberals.
The people stopped having meals.
They ate, regularly, three times a day plus snacks, but the hurried distracted routine of quelling stomach pangs does not constitute a meal.
“Do this in remembrance of me” — most think “this” is about stale crackers and plastic shots of juice as a metaphorical (or not) recreation of the Crucifixion and Resurrection. But what if it was more? Not just the end of the meal, but the whole thing.
What if it was not about a few minutes closing service, but a few hours around a table, laughing at bad jokes, spilling food on the table cloth, and drinking more generous amounts of wine?
Sure, “humanity does not live by bread alone but by the Word of God,” but that Word of God as Flesh sure liked bread. He constantly invited himself to people’s homes for meals, provided extra wine at weddings, and even hosted (possibly) the world’s largest picnic.
Too many see it as coincidental that his first and last act of ministry involved handing out wine to his friends, and that his last command asked for them to follow suit.
So, they all carved out time for service, and for the soup kitchen, but they missed communing with others over bread and wine and enchiladas and hamburgers and pizzas and bowls of gumbo and all the other infinitely creative and collaborative meals humanity designed.
Not only sharing table space, but memories, joys, griefs, fears, doubts, dreams, hopes–the aspects of being in His image.
This has been a year of beginnings and ends, floundering and flourishing–a year of memories.
The adventures and misadventures of this year:
- I visited Mary Baldwin College for the first time, and fell in love.
- I developed an entire unit about A Thousand Splendid Suns for my senior students.
- I chatted with Michael Attenborough about As You Like It
- I was attached by a rabbit and have the scar to prove it.
- I met my neighbors for the first (and last) time as well all worked to dig out our cars from the snow.
- I got my students really engaged and interested in The Tempest and me, on my second to last day in the classroom.
- I called 911 for the first time.
- I buzzed the side of my head for an asymmetrical haircut.
- I spoke to my classmates about change and identity at the baccalaureate service.
- I said goodbye to Messiah College.
- I moved home.
- I experienced desperation and kindness in the search for a summer job.
- I danced like a monster at weddings and had no regrets.
- I fulfilled my childhood dream and became a “bologna cooker.”
- I said goodbye to my younger brother in thirty seconds as he left for West Point.
- I cried looking at the Milky Way in the mountains of Colorado.
- I went to the emergency room.
- I learned the basics on drumming.
- I applied to one grad school, and got in.
- I moved to Staunton Virginia, a year after I first visited and told myself I would one day live there.
- I was a bridesmaid and cried like a cliche romcom character.
- I not only played Hamlet in a scene, but thanks to amazing scene partners and a superb director, I got to explore him.
- I saw more lovely theatre than ever before, and have every intention to break that record this year.
- I cried listening to a lecture about Bottom in A Midsummer Nights Dream.
- I met brilliant Shakespearean scholars and didn’t make a complete idiot of myself.
- I shared a meal with two strangers because there were no more tables open.
- I was in a staged reading within a month of being in VA.
- I found that my classmates were more inspiring, challenging, and affirming than I could have ever imagined.
- I had a countless number of lazy days with my better half Alison.
- I played Dutch Blitz until I hated my entire family.
- I ran into the ocean with my four favorite people on Christmas Eve.
- I laughed until my sides hurt at a comedy show in NYC.
This has been an incredible year. For the majority of it, I have felt compelled to remind myself “Yes, this is real.” But more than my situation–where I live, what I study, etc.–the people that surround me take my breath away. The kindness, intelligence, humour, and humanity that I see around me astounds me. Without all of the people in my life, caring for me, checking in on me, encouraging me, this year would not have been the year it was. So thank you to all of those who have been with me through this year; I look forward to the next.
(Newly updated and tragically still relevant.)
According to the LA Times, since Sandy Hook there have been 144 shootings on school campuses across the nation, as well as numerous other acts of mass violence not on school grounds. If I reacted strongly to each time such a tragedy happened, I would not make it through the day.
Along with the death and pain from mass shootings, a huge number of people die and are injured in smaller altercations that have no need to escalate to deadly force. And adults and children are accidentally being injured and killed by weapons weekly.