I'm sitting on my bed last night, surrounded by piles of books and papers, clothes and high heels and a long list of things I still have to buy before I move back to campus next week. My computer croons Mat Kearney to me and I'm hiding from the massive amount of cleaning I need to do by reading through these letters that I wrote to my friends in high school.
I wrote letters as a way to whisper in people's ears when I couldn't actually be there. I wrote to surprise them. I wrote because words have always presented themselves to me, promised that they'll help me send my heart out into the world if only I spend the time with them. I wrote in the hope that I would speak over them the miraculous words - you are extraordinary - because how many of us get told that every day?
And I realized how much I missed saying that to people. I think somewhere between the disappointment of love (my sophomore year those letters got my heart into trouble) and the chaos of turning 16, then 17... I lost the pattern of watching what is extraordinary about people.
So I wanted to tell you, whose name I hope I know, whose words I hope I read (in whatever form they emerge), whose life has undoubtedly crossed into mine...
You are extraordinary. I don't know how to compile the words in a more elegant way, but that word, extraordinary, seems to fit. I wanted to tell you that I was thinking about you the other day, how you journeyed with me from all these different places - from my semester in Washington, DC, to my ten days in Italy, to the semester here in Wenham and this beautiful and difficult summer. I was thinking about how you have read my rambling words and taken time to write to me about them.
Sometimes I worry about reaching you. I worry that I'm not saying what I mean, that when I write these words down you can't hear me say them. So picture this:
We're sitting in Starbucks. It could be a different little coffeeshop around here - the Atomic is one of my favorites, Trevi's is cute, maybe we're at Zumi's in Ipswich or the Pleasant Street Tea Co. in Gloucester. But wherever we are, I have my hands cupped around a latte or iced tea lemonade. I'm wearing jeans, the new Toms shoes I'm obsessed with, and this microfleece jacket thing I got on sale at the Saucony outlet because I sort of thought it made me look sportier.
I keep putting my drink down because I always talk with my hands. I might almost knock over your drink once or twice. I lean in to hear you over the murmurs around us, and I then lean back with this mischevious grin on my face and ask you, "So. What's in your heart today?" I can't help it - I just think that's a better question than the one about what you do for a living, or what your favorite flavor is. I want to know the answers, and hold them up to the light streaming in the windows and share them with you - so you can see just how extraordinary you are.
So we're sitting in Starbucks, drinking our coffee and exclaiming over the questions and answers we have found, over Bon Iver's new music (Holocene is the song I insist you listen to, on repeat, for at least a few hours), over my story about running headlong into a glass revolving door and your story about the moment you had this summer with your family - where you realized just how crazy it is to belong to one another.
And then I lean in, and I tell you this, because whether you are wandering through England or Scotland or Wales, or wrangling two young boys in a house in Virginia, or typing back a facebook message to a friend while you're on the beach in the south of France, or patiently returning phone call after phone call at your job... you are extraordinary.
You are an extraordinary writer, because only you have the voice you have, and only you carry words the way you carry them. You are an extraordinary listener, because in our imaginary Starbucks afternoon, you've been listening to me and making space for me to ramble on and on, meandering through ideas and books and questions. You are an extraordinary searcher, and asker of questions and laughter filled, smile-so-wide-it-scrunches-up-your-eyes person, because you let things weigh what they weigh, not too heavily or too lightly. Because you help me see what's extraordinary about the world, even when I don't know how to love it or how to write a poem, how to make Orpheus and Eurydice make sense...
So thank you.
For being extraordinary.
For being in my life, and in my heart - and for letting me touch a small part of yours.