“Ah, that’s the great puzzle.”

“I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.”

My dear James Michener, I’d like to thank you for giving me, when I was about 17 years old, this quote that so describes why I love the art of writing. Before then, I don’t think I had anything to describe it so accurately. But now, if only you could give me the secret to tangling with human emotions once again…

When I was a senior in high school, I spent a few months working in a family friend’s law firm, and he commented to me one day about how the art of writing is like the art of law: you never fully perfect it. That’s why it’s called “the practice of law”—and, therefore also, the “practice” of writing. It’s been ages, though, since I’ve really felt like I’ve practiced it. There’s no right or wrong way to go about it; I guess even this blog post counts as a form of practice. But does it take me anywhere?

It’s hard to write when I’m not sure of what to say. Because, see, the thing about writing is that it’s supposed to be me, creating, and speaking, and leaving an imprint of myself on the world. But I have no idea anymore of what that imprint looks like. Not should look like, but does look like. I’ve felt very much lately like I don’t know myself, and that’s a very unhealthy place for me to be. I’ve had some bad days within the last couple of weeks, very down days, and I think it comes most directly from a place of insecurity, that is fueled by this idea that I don’t know who I am, what makes me me. Maybe that’s why I love songs like Billy Joel’s “Vienna” and magazines like Bella Grace so much: they tell me what I wish the world would tell me more: that I need to slow down, pause, take a few minutes and a few deep breaths.

But the reasons why I want to be told to slow down… “Slow down, you crazy child. You’re so ambitious for a juvenile.” I don’t know if they’re true, or if I only wish they were.

I’m also that type of person who wants to know what the world thinks of her, and particularly in this romanticized way that probably only exists in poetry. I want to be the type of girl that inspires quotes like the ones I find on Pinterest, like these:

she walked in moon dust
and stars were sprinkled
in her hair

[Unknown]

❤︎

She always had that about her, that look of otherness, of eyes that see things much too far, and of thoughts that wander off the edge of the world.

[Joanne Harris]

❤︎❤︎

Maybe I am that kind, and maybe I’m not, and probably I’m better off not knowing one way or the other, because it could very well be the mystery there that makes it beautiful.

As for me…

“Who in the world am I?”

— Alice

Do You Believe In Magic?

“Do you believe in magic, in a young girl’s heart?”

— The Lovin’ Spoonful, “Do You Believe In Magic” (1965)

Yes, I do. I also believe in magic in an old man’s heart, and in the heart of a 20something who often wonders if there’s anyone out there who really cares about her blog. True, the subject matter of the song, if you really listen to the lyrics, refers to the magic that exists in music, and that’s not what I’m talking about here, but the reason I chose that lyric, that song, is because it’s featured during the credits of Disney’s Peter Pan 2: Return to Neverland, and always resonated with me because of that. The plot of the movie is that Wendy’s daughter Jane learns that faith, trust, and pixie dust are more than just elements of the stories her mother told her. Jane learns to believe in magic, and maybe that’s the point of the stories of Peter Pan: to teach children and to remind adults that magic is more than just an idea. If you believe, it’s real.

Unfortunately, the reason none of us received letters from Hogwarts when we turned 11 is that Hogwarts isn’t real, and neither is Harry Potter, nor the kind of magic that involves cauldrons and spellwork and wands. Most disappointing, I know; but I’ve recently come up for air after several weeks spent buried in the world of Harry Potter, and since it had been so many years since I’d read the books, rereading them was like experiencing all of it for the first time again. I laughed, and I cried, and I experienced suspense and exhilaration and frustration, because I lost myself in the magic that exists between the pages of those books. Not just the magic that involves spellwork and wands, but simply the magic that is contained within a very good story.

I think I create my own magic. I also think sometimes I have to go looking for it, and I think that oftentimes it exists where I wasn’t looking at all.

I have this beautiful, perfect memory of a moment when I was 12 or 13, and I was in Huntsville, at sleep-away camp with the rest of the junior high—a grand total of about sixty students. Forest Glen is an awesome place, especially in the fall, and it was November. It must have been a clear day, sunny, and I was outside by the lake with my group members for the fishing activity, on the wooden bridge that crosses from the mainland to a small island that is part of the camp. It was probably cold, so I would have been bundled up, and I sat on the edge of the bridge, with my legs dangling over the water and a fishing pole propped up against the wooden railing in front of me. I faced away from the open expanse of lake, toward the narrower stream of water between the shore and the island, with the island to my left and the shore on my right, and I probably spent a good chunk of that time just letting my mind wander off into space.

But then, in a moment, I suddenly came out of a reverie and registered exactly what was in front of me: tall trees, growing wild and changed by the arrival of fall into brilliant hues of russet, amber, red, gold, and emerald, and perfectly reflected in the tranquil mirror of the lake. I registered exactly what is usually so easily overlooked: Nature done up in her finest, quiet and graceful, patiently waiting for somebody to see. That day, I was lucky to be that somebody.

It doesn’t sound all that extraordinary, and honestly it’s not. Lots of people enjoy this same picture every year, and I don’t know if it’s something they take notice of or not. I don’t get to see it every year, and I haven’t seen it since that day in quite the same capacity. But for me, it was a perfect moment, and that made it magical.

Something else that has always, always carried a bit of magic for me? The blank, lined page of a crisp, clean, brand-new notebook. Frequently a Lisa Frank—remember those neon rainbow notebooks and folders that every girl had in elementary school?—or another one with a pretty cover. When I was a young girl, my favorite aisle in every store was the one with the school supplies on it—the notebooks and folders and pens and binders—and my favorite shopping trip was the one to the office stores when the school supply lists came out. Every year. See, I’m a writer, and those pens and blank notebooks carried endless possibility. A magical unknown.

Last year, my mother volunteered at the RT (Romantic Times) Booklovers Convention in New Orleans, and came home with an assortment of swag. A couple of items were little mason jars, glittered and painted so that they glow in the dark. I think she called them “fairy dust,” and while I know it’s not more than paint and glitter and maybe Elmer’s glue, there’s just something magical about seeing them glow from one of my bookshelves in the middle of the night, knowing that they’re jars of “fairy dust.” When the morning comes, and these jars no longer glow, maybe there’s something a little magical about the day ahead: a hot shower and body lotion, hot coffee with salt and maple syrup in my favorite mug, a candle burning and a journal entry, a date.

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Do you get it now? It’s in the little things. Do you believe yet?

I want to know: what kind of magic exists in your world?

Bella Journey

I want to promise that this is the last time I’ll ever do this… and my intent is that it will be. But the truth is, I just don’t know.

I can’t say that I’ve always entertained the idea of blogging, but for the past two or three years, it has often crossed my mind, and I have tried it. But the problem was always, what to write about? What would people care about, be interested in? And once I have a theme or topic in mind, how to present it? After all this time…maybe none of that ever mattered.

If I’m being honest—which I’m trying to be—this is attempt number…let’s estimate 12, at blogging. At writing for the public. At this moment, as I type the first entry into the Day One journaling app on my iPad while my plane to Houston from Frankfurt takes off, the idea was inspired by this new magazine I’ve just barely begun reading called Bella Grace. The tag line on the cover declares that “Life’s a Beautiful Journey” and, carefully reading to savor the first few pages, they yank me into that realization. Life is meant to be absolutely beautiful as an entire picture, and too frequently it is a lack of view of this entire picture that forces us to think that life couldn’t be any worse, and to treat it that way. I’m one of the guilty ones—too frequently pessimistic and narrow-minded. I’m here to change that.

Even though perhaps I should, to my friends and family who have seen it again and again, I won’t apologize for my many different attempts at blogs and my failure to stick with one, and for the eventual disappearance of every one of those before. Why am I not sorry? Because to me, those unlasting attempts were a way to help me figure myself out at the time, and for this moment. To learn about me. Who I want to be. What I want to say.

In this Spring 2016 issue of Bella Grace, one of the stories is called “Before I Die” by Rachel Paukett. Inspired by words stenciled on an outdoor wall, she asks herself two very specific questions:

“What do I want to do more than anything else before I die?”

“If you were free to be yourself, who would you be?”

To the first, I would have originally answered, “Write and publish a novel” which has been my biggest dream since childhood, and the only one I’ve really held onto over the years. But suddenly, my answer would be “Follow a dream” because it holds so much more possibility and promise, without disregarding my dream.

The second question, for me, brings up another that I have often asked myself lately: “Who do you want to be? What kind of person?” and I continue to explore that, as I have over the course of my entire life. I’ve been popular and friendly, and unpopular and unfriendly. I’ve been honest, and I’ve been a liar. I’ve been optimistic and adventurous, pessimistic and reclusive. I’ve been the realist, the idealist, and the cynic. I’ve been my friend, and I’ve also been my enemy. Basically, since childhood, I’ve tried on all different personalities, and played with all different attitudes, and every day I still have to ask my mirrored reflection, “Who are you, and who do you want to be?” …Right now, as usual, I don’t have a complete answer. But I’m only 22.

My friends seem to know who they are, and they all have graduated from college as of this Spring. At least one of them already has a job, and another is on her way there. Not me—and I’ve joked that I don’t know whether the fact that I’m still in college makes me feel like a slacker or an overachiever. (A: Double major : overachiever.) My boyfriend seems to know, best of all of them, who he is. I think I know who people want me to be. But what about me? My opinion matters, and right now, the jury is still out. Juries can take a while to deliberate—and trials are more akin to marathons than sprints. (Not that I’m athletic enough for either.) Life is a journey. The journey to know and to love yourself as you adventure to discover new surprises every day.

“Never let a day pass without looking for the good, feeling the good within you, praising, appreciating, blessing, and being grateful. Make it your life commitment, and you will stand in utter awe of what happens in your life.”

— Rhonda Byrne, Bella Grace issue 7, p. 19