that time I thought about quitting.

 

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poem & art by morgan harper nichols

Once upon a 2011, there was a girl who had a plan.

Her days and weeks were color coded in her Google Calendar AND neatly written in her planner. She had a well-versed answer for what she wanted to be at the very adult and fully grown age of twenty-five. There was a general trajectory for how she envisioned her place in the world and she knew all the right words to say if she suddenly found her careful plan totally unraveling. Her definition of success was doing anything to avoid the long walk back home to where she started and never admitting total defeat that she doesn’t, in fact, have her shit together.

And then she grew up and took a liking for red wine which lead her to be more honest with herself and frankly, way cooler. Not that drinking wine makes you cool. I’m just saying that maybe, just maybe, I needed help to chill out and realize that having no plan is totally, one-hundred percent fine. I have maintained the appearance of millennial success but have had no plan, no intentions, no actual career goals and no next step other than the faint idea that maybe one day I would move home to Portland for the last four years.

This spring  l will have completed four years of post-college, real world education and check off the one thing on my to-do list since graduating college: move to Portland. This fact serves no purpose other than to remind myself that four years is actually a really short amount of time because I have no plan beyond that. Here I am again on the internet writing notes-to-self for the things I wish I knew in each of these years to make myself feel like I actually accomplished something notable. You can say I earned my Masters in Adulting. (Except please don’t, that’s a terrible line and also I made yet another grilled cheese for dinner yesterday… so make your own assumptions there.)

I went on a major nostalgia bender sorting through old photos, notes and journals while packing for my big move down south.  Then for good measure I read some of my old blog posts. My If-You-Can-Dream-It-You-Can-Do-It-22-year-old self was more annoying than I thought. She sounded like a mug you’d find at TJ Maxx. 

So I told my friend Katherine I was going to decommission this blog after I moved. It had clearly served its purpose for my first foray into adulthood and now that I’m older, wiser, and — thank God — a little more emotionally stable I can probably stop word-vomiting my know-it-all truths onto my corner of the internet in an effort to convince myself that I am more accomplished than I feel.

To which Katherine immediately responded, “You can’t! I read your blog and I NEVER read anyone’s online blog (no offense to all of you other twenty-something self publishers). Your words are helpful and you have a different perspective. Don’t quit now.”

End of the conversation. In a matter of seconds, I felt really proud of my semi-devotion to this semi-consistent hobby over the last four years and also I did not, in fact, delete this thing out of my own insecurities. Get yourself a Katherine. 

That very blonde & maybe a little too enthusiastic college grad who made a WordPress account on a whim was trying her best and she deserves a little grace. Everything she blindly walked through actually brought me to where I am today, so for that I am grateful for her bold naivety. I am also grateful that she learned how to be alone, how to not care so damn much about what people think and also that she learned how to be wrong.

Here are the cliff notes of what I wish I knew in each of the last four years. I hope in another four years I reread this list and cringe some more. I hope I’m so wrong about the things I’ve learned and am declaring as truth to the internet today that I actually LOSE readers. (Ha! Take that former Emily! I did this to you!) I hope that as I grow older my heart gets more malleable and open and stretched and maybe even has a few tears in it for character. I hope that you read these and you feel okay about maybe being wrong once, too.

Year I

The minute you graduate everyone is going to make you think that you have to have a five-year plan complete with how you’re going to afford health insurance in a couple of short years, even though you are still a CHILD who doesn’t know that you actually have to print out your car insurance card every year if you don’t want to pay a two hundred dollar ticket. Not that I know this from experience. I’ve just heard that this scenario happens sometimes.

Don’t feel an ounce of guilt for celebrating instead of freaking out about how to pay your student loans in your barely more than minimum wage job. Take a year to be in a city you love with people you love. You’re not falling behind. You’re not missing out. You are taking a minute to breathe, rest, and enjoy what God has already done. You’ll need these memories. In the ever wise words of our Supreme Leader, Ben Gibbard: “Stay young, go dancing.”

Year II

There’s a lot I could write for this one. But what I really needed was for me-now to sit me-then down and straight up tell her to stop doing so much. And that no one is waiting for you to fail. And that you’re doing so great. And that being drunk every weekend isn’t cute. You’re signing up for a season of feeling like a flaming garbage bin all because you’re too scared to admit that you feel like you don’t belong. It’s braver to go it alone.

Year III

After befriending your lonely self, you’re going to learn that you need people who know you. Not the you that you have carefully curated for the public on a Saturday night, but the you whose anxiety likes to be a bitch and keep you bedridden for a day. You’re going to need your people who can bring you food and sit next to you in hard seasons and you’re going to need to do that for them, too.

Finding your people is not easy. Community is hard fought for. Keep showing up even though you want to run away. Every time you get that pang of lonely, say no to the temptation to fill your time with social media or dating apps or even another trip to visit a friend. Half of the work is just showing up in the same place over and over and over again until one day it’s all just different and good.

Year IV

I used to treat every opportunity like it was once in a lifetime. If I didn’t say YES to something, then it would never come back to me. I would miss my chance. I would never fulfill the dream attached to that choice.

And it took four years to realize life is not a poker game. You don’t have to cautiously hold back and ration your chips for fear of not knowing the outcome, or risk losing it all after going all in on one hand. There are always more chips. There is always another chance, another opportunity, another date, another job, another choice. Stop living like you have wasted your chips.

There is more coming, I just know it.

Also for your viewing pleasure, here are some of my most cringeworthy early posts:

from the back seat of a Prius.

how I’m failing as a millennial and stopped asking strangers for rides home.

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It’s the third thing I do after de-boarding a plane, right after a beeline to the restroom and refilling my water bottle.

I pull out my phone and scroll over to the black app. I pin my location in the pickup zone and wait until the caravan of hybrid cars matches the one on my screen. My driver helps me load my bags and I confirm the basic facts:

“Are you Emily?”

“Yes.”

“Headed home?”

“Yes.”

“From where?”

The driver automatically gets 5-stars if the conversation stops after the third question. I wish I was the kind of person who could meet you halfway after six hours of travel and a few nights away from my own bed, but at this point my only goal is to make it home with some piece of my soul left, so small talk is out of the question.

I make a point of putting in my headphones to further avoid any attempts at conversation, then I mentally prepare to spend the next 30+ minutes trying not to throw up from the stop-and-go of traffic. The pine sweet air in the PNW helps me breathe a little easier, but that feeling is short-lived once I slide into the backseat of a Prius. It’s another reminder that I’m not quite there yet when all I want is to be home.  

Coming home is one of the main reasons I love to travel. Travel naturally removes you from routine and reveals things that your body, mind, and heart have been saying that you otherwise would have missed in your daily rhythms. But by the end of my journey after I’ve learned the things or gained the clarity or accomplished the goal, I crave home.

The homecoming I want isn’t further delayed by the unfamiliar. The homecoming I want is reliable. It’s consistent. It’s predictable. It lets me put my feet up on the dashboard. I want to come home to the feeling of being known, of being brought in, and maybe of having a hot coffee waiting for me. The homecoming doesn’t wait another minute for me to get back but instead kicks off it’s sandals and runs toward me to remind me that I’m safe here and I can take my armor off.

The welcome home I want means that I need people. Which goes against my millennial-bend to prove that I’m independent and make my own appointments and pay my own bills and I’m doing fine and I can ~stay humble and hustle hard~ because I have no needs that I cannot meet within my own ability and tools offered to me. It defies the projected image that makes me seem like I can exist all by myself in this big wide world. You can hide it behind filtered pictures of solo travels and endless story streams of who you were surrounded by but at the end of the day we are all terribly, desperately in need of a space where we can take off our uncomfortable pants and not worry if we laughed at the right things at the right times. 

It’s risky, exposing your own need to the watching world. I think we all want to argue that we don’t NEED anybody but that we WANT people. That gives us all the power in any relationship. We don’t want to risk rejection or loosen our white-knuckle grip on controlling our circumstances, even if the outcome makes us more uncomfortable and more in touch with our own alone-ness (different than loneliness, that’s another word for another time).  

Maybe I’ve failed as a millennial. Maybe there’s a part of me that isn’t cut out for the sexy productivity offered by an app. Maybe I don’t want to ask my friends for a ride because I don’t want to let them see my neediness. Or maybe I’m just not privy to being driven around by strangers. But a few trips ago I quit my millennial-independence cold turkey and started asking my friends for a ride to/from the airport. Not via an app, but from actual people who I know and talk to on a regular basis.

Call it beginner’s luck, but every person I’ve asked to drive me to or from the airport in the last year has said, “Yes!”

Who knew? People tend to show up when I stop pretending that I am fine with handling life alone and start admitting that I need a little help. They will literally drive through hell — AKA any airport arrivals platform — to bring me home.

And I think that’s it. That’s the pretty life lesson tied up with a white bow here. That people just need people to take our hands and walk us back Home.

it’s time to get up.

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This starts with a family legend of how Flanagan women throw up on dates and ends with how you should vote today. Walk with me for a minute…

Back in ancient times, the third date was the make or break date. Your first date jitters are done, you’ve tested the waters of the second date, and the third date is when you’ve got to decide if you’re diving in or ducking out. The stakes were high when my mom agreed to a third date with this guy she had known for like, ever.

Unlucky for her, she got carsick on the drive home and had to force her suitor to pull over so she could ralph on the side of the road instead of all over his shiny car. Luckily, that guy was still so into her that even a little vom didn’t keep him from asking her out again and again and again. That dude is my dad and they’ve been married for almost 30 years.

The tradition is still alive and well when we swiped our Movie Passes (R.I.P.) and settled in to watch Eighth Grade. I expected it to be an awkward movie, because you can’t think about middle school without cringing. What I didn’t expect was to find so much of myself in the main character that I physically felt what she felt.

There is a scene in the movie where this girl is trapped in a car with an older boy who acts like he is a predator and she is his prey. My heart raced, my mouth became too dry, I leaned over and thought, “I think I might throw up.” The movie ended soon after and the fresh air from that summer evening kept me from vomming into my date’s popcorn tub in the middle of a Regal Cinemas. 

The queasiness triggered by that movie scene in the car is the same nausea I felt watching Dr. Christine Blasey Ford tell her story of sexual assault on national television is the same spinny remembering of my own experiences with different outcomes than these girls (thank God) but with the same feeling of being so small and trapped and afraid.

The last few weeks have been hard.

It was heartbreaking to watch this accomplished, poised, smart, courageous woman not be able to mask her 15-year-old self’s terror every time her voice quivered during her story. I believe her. I believe she was the butt of the joke of two stupid teenage boys. I believe she carried this trauma with her for years. I believe that she did her best to speak up without the circus. I believe her because even if we have different experiences, I am her.

The world we live in requires women – or anyone who is marginalized for that matter –  to sit down, stay calm, smile pretty and play nice EVEN THOUGH it’s okay for the ones in power to be loud, yell, and scream about what they believe to be an injustice. It will say “Shame on you for making up stories that defame good men!” EVEN THOUGH you tried to play by their rules by coming forward in anonymity just to be ignored ignored ignored until it was already too late. We are expected to put on a brave face and come forward when wrong things happen to us, EVEN THOUGH we will be dismissed. EVEN THOUGH no change will actually happen. EVEN THOUGH we remember every detail, sound, face from that day that changed our life forever EVEN THOUGH it was just an average day in a calendar for everyone else involved.

And so being a woman makes me tired.

It seems pointless to think that the outcome of all of these sexual harassment stories will be different than the same cycle of coming forward only to be made the enemy for someone else’s sin. It’s exhausting to keep explaining to coworkers why certain jokes aren’t funny. I am tired of looking over my shoulder and locking my car doors and running without headphones and being told I’m “not fun” at company events for the sake of my own personal safety. Because I’m really fun. And I like listening to music when I run. But I am tired.

After watching the Kavanaugh Hearings all I wanted was to take a nap. I was swaddled in a blanket and was just about to drift into a light snooze when it came back to me:

Taking her by the hand, Jesus said “Talitha koum!” (which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”) // Mark 5:41 ESV

In the middle of my tired submission to the way things are, Jesus says to me, “Honey. Take my hand. It’s time to get up.”

And this Jesus – this low-income, refugee Son of Man born to an unwed, teenage mother with no access to proper healthcare grew up to be a brown man who was murdered as an enemy of the state for daring to love thy neighbor – is who informs who I give power to in this democracy I find myself in.

If you are a girl who was wronged for the sake of someone else’s pleasure, joke, or bonding experience, then I am so sorry. I know how tired you are. I know that it is easier to fall asleep to your trauma and deal with the weight of it in flashes while the world keeps spinning. I know it seems too big on some days, and on others you want to squash it so small that it doesn’t make you feel at all.

But girl, it’s time to get up.

This might look like seeking out trauma counseling. It might be as simple as putting on pants today. For me, getting up looks like voting. Opting out of participating in democracy because it’s easier to remove yourself from the conversation is just another way to remain asleep to everyone else’s pain. Stop numbing. Get up.    

Awaken, love. Getting up out of our safe, warm blanket cocoon isn’t comfortable. It’s disorienting at first and it’s cold out there. But still you rub your eyes and arise, because the world needs your voice. It needs your perspective and experience. You matter here, no matter what the actions of others say. And no matter what happens, we’ll still wake up on November 7th and try again.

give a damn. save a life.

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. I hope you know we need you here.

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Humans don’t like to think about death. That word makes us uneasy. It’s the one major problem that literally all of us are faced with that we haven’t quite solved. Because no matter how much you try to put it off – you’re going to die.

Death isn’t the way things should be. You want to know how I can know that this is true? Think of the moments in your life that you wish you could pause, rewind, play on repeat forever and ever. The view from an island trail, running into the ocean, sitting on a front lawn with a ukulele, a good kiss, the perfect pancake. These are the moments that etched eternity right into your heart. You were made to crave forever.

Which is why the news lately has my heart feeling like it was chewed up, spit out, shoved it a blender and served over ice.

This summer the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain and even Mac Miller hit me harder than expected. Celebrity makes it seem like people are untouchable, immortal. Their deaths should be evidence that depression and anxiety and addiction are real diseases that obey no rules of class, income, age, wealth, or status. No matter who it affects, whether you have billions of admirers or it’s just you making it in the world, suicide is painful. Hopelessness is a feeling both so foreign and familiar to almost every person here on earth.

It’s World Suicide Prevention Day and here are the stats: 800,000 people die from suicide globally. That’s 1 person every 40 seconds (see TWLOHA’s stats here). It’s wild to me that in the scientific sense, daily life as we know it has never been more productive, safe, and technologically advanced than years before. We are smarter, faster, stronger and I can order a dozen macarons on Uber Eats and have them delivered right to my door on a lazy Sunday night. What a time to be alive, truly.

And at the same time we’re more isolated than ever. We’re siloed in our own echo-chambers of Twitter feeds and when we see the world as we know it cracked, it leaves us confused and afraid. We keep trying to find true meaning for why we’re on this big, blue marble but instead we’re faced with a trashcan fire of terrible leadership, natural disasters, trauma, loss and no clear end to it all.

I’m not a certified therapist and I don’t have pages of research telling me how to fix the fracture that depression, death, and suicide leave on a life. But I do know that hope is hard fought for and I think that we can learn how to be better about holding the hard things about the right now with the promise of the not yet.

We can give a damn.

We can be the kinds of friends who embrace the hard conversations and aren’t just friends out of convenience. We can be the kinds of people who are willing to put down our black mirrors to see someone and go to them rather than obeying social structures that tell us to keep our distance. We can be the friends who are willing to open up our couches, our wallets, our own lives for the sake of someone else learning that they’re not all alone in this world.

We can be the kinds of friends who value our friends’ lives above our own. That might be called love. I’m going to call it giving a damn.

This isn’t to say that when someone commits suicide that we’ve failed. Far from it. Suicide is no one’s fault. I don’t have answers or a list of “should/shouldn’t do’s” and honestly, that wouldn’t be helpful. Depression is a sickness whose rules constantly change and are hard to define. What works for one person might be harmful for another. At the end of the day, people are still going to make choices and all we can do in the meantime is remind them until we run out of breath, “You’re loved you’re loved you’re loved you’re loved.”

It’s hard enough to say that you need people to remind you of this when you’re healthy. Imagine the mountain you have to climb to reach out and be honest about your pain if you’re struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. The best way to give a damn is to let your people know that you give a damn about them. So ask your people how they’re doing. And not just the happy hour version of this filler question. The How-Are-You-Really version. The kind of honest question that begs an honest answer.

I don’t know a lot of things. I know how to poach an egg, build Ikea furniture without wanting to drink myself to death, and use an Oxford comma. I also know that when Eleven from Stranger Things said, “Friends don’t lie”… I felt that. Friends don’t lie. And friends who give a damn use their words to create a safe space to welcome the truth. Even if it seems too big or too much or too messy or too heavy for just you to hold. Friends who give a damn will hold your arms up and remind you that the weight of the world isn’t just on you to handle alone.

So if you weren’t convinced already, I give a damn about you and I hope you stay.

inspired by sweatpants and coffee breath.

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My goal for 2018 was to write once per month for this little space. It didn’t have to be perfect, it didn’t have to mean anything, but I wanted to stay faithful to a thing on a consistent basis.

Did I make a plan to accomplish this? Absolutely not. Which is how I found myself at 9pm on May 31st scrolling through the Ghosts of Google Doc’s past looking for a semi-finished thought to quickly edit & share here. And — no surprise here — everything sucked.

Granted, I’ve been writing a lot for other projects which is just the best. But if I don’t create space to write for myself then it won’t happen. Because I romanticize the writing process: sitting in a coffee shop and stringing together pretty words as they come to me on a caffeine-induced whim pretending I’m Meg Ryan in her 90’s RomCom prime. It’s all based on the idea of being a “writer” than the struggle of sitting my butt down and writing so many crappy first drafts it makes me question why I like doing this in the first place.

The writing process looks less shiny and more like humbling yourself with your sweatpants and coffee breath, typing the goal of 500 words per day. You end up re-reading what you wrote and realize how much it sucks. This makes me remind myself that I actually have no talent whatsoever, so I might as well give up and make more coffee to soothe me then quit for the day by taking a nap and reading a book. The next day I wake up, re-read the previous day’s work, notice that it isn’t completely terrible, and wash, rinse, repeat.

So here’s what I learned tonight: goals are great. Creating habits to meet those goals is even better. I knew the day would come when I had to create a writing routine. I promise next month will be inspired by sweatpants, stale coffee, and my own self-loathing/doubting tendencies.

But for now, here’s the best I could come up…

A Lazy Listicle of Things That I Know to be Absolutely True

1. Boundaries are love.
2. Bangs are most likely not a good idea.*
3. Honesty is the best policy.
4. The Office truly is the greatest show of all time ever.
5. Your time is limited. It’s okay to guard it for the things that matter most to you.
6. It’s okay not to be everyone’s best friend, but you do have to be kind.
7. Dry shampoo changes the game.
8. Always remove your make up.
9. Say “thank you”. And stop saying “sorry” so much.
10. Do everything in your power to show up for your people.
11. Read non-fiction and fiction. Just read in general.
12. Life is hard, but it’s less hard when you can laugh easily.
13. Like what you like and don’t give a damn if that’s not cool.
14. Trust your gut feeling.
15. You are already more capable than you think.
16. Stay curious. Ask questions.
17. Put your phone away. At weddings, at dinner, at concerts… just put it away.
18. Always have ice cream in your freezer and a bottle of wine on hand.
19. When you stop trying to be seen, you end up being more fully known.
20. Drink water.
21. The best time to see a movie alone is at 1pm.
22. Make sure you move a little every day.
23. Call your mom.
24. Breathe prayer.
25. Follow the Photo Booth Rule.**
*I said MOST LIKELY. Shoutout to all of my fringe-rocking friends who are chic and way more hip than I’ll ever be.
**When you see a Photo Booth, you have to take a picture in it.

my car insurance broke up with me.

a story about why what you call yourself matters

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My own mother likes to gently remind me that I am good at many things, so I need to hold close the things I am terrible at. This is so I will stay humble and actually have friends who want to spend time with me. Good moms do that. They slip in subtle criticism next to a reminder that they think you are the most special, amazing human being that ever existed ever in order to preserve your self-esteem and have their own contingency plan in place for the amount of issues you will likely bring up in counseling years later. I hope to be exactly like her one day.

It is with this advice in mind that I have become a great passenger. I know how to AUX-cord-DJ for the specific company in the car, I always bring snacks, I can talk about anything in order to stay awake with the brave driver on long road trips, all because I loathe driving. Lucky for me, driving dislikes me almost as much as I hate it.

For years I’ve been in denial, telling myself that I am a good driver but I just don’t like driving. Because I should love driving! It means freedom: it’s a major rite of passage to turn 16 and get your driver’s license. And I didn’t even fail the test my first time! Therefore I must be a great driver. And then one month ago this little narrative was shattered by a seemingly harmless piece of junk mail.

My car insurance sent me a Dear John letter effectively ending our nearly 10 year relationship. It started off sweet by thanking me for my years of commitment but it took a turn when I noticed the kind introduction was soon followed by a list of “incidents” that have occurred over the past three years. When you lay them all out, it really does look like a rap sheet straight out of Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road that all points to one truth: I am a terrible driver.

But I should be a good driver. I drive more often than most for my job, I’m a relatively safe driver (despite my extensive list of offenses, the majority were very minor) and, most importantly, I’ve told myself that I am a good driver for years. I wonder if I didn’t live in a society that says freedom is having a driver’s license and a car if I would even have discovered this part of me wasn’t true? Or what if I took public transportation my whole life, would being a bad driver even define me if I never experienced it?

That letter helped me piece together a little more of my identity: I am Emily, a really bad driver.


It has recently come to my attention that the way I refer to myself when I first met people is not actually the way I move through the world. In the past, I used terms like “awkward” or “embarrassing” or to self-describe personality quirks in social situations. Which everyone does. People can laugh and deal with awkward. It’s the selfishness, fear, and pride I want to distract them from noticing.

Maybe you can relate. If I can get ahead of the flaws, then it would keep the world from being disappointed in my other very real and very not-so-desirable character traits. People like us, we put all of our junk right out in the open so that when we inevitably mess up in front of others we can say, “See?! I told you when we met — I’m the worst. This shouldn’t surprise you. You can’t be disappointed because I already gave you the heads up that I’m imperfect and WILL let you down because this is who I am.”

This is two gross realities wrapped up in one broken-identity burrito: (1) these words are a self-fulfilling prophecy and (2) they just highlight how much of a fraud you’re making yourself. You do what you say you are, and if you aren’t what you’ve been telling people then you also have the difficult task of keeping up appearances or risk being exposed.

If you want to avoid accountability and rejection, you quickly learn how to operate based on the rules learned in middle school on the bus, at home, in church, on a team. For me, this looked like having the personality version of a classic 2000’s throwback playlist – a definite crowd pleaser in the churchy circles I ran in, but when you listened too closely the lyrics they never quite match up with what you believe. I experienced acceptance and success when I was told I should self-identify as the type-A, perpetually positive achiever to feel like I had a place in the communities I called home .

No matter how many times I told myself that being this kind of “leader” was a good thing, this wasn’t the identity that should define my life. It got tiring always having to pretend that I like being in front of people and making decisions. That’s normally the last thing I want to do. That stage held up by the label “leader” fueled my pride and being seen made me want to tell lies to make sure people liked me. Just because I should be a leader and that should be good doesn’t mean that it was what should define me.

It is a beautiful, hard, never-ending process of getting to know yourself apart from the experiences that have told you who you should be.

After my fraudulent identity was exposed last year, I learned how sorry these attempts to be accepted were. Belonging requires you to be yourself. Not some version I think will gain the most amount of admirers, not the version I tell myself I am because I get a front row seat into my own cynicism, but the realest of the real version of me. Uncut, live, on the couch watching Golden Girls, and likely going on my 4th day of unwashed hair.  The person who aims to please no one but her ever-present, unseen Jesus friend. The one whose name was whispered by an unseen, unfamiliar God way back in 2009 when I was still operating under the label of “nice, responsible girl” by day and “bitter, angsty, know-it-all” by night.

I love that this is the way God gets his kid’s attention. He called their names: Abraham, Jacob, Martha, myself. I love that God shares his name with us and that name is self-descriptive. Did you know that? What God calls himself is exactly who he is. He doesn’t bait and switch to get us to like him. He is unapologetically, totally God and I think that’s one of the biggest privileges of being in relationship with anyone – loving them exactly as who the were made to be. Might as well start with yourself.

I spent time trying on words like “follower” and “dreamer” and “good” and many more this year.

One of the different names I’ve tried on this year is “creative”. I’ve never seen myself as creative, which is wild considering this little blogosphere exists and I suppose that’s creative enough. But I do have a creative energy that needs air to make me feel more like me. The more time and energy I devote to making something – a meal, cutting a pair of thrift shop denim jeans to a length I like, writing copy for a marketing project – the more I can breathe easy. My sleep comes out of a day’s satisfaction instead of exhaustion. So I’m Emily, and I’m a creative.

What you call yourself matters because you become what you say you are. And the names that seemed forever like tattoos were just temporary. You belong. You were always invited into the party, but you have to be honest about what name is on the list.

I’m Emily.

mind the gap.

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Wanderlust isn’t my thing.

Never have I ever felt the urgency to purchase plane tickets to a foreign country because the thought of planning a trip abroad brings me severe anxiety rather than joy. I wouldn’t self-identify as a “traveller” (although my airport routine is a tried and true science because your girl doesn’t want to bear the shame of holding up the security line). I don’t have a bucket list of places I would like to visit before I die, because truthfully I could die tomorrow having never visited any of those places and I would think that my fully restored self is more preoccupied with the fact that I could see like 8,000 more colors or something and resurrected Jesus is handing me a cup of water-wine rather than spending eternity regretting the places I hadn’t seen on Earth.

But when I turned 18 years old I got my passport. Not because I was going anywhere but because I wanted the ability to go everywhere. Collecting all of the freedoms offered to you is a thrilling thing to realize as a young adult. Especially for a cautious girl who used to like to get close enough to her fears to feel the heat of them but never actually do anything about them.  

My passport’s most recent tattoo is from London, where a friend and I met to play tourist for a week. Honestly if you travel for no other reason than just to experience life with a friend you enjoy, then that’s a good enough reason to buy a ticket.

We spent most of our days exploring the city via the London Underground, which if you’ve never heard of it is basically London’s subway system. If you have heard of it, then you’ll recognize the saying “Mind the Gap.” It’s a very George Orwell 1984-ish intercom reminder that there is a small space between where the tube loads and the edge of the platform. If you’re not aware of it, then you could fall to your inevitable death or dismemberment. “Mind the Gap” is the perfect blend of a logical, safety reminder with dark, British humor. Most people probably disregard this announcement as background noise and common sense.

The things that are repeated, normalized, and routine are when I feel closest to God. It’s a liturgy of the everyday. Things like my morning alarm or making the same breakfast or hearing “Mind the Gap” over and over again for a week straight somehow are written in all-caps to make me notice them. It’s these things that make me want to bring them to you.

Sure. On this trip I danced in front of the Tower of London, felt things in the Tate Modern, strolled through Notting Hill just like in my favorite movies, embarrassed myself in the best way at local pubs, and tasted the stars in a bottle of prosecco but what I’m taking with me from this place is to mind the gap.

You could stay on the platform all of your life if you mind it too much. The Gap could control you. Its constant reminder of your own mortality could paralyze you into never leaving home ever again. Fear is my most familiar feeling and they say that the only thing that kicks it to the curb is perfect love. Love is a verb. You can’t love if you don’t step out and move. So mind the gap but realize that there are things that matter more than your own fears.

And then again, not paying attention to where your feet are could be the end of you. You could seriously injure or damage yourself or other people with your own recklessness getting to where YOU need to be. So mind the gap because love looks around.

“The mere exercise of attention – eyes wide, ears pricked, heart open – is not a bad way to move through the world.” // Mary Karr

Eyes wide. Ears pricked. Heart open. More human and more whole.