You Have An Important Story to Tell

After years of immediate rejection, queries, more rejection, more writing, and more rejection, I had finally received one shining ray of hope. I received some overwhelmingly good news in an email from my agent. She had sent my novel proposal to a bunch of different publishing houses, and the initial interest level was high.

Immediately a question flared up in my mind: Should I share this news? On one hand, it was really good news! I couldn’t wait to tell my friends! On the other hand, if I told people, and then every publishing house decided against it, I’d have even more failure explaining to do.

I wanted to bring people into my story, but I also didn’t want to drag them on a roller coaster ride, especially not one that ended in disappointment.

* * * * *

photo-1455081758579-1acd370b695aWhile we tend to define our lives by the highs and lows, the victories and the tragedies, those moments actually make up a very small percentage of our years. Most of our time here on earth is lived in the messy middle – the waiting, the uncertainty, the long spans of time when we’re trying to decide between this and that.

Yet, for so many reasons, we don’t want to share in the midst of the mess. Maybe we’re afraid to hope that this particular story will turn out well. Maybe we’re worried that by sharing too soon, we’ll drag others down when it all falls apart. Maybe we secretly believe that even this latest effort will crash and burn, and we’re already trying to forget about it.

But the messy middle is where we connect with each other as human beings. When we only share our triumphs after they have occurred, we risk alienating those around us who are still waiting for their ship to come in. When we wait to share our stories until we can give “The 10 Ways to Succeed” spiel, we’ve missed a crucial opportunity to pull another human being alongside us, in the mess, and walk that path together.

* * * * *

A few months ago my wife peeked her head around the corner and asked me one of the last questions I expected her to ask.

“So, are you ready for baby number six?” she asked, her unblinking eyes wide open.

“Really?” I asked.

She nodded. I took a deep breath.

“Really?” I asked again. “Are you sure?”

The question then became, “When do we tell the kids?” We knew our other children would be ecstatic to learn there was another baby on the way, but Maile had miscarried twice. Should we try to spare them the potential heartache? Or should we tell them and involve them in the unfolding story?

In the end we opted to tell them. We explained the potential for disappointment as well as the hope we held to. Now we’re living that particular story together, as a family, and it feels like the right way to live.

* * * * *

Share your story now, where you are. Don’t wait for the revelation or the success or the culmination. You may have no idea how things are going to turn out, but that’s okay. We need to hear what it’s like while you’re on the journey, in the messy middle.

shawn bio YAH

Hole in the Wall

I’ve shared room 205 with the same roommate for three years now. Early on, the two of us forged a haphazard sort of system to keep the room habitable. But we’ve never been neat about it. We’re close friends with the girls in the dorm room next door, and the four of us are constantly spreading ourselves out between the two spaces. The unique transiency of college has permeated our way of living, almost subconsciously, and we never seem to be all the way settled in.

I never imagined I would live in a place this messy. The closets in our room perpetually overflow. Empty Capri Sun juice pouches sit on the windowsill. There is a hole in the concrete block wall that we duct tape every year on move-in day, afraid of what would crawl through otherwise. Recently, my roommate’s birthday cake sat out on a plate for over a week, becoming crunchy before it occurred to us that we should throw it away.

My room at home, though, has become even more pristine since my absence. The walls are white and the closet is bare and the trash can is empty. At home, I wake up and am completely alone. But always, after I drive the four hours home and I sleep and wake in my own bed, I am more reminiscent for the noise than appreciative of the quiet. I miss has become the mantra of college breaks.

*   *   *   *   *

Home, for the first time in my life, is a fluid concept, always seeming to be where I am not. Family is even more ambiguous . My family, of course, includes my mom and dad, my brothers and sister, all of whom I deeply love. But if a family consists of the people who know where you are and love you despite it, then my family is also a cobbling of young adults, mere semesters away from dispersal. I still have close ties to the place in which I grew up, but each year they are changing. We are selling the house with the pristine bedroom, and I find myself largely apathetic. It is only a place to sleep.

The place in which I live from August to May is different. It is where life together is made rich and loud and colorful. After we move out, our beloved room with the hole in the wall and the small closets and the overenthusiastic heater will be exposed for what it is. There was nothing intrinsically special about those concrete blocks or the bedframes or the thin carpet; they were only bare spaces for us to learn to fill. They will be passed on to new freshmen, who will peel our duct tape off of the hole in the wall and solve the problem in their own way.

*   *   *   *   *

Next year, instead of sharing a dorm room, we will get an apartment, and we will decorate for our climactic last year together. We will hang colorful shower curtains. We will carry oversized couches up the stairs. We will string twinkle lights and maybe even make our beds for once. We’ll have roommate pasta dinners and Waffle Tuesdays. I’m just as excited as I am apprehensive for this brief, beautiful time together. The more I come to love where I am, the more I believe that it is home, the more it will hurt when the time comes to leave.

And yet, in this moment, this is my family, and this is my home.

 *   *   *   *   *

juniors_christmas_banquet“Hole in the Wall” was written by Veronica Toth. Veronica is a junior English major at Taylor University (located in approximately the middle of nowhere, Indiana). She’s grown to love cornfield country and especially the people who live there. She enjoys occasionally writing poetry and always using sarcasm. Veronica is pictured on the far left with three close college friends; they do not keep dorm rooms clean, but they do love each other. She blogs at Tasting Twice.