It's been a while since I wrote. There are a lot of reasons why, but the best one is that I didn't feel I had anything new to say. I didn't just not write here, I didn't write. Some of you will understand what that's like. To not write felt like I had left a crucial piece of myself somewhere out on the highway to get run over, but I couldn't remember where I had gone. Recently something happened, though, and suddenly I found it, that there was in fact something that still needed to be said. And, like most stories, it can't be told well without a little retracing of steps to provide a frame, so bear with me for a moment...
Once upon a time, The Husband and I sat on a grassy hill in summer, looking out over miles of forest and fields, holding hands and talking about...politics. We were specifically discussing the American plans (at that time they were only plans) to build a big ol' fence to keep the Mexicans out. The concept, to both of us, was patently idiotic. Whatever your take on Hispanic immigrants in the 'States, it is easily apparent that building a chain link fence isn't going to do much but piss them off. So after a few moments' rant, we began discussing other walls throughout history. The Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall, Hadrian's Wall...and how they were all failed attempts at protection and, ultimately, separation of people who weren't really that different. We talked about all the many ways that people try to draw lines, create Others, and the animal instinct to seek security through being part of a pack. We talked about a lot of things, but somewhere in the discussion we came up with an Idea. The Husband is a photographer, and I have a certain fondness for writing. The Idea was that we could travel the world, visiting all these walls (both ancient and modern), researching their history and talking to the people who lived around them. The Husband could photograph these walls and these people, and I could write about their stories. At the end of it all, we would make a book, and who knows? Perhaps people would read the book and some of them would decide that walls weren't the solution. Perhaps some of them would even start to look for other ways to approach the difficulties we all face.
Unfortunately, we were broke (as we usually are), and so the idea got put on the shelf along with many other dreams that would be nice, some day...
The other part of the frame for my story takes place a couple of years later, just a few months ago. I was sitting in a coffee shop, chatting online with some dear friends in Australia. The topic was what you would really do, if you could live your life any way you want. And they weren't quite sure at the time, but I had some definite notions. I wanted to write and to travel. I wanted a lot of things, actually, but at the center of it all was that. And from that conversation came the idea that, if only we could all figure out what we really wanted, we could be allies in helping every one of us to get there.
And then, one day about a week ago, I came home to discover that while I was gone The Husband had signed up for a contest. It's a photography contest, wherein a $50,000 prize will be given to one person to go do the photography shoot of their dreams. And the idea he entered was...The Idea. The problem was that, to even get to the final round of judging, you had to be in the top 20 "popular" votes, meaning roughly that you had to have a hell of a lot of people show up on the site and vote your project up. And so I emailed a few people, and we went up a few points...and the other top contenders climbed higher and higher. And so I went through my address book again, adding a few more. And again we went up a few more votes, while others climbed steadily higher. Finally I just started emailing everyone I could think of, spammed my Facebook friend's list, started begging my Mom to send it on to all those people she sends forwards of cutesy animals with their heads in the toilet. And we're still barely hanging on to 20th place...but I started to realize something. These people, some of whom I hadn't even spoken to in a year, were turning out to do a little bit to help. Some of them were doing even more, sending our plea on to all their friends, writing articles, helping to film a promotional video for Youtube... and for about the millionth time in my life, I found myself thoroughly humbled.
See, a few minutes to show up on a website and vote doesn't actually cost any one person a lot, but no one has to do it. And it's easy not to. There have been many, many times where I got some sort of "please take just a minute to..." email in my inbox, and dismissed it without even really reading it. I'm sitting here now, though, realizing that for whatever reason, a truly amazing number of people looked at my email and decided to lend a hand. It was ten minutes (I said in my email it would be five, but one respondent corrected me) to them...and each one left me feeling truly grateful, just a little closer to something I so desperately wanted. And I thought back to my conversation with my friends in Australia, and I realized this doesn't have to be a pact among just a few people. We can, each one of us, pick something we really, really want, and then all help each other try to get there.
Today I spoke with a friend online to whom I haven't really talked in a while. He was having a bad day. Not the end of the world, but with some real problems and no idea how to fix them. As we talked, I realized that there was something I could do, something that would get him a little closer to what he Really Wants To Do. So I just said I would. It's as simple as that. We can all do whatever is in front of us, whatever is in our power, every chance we get, and know that maybe we are all helping each other get somewhere. It doesn't have to be every man for himself. It doesn't have to be sink or swim. We can all of us give whatever we can in any moment to help everyone else we care about get just a little closer to the life they really want. We can all be allies, well before all those walls come down. All it takes is just a little more.
So what I really wanted to say is thanks. To every person who took
five ten minutes and tried to help me get a little closer to what I Really Want To Do, thank you. Whether or not we win this contest, you, bit by bit, gave me something more. I hope that when you see your chance you will let me know how I can help. Because you reminded me about what is really important...and you somehow gave me something to write about.