Mackenzie (Brights Strange Things) means many things to me: late nights listening to Gary Jules and Common Rotation at the Hotel Cafe. Long drives up and down the Pacific Coast Highway in which we talked about everything under the sun. Improvised text message verses to the Common Rotation song “Fortunate.” Awesome book covers for my novels. The goodness of knowing–through having been there and done that, countless times over–I can safely tell her anything without her thinking less or more of me because she already sees and loves me exactly as I am.
It’s been eight years since we lived in the same town and a year since our last visit, but Mack is an ever-present feeling of love in my heart. I think you’ll see why as you read her words below.
Recommended post: Born to Be Free
The Pogues and Parcheesi and afternoon strolls through IKEA
There are many things which have come easily to me, in the course of my life. I took pretty effortlessly to drawing things, and writing, and getting through school with an absolute bare minimum of effort, and I am also, for the record, pretty good at knitting potholders. Things that I am not so much good at include talking, telephones, arguments, coping with ghastly color schemes, and anything to do with relationships of any kind.
It’s not like I was a feral child raised by particularly unsociable dingoes, but it is fair to say that my family could’ve formed our own local chapter of Hermits United. During my formative years, when my classmates were learning how to strengthen or destroy friendships, fomenting drama amongst themselves, and taking every opportunity to practice their fornicating (I’m rather sad I missed out on that part), I was lost in my own mental worlds, for the most part content to completely avoid any sort of human interaction. I had a few friends, certainly, and was on good terms with pretty much my entire graduating class, but I had made a strong and early habit of keeping everyone at arm’s length. I also had what I then would’ve called “quirks” and my mom called “moodiness” which I now would probably classify as an amount of anxiety verging on clinical disorder. These and other factors are why, when I decided to move away from home and across the country after high school, things did not always go well.
It wasn’t that I was stupid. It was just that I was about as well-equipped for independent adult life as a penguin is equipped to survive in Death Valley.
Luckily, I had T. T was my first roommate, and probably my first truly close friend. T is older than I am, and to say that her experience of the world is somewhat broader is a vast understatement. She was well traveled and had gone to college and for some reason random strangers really liked to just walk up and talk to her, whereas I’d never even eaten at a real Mexican restaurant. T invited me to parties, towed me along to dinners, got me out of the apartment and generally did her best to socialize me. It was a fairly thankless job. I was walking social strychnine and I wasn’t always easy to live with, either. I was largely oblivious to everything from basic social cues to table manners to flatsharing etiquette. And yet, somehow, even at her most exasperated, T managed to gently cajole me toward adulthood without making me feel like I couldn’t also be myself.
When Deborah started this guest post series on thankfulness and gratitude, and asked me if I’d be interested in writing something, I thought of T first. Although we’d lost touch over the years, I still thought of her often, and by crazy random happenstance, right around the time I started writing this post, T tracked me down and got in touch again. I was delighted to hear from her, though everything I’ve had to say seems inadequate while “you’re my hero” kind of sounds like an invitation for a restraining order. Hopefully she still knows me well enough to know that if this blog is the best I can do for love letter and apology, that it’s only because I’m still a little emotionally stunted.
In those years of relative silence I’d often contemplated writing T to tell her how much she changed my life, and that I couldn’t think of a single thing I was more intensely grateful for than the friendship that she — and her own very gracious friends — had extended to me at a time when I needed it most, when things could’ve gone either way, when my choices really were to join the human race or to shut myself away from it. The changes she began laid the foundations for the person I became and am in the process of becoming. Because of T, I began to learn the tentative skills that helped me build all of the friendships that came after. And each of those people has also helped to shape me as a person in large and small ways. I carry some little piece of each of them with me, in the form of a memory, a song, a moment, a lesson, a turn of phrase, a regret, an old pain, a fresh joy.
So when you ask what I’m thankful for, I’ll tell you that I’m thankful for friendship and the way it grows, taking root in each part of a person and holding the center together. I’m thankful for The Pogues and Parcheesi and afternoon strolls through IKEA. I’m thankful for sweet potato fries, Hard Core Logo and impromptu cooking lessons. I’m thankful for cold drinks on the deck and a quiet conversation in the hay loft and messages from people who are half a world away but still so close by. I’m thankful for crashing on couches and laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe and knowing what it feels like to miss somebody when they aren’t there. I’m thankful for long meandering conversations from the driver’s seat and the crush of a crowded club and feeling that I can say anything, anything at all, and still be loved, always be loved, because there is no end to a thing that becomes a part of you.
I’m thankful for every minute of every day that another human being, motivated by nothing but kindness and love and camaraderie, reminds me that the only way to fail at life is choosing not to live it.
Fewer than three days remain till I give away three copies of The Monster’s Daughter! Many folks have linked to the contest, but few have emailed me letting me know they did so. Remember, the email serves as your entry form!
If you have emailed me? Odds of your winning a book are pretty favorable right now!
In other news, Mack has provided a new cover for A Season in Korea: