One year ago, I anxiously holed myself up in a Madison, Wisconsin coffee shop and published the first post on the other fork in the road. I was standing at a crossroads in the middle of nowhere and found myself in a weird spot. A sticky wicket. A little ditch on the side of the interstate. A heartbroken victim of expectations. Suffocating in fresh air. Claustrophobic in wide open spaces. Alone in a room full of people. I knew I was leaving my job, but still had to somehow get through the next seven months of employment. I knew I was leaving Wisconsin, maybe forever, but only had a vague idea of what that actually meant. I had to dream about tomorrow in order to get through today. Something was going on inside. I needed an outlet to figure out what, and I found ten tiny ones through my fingers.
And now, 365 days and 74 posts later, I am sitting in another coffee shop, across the Atlantic in the little Irish town of Ennis, rereading the debut of the nervous poo. I can see that girl of my past, sitting in her familiar coffee shop, gazing at the elegant Wisconsin Capitol through the cloud of anxiety she seemed to use as an umbrella, disconnecting her from the rest of Life, so unsure about pretty much everything racing around the obstacle course of her mind, trying to shut out the noise, and more importantly, trying not to crap her pants. She looks so…uncomfortable. As time ticks on, it gets harder and harder to recognize her. But I remember her.
George, my host here in Ireland, says I talk like a machine gun. I don’t think anyone ever put it that way before, but it’s the most accurate description I have ever heard. I know what I sound like when I speak, how fast I talk, I know how I come across when I open my mouth. I stick my foot in it, more often than I care to admit, sometimes say things I don’t totally mean, that I can’t take back, filling airspace with noise as I desperately search for the right words to express how I really feel, unable to find them until the moment is very, very gone. I laugh at inappropriate times, use sarcasm as a default, awkwardly share too much with strangers. All the while, my written voice just shakes her head as my audible voice stumbles out, making a fool of herself.
And that is why I write. I write because the seemingly senseless world makes so much more sense, looks so much more clear on paper. I write because I have to do something when my audible voice crawls back inside, tail between her legs. I write to calm my mind, to organize my thoughts, to give my inside self, too often overpowered by my somewhat obnoxious outside self, a chance to stretch her legs. I write because I’m afraid no one would take me seriously if I didn’t. I write because it’s the Pause my mouth just can’t seem to take.
George, an avid reader of the other fork in the road, also says I should write a book. I always get a little uncomfortable hearing that, because in addition to being a terrible talker, I never really mastered the art of receiving a compliment. It still amazes me people take time out of their own chaotic lives to read my thoughts; I’m even more baffled that people seem to appreciate them, that they often relate to them. I sat next to the photographer for the Irish Field at a Breeder’s dinner a few weeks ago, and we instantly bonded over our love of books. She said the only books she doesn’t enjoy reading are autobiographies, because you seriously must think you’re something special if you believe other people really give two hoots about your life. I chose that moment to tell her I write a blog, kind of about my life.
The strange thing is, I sort of agree with her. Except I don’t think I’m all that interesting or different from anyone else. Just like musicians make music, artists create art, poets pen poems, the other fork is my medium to express things, to say things I can’t seem to articulate. What’s more is, I enjoy it. It’s not a task to check off or a chore I have to keep up; it’s something I truly love to do and am grateful I am able to do it. I’ve never appreciated the Internet’s existence more. I don’t know why people get a kick out of reading the musings of my mind, but it makes me stupid happy that they do. I still haven’t figured out how to respond to compliments, especially without sounding generic, and I apologize. I’m awkward like that. And as far as writing a book goes, not only would I not know the first thing about doing that, anyone who would actually read it and/or care, is already reading it freely, and my fan club isn’t that big. Besides, I rely too much on my photos for a book to even make sense. Maybe an adult picture book? Ooo, an adult pop-up book?
And if we’re being honest, it is a nice warm and fuzzy thought to entertain, but if I try and fail, it becomes a failure, which is not a nice warm and fuzzy thought. I am completely aware of how this sounds, and what this might say about me. But everyone on the Internet thinks they have something to say, something different, that they have some talent. Everyone on Instagram thinks they are a photographer. Everyone with a blog thinks they’re a writer. I don’t know how many people = everyone, but it seems like a freakishly high number. I mean, who wouldn’t want to travel and write for a living? Some things just live a better life inside your head.
But seriously, thank you to anyone who has ever read anything I’ve written, even if you hated it, but especially if you enjoyed it. Thank you for all of your kind words, and for reaching out to tell me how you relate. Thank you for sharing your own life experiences with me and telling me how you’ve been inspired to travel or quit your job or break up with your boyfriend, who you realized was definitely holding you back, or my favorite, to live more. Thank you for the Facebook messages and the personal emails and the comments. Thank you friends and family and acquaintances and complete strangers FOR LOVING WISCONSIN AS MUCH AS I DO and for reblogging, reposting, resharing my love letter to wisconsin, helping me become Freshly Pressed (I like to think of it as receiving a daytime Emmy in the blogging world, though it’s probably more like achieving silver status on Delta.) Thank you to those who join George in believing I am talented enough to warrant physical pages. Just, thank you.
Heaps of gratitude to my Mom who likes every single post on Facebook in record time (must be a speed reader), and loads to my sister Tessa, who after every entry, messages me something like, “Great post!” and actually means it. I know she means it, because I ask, “Really? Or are you just saying that because you have to…” She’s also the kind of person who mails you greeting cards in the actual mail to celebrate a random Tuesday in August, and sends cheery 5:30 AM texts like, “Your day is gonna rock!” and truly believes it, with everything she’s got.
And thanks most of all to my Dad, who often writes me thought-provoking emails filled with his own picture book of life, illustrating how he interprets my words, understands my thoughts. Even if you don’t agree with everything I do, or everything I say (which I imagine is terribly difficult as my father), or the wheelbarrow of emotions I push to my mind and from my heart, it’s been nice getting to know you.
Here’s to 365 more.