Weird Sources of Wisdom 1: Labyrinth

As I was falling asleep at one point over last weekend, a line came into my head and stuck with me. It was one of those throw-away lines from a cartoon, and yet, as it crashed into whatever I’d been halfway to dreaming about, it made an odd amount of sense. Of course, I promptly forgot which line it was as soon as I fell asleep, but I remembered it happening. So I decided to start connecting the bits of wisdom I’ve accumulated over the years from odd places. These aren’t philosophers or classic writers. But you don’t have to be an ancient font of wisdom for your wisdom to be true nonetheless.

So, let’s start with Labyrinth.

If you’ve never seen it, you gotta fix that. Like now, today. Go find the movie and watch it. We can be friends again afterwards. If you just need a reminder, here you go:

There’s so much good in the movie, not just the fun and the puppets and David Bowie being the absolute king. It’s knowing who you are, where you’re going, what you really believe. Are you Hoggle, struggling to find the inner resolve to choose a path that frightens you? Are you Didymus, caught up how things should be done instead of looking to see how they can be done? Are you Ludo who just needs to be given a chance?

Labyrinth was one of the first VHS tapes I owned, and one of the first DVDs, too. It was also a soundtrack I listened to constantly my first year at college as I was on my own journey to figure out my way forward. But it goes farther back than that. Labyrinth was one of the four pillars — four shows/movies that pretty much defined how I saw myself and who I wanted to be while I was growing up. We’ll get to the other three another day.

So — the pieces of wisdom that Labyrinth embedded in my soul?

“Things are not always what they seem in this place, so you can’t take anything for granted.”

The little worm says this when Sarah is first running through the labyrinth. It’s a blink-and-you-miss-it exchange, particularly afterwards when the worm makes its own assumptions (and thus doesn’t happen to mention that Sarah was face to face with a path directly to her goal). The labyrinth itself is always changing, evolving, and what was a path through turns into a dead end as soon as you quit looking at it. The only way through is to remain flexible on your feet and in your thinking. Question what you see, question what you assume, question what you think you know. And be prepared to be surprised.

“It’s not fair!”
“You say that so often, I wonder what your basis for comparison is.”

It’s a harsh moment for Sarah, having her constant refrain called out. But Jareth is right — she DOES say it a lot. And, if you look at it, a lot of what Sarah considers “not fair” is really just “not the way she wants it to be.” “Fair” would be everything working out the way she wants regardless of anyone else’s needs or motivations. Sarah is self-centered, and doesn’t see that things that don’t seem fair to her are not therefore intentional slights or deliberate attacks — sometimes they are people trying to meet their own goals. Sure, Jareth isn’t making this easy for her, but he isn’t supposed to. Sarah is only the hero of her OWN story, not his. And when Sarah quits judging the actions and choices of others against what she wants, she loses a lot of her resentment, too. There are genuinely unfair things in the world. But there’s a huge difference between injustice and people getting in each other’s way by existing. A hero’s tale wouldn’t mean anything if everyone just got out of her path and let her win without a fight.

“The way forward is sometimes the way back.”

Okay, I like this one even though it’s trite. It comes from that “wiseman” with a talkative bird hat that Sarah and Hoggle meet after getting out of the tunnels under the labyrinth. Sarah asks for advice, and this is one of the lines he spouts while dodging quips from his hat. The hat insults him, but the point is still well intentioned. For me, I think specifically that it’s the emotional context where this works for me. Sure, I can push on, tackle the journey ahead of me without hesitating, but advancing my steps might mean unraveling me in other ways. Getting to the finish line and getting there with no spoons, fully burned out, exhausted — does it count as a win if I lost to get there? So I think it’s not just about realizing that sometimes you have to take a few steps backward to move forward, but also think about how those moves impact you on multiple levels. There is usually a way to move that won’t cut you apart.

“You have no power over me.”

The whole speech Sarah quotes at the start of the movie and then in her final confrontation with Jareth has always meant a lot to me. I used to have it up on the wall next to my dorm room in college. There’s courage in it, and defiance, and endurance. But it’s that last line that really drives itself into my heart. Jareth is all-powerful, and yet he is begging Sarah to fear him. From her obedience comes his power. And it’s so true in the world. It’s SO TRUE. So much of the world is predicated on a complicated set of social contracts. “Don’t correct an authority figure.” “Be polite even if it means allowing someone else to be rude.” “Don’t make waves.” “Don’t make a scene.” It’s garbage, all of it. Of course, I believe in being polite, and in being respectful, and in generally showing kindness. But I’m not going to let the unwritten social morays keep me from asserting my own power. Social rules say not to stick your nose in if somebody is being bullied — but the power of a bystander stepping up and saying “Enough” is greater than anyone realizes until it happens. Expectations can pile up like bounders on your shoulders, but you don’t have to play by them. No one, NO ONE has the power to make you anything but what you choose to be. And to exercise that strength is to be oneself, fully and unapologetically. And, like Jareth, those who would demand obedience and find none are themselves rendered powerless.

“It’s only forever, not long at all.”

This is my favorite line in the “Underground” song. I used to hang onto the “No one can blame you for running away” part, but that was when I was still struggling to find my way in a place I’d chosen for myself. But that “It’s only forever, not long at all” has always stuck with me, too, and far moreso after I no longer needed to run away. There’s something flippant to it, but it’s deep, too. Because forever is just the series of the next one. Telling myself I’m going to do X thing every day for the rest of my life feels daunting. But telling myself I’ll do it “next time” and then, after the day after that, “next time,” and after that, “next time” — those next times DO add up to forever. I’ve seen it used as a model for people trying to get out of habits or get in them, from changing their eating patterns to exercise to prayer or meditation. Critically, it also works on dealing with something difficult. Sure, balancing a level of stress and seeing no end to it can crush you. But taking a deep breath and saying, “I only need to do this today” is liberating. And then, when tomorrow becomes today, “I only need to do this today.” It makes the longest and heaviest of loads something quantifiable, something limited, something within the scope of endurance.

Put that way, “I’m going to write stories forever” becomes too short. Because I only have today to write stories. And then tomorrow. And someday my tomorrows will run out, but the story ideas won’t.

Forever could never be long enough, put that way.

I guess, when you consider that this was a fourth of where I began, there’s no real surprise I ended up where I did. After all, I did find my way into the Underground, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather spend my forever.

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Diamond and Rough

The patterns of how I listen to music are a little strange, I’ll admit. I can go a year without ever feeling the urge to regularly play anything less than upbeat except in very specific circumstances (meditation, a writing playlist associated with a story, etc.) and then suddenly find myself pulling out all the slower, sadder, more contemplative songs in a single rush. Part of this, I think, is that I tend to prefer happy, energetic music except when I’m in a downswing. But also, I am one of those people who strongly reflects internally what is happening around me externally — so happy, cheerful, kickass, positive music helps me create a positive feedback loop to carry me into that same mindset. So I listen to slower or sadder music far less frequently.

And yet, when I do, it never fails to have an impact on me.

A second circle in the Venn diagram that is how-Kelly-listens-to-music regards source and/or language. I have a deep and abiding fondness for songs that come from something I love, so I have a lot — A LOT — of soundtracks. Especially with vocal music, I find that I can attach very specific feelings to songs that happen during particular scenes or sung by certain characters, and they stick with me long after the shine is off the original source. A movie I wouldn’t bother sitting through for a half-decade might not speak to me, but that one song sung in that one dramatic moment can still bring me to tears.

Since I watch and enjoy a lot of anime, there is a whooooole list of wonderful songs that can evoke those kinds of emotions, but whose language I don’t understand (other than a word here or there). For those songs, I try to learn them — both to sing the Japanese correctly and to be able to recall at least the broad strokes of the translation. As I said when I wrote about the poetry of Izumi Shikibu, Japanese poetry really speaks to me, and song lyrics are no different. They may not always readily translate to English words, but the feelings are universal.

If there is a third circle in the Venn diagram, it comes down to songs I can really sing. There are lots of songs I can sing, but they don’t always work in my range. Songs sung by men in the low tenor range mean I have to sing them up the octave, and that is not always the right choice. Some women’s voices just don’t match for mine, so even if we share the range, I sound like a strangled turtle trying to put together the same notes. And there are some songs I just love, but would never really want to sing except for myself with nobody listening (see all songs about sex, for example).

One song that has spoken to me since I first heard it is “Diamond Crevasse” from Macross Frontier. It’s such a moving song, the sorrowful and loving lament of saying goodbye to someone too soon, too unexpectedly. It ends with a line which is translated as “I wish the planet would whisper to me that I’m not alone.” Since I first heard it, it seemed exactly the song to express loss and love and the loneliness that comes with grief.

In a COVID-19 world, there’s a lot of grief. Even for those who have not (yet) lost people they love to the virus, we have all lost something. We have lost hours, days, weeks with the people we love whom we cannot see in person, cannot hug, cannot console. We have lost days in the spring, birthdays, evenings of sunsets gathered around a meal. We have lost a kind of innocence, the certainty that the world works the way we predict. We have lost mental health and resources, jobs, patience, and hours of sleep.

I had been thinking for a while about starting up posting songs on YouTube again, just idly, but that idle fancy took on new life when choir rehearsals stopped. Apparently I can’t go that long without needing and wanting to sing, to share music, even if no one is listening. And singing to myself at my desk or while doing chores just didn’t fulfill the need sufficiently. So I combined my feelings about COVID-19 with the songs I wanted to put into the world, and I created this:

The words are mine, in that I interpreted the translation and rewrote it to fit the actual rhythm of the words. Japanese can, beautifully, say so much so simply, but it still does so in a lot of syllables. I had to add and stretch a lot to make the words fit in the melody correctly. But I tried to keep it as directly tied to the original as possible.

I recorded the audio in our bathroom, singing into Sarah’s laptop, which has the best microphone of the working microphones we currently have available, and then filmed the visual separately a week ago as the sun started to set on our balcony. I still think of it as “emoting off a balcony” and I’m sure it looked funny from below, but I had to do something. Just standing still and singing facing the camera didn’t do the song justice. You can’t see that I have streaks of purple and pink in my hair in the style of the character (Sheryl is sung by the artist May’n) but they were there. We took a total of four takes, and this was by far the best of them, both in terms of lighting and in terms of me not getting weird.

Also, the video doesn’t do justice to the fact that it was COLD out. My sweater (a frankensweater made by the awesome sluagh on Etsy) kept my arms warm, but the bar under my hands was ICE COLD and it did not improve as I touched it. I had goosebumps on my goosebumps, and poor Sarah, who was operating the camera, was colder still. Between tries, we had to duck inside so I could hug her a while.

But it came together, and that’s what really matters.

I have a hard time listening to myself sing — all I hear is everything I do wrong. Similarly, I can’t really speak to how I look on camera because I only see imperfections. It’s a song called “Diamond Crevasse” but it’s hard for me to think about my own performance because all I see is the rough. That’s just me and my insecurity; it doesn’t mean it’s true. And even if the whole song was rough, there is still sparkle somewhere in there, and I have to hang onto that. After all, even if I totally screwed it up (and I don’t think I did), the song itself is still beautiful in any form.

And, no matter how I feel about my looks or my sound, I know I put my heart into the song. I put all that loss and grief and missing people into it, but also the love I have for everyone I can’t be with right now. The first time I practiced it with the English words, I had to stop as my throat closed up and I found myself getting teary thinking about how many people I long to see again. Even in the last take, the one Sarah mixed into the audio, I think you can still hear when I quit being a stoic performer and started to feel what was behind the words. “Diamond Crevasse” is a song about loss, but it is a song about love first. And I sang it out of love, as well as missing all the people I miss. And that’s the only part that really matters.

I’m going to try to do more of these, and Sarah might even do some with me. Together, we’ll put together the happy songs to make people smile, or the quiet ones that reflect our feelings. Or, maybe we’ll write our own instead. Either way, we need music. And I need to put it in the world.

It’s long been my belief that we can put good into the world even if it only touches a few people, but that good is no less valuable for its small impact. The world could use every single particle of good we can give it right now, and I may not be able to serve in big ways, but I can feel a song and share it. If nothing else, I can do that much.

And maybe, if I keep singing off my balcony (or waving while emoting) I’ll be able to help someone else remember that they are not alone upon the planet…

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Powerful Gay Music

Sorry about missing the last couple of Mondays. In spite of sheltering at home, there’s still a lot going on, including a new and positive, albeit heavier load at the job, and generally keeping myself and Sarah on top of our health and emotions and needs.

Also, Friday was our 17th anniversary, as I ranted at length on Twitter.

17 years is a long time, and yet it flew by. I look at Sarah and still get all twitterpated, not butterflies in my stomach nervous, but more “holy CRAP I get to hang out with this perfect person who I adore and I never have to leave her side!” It’s a heady feeling. I never get tired of walking into a room and knowing she is there. It never feels like I get tired of her, or would like a break. Even when things are tough, I could more easily quit having limbs.

But I already did this ranting on Twitter, so that’s enough for now.

Instead, have this beautiful short from YouTube. It popped up at exactly the right time, and Sarah and I both enjoyed it immensely. Sometimes the simplest stories are the ones you need, and this was precisely the fairy tale we wanted on our anniversary.

(Also, I HIGHLY suggest watching it with captions on. Thus the infinitely appropriate to Sarah and I title of this entry.)

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When we look up sometimes

It’s beautiful and sunny in Minnesota today, and I actually managed to sleep some last night. I haven’t looked at Twitter in more than 24 hours, and so I’m feeling okay.

So here’s a happy song. It makes me feel a little better, being reminded that there are still beautiful moments in the world even when it feels like everything is going to hell. And that the only thing that can lift me up right now is myself, if I “keep on keeping at what [I] love.”

I wrote more than 6,000 words this weekend. So I definitely did something right.

The only thing I can control is myself, and sometimes not even that. So I’m going to let the happy song play, and put whatever good I can summon into the world today while I’ve got it.

The sun is shining, and today, so can I.

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Fried and crispy

I’m not quite sure what happened here. I had the 20th of January off work, and kind of forgot that it was a Monday, and I was at a convention the first few days of February so last week was spent catching up on sleep. I don’t remember why I didn’t post on January 27th. Probably I had a moderately acceptable reason. Oh well.

It’s been a weirdly long few days. Stuff has been stressful for Sarah and I both, and it seems like we only just get to catch our breaths before the next thing has to be handled. So I am, as I put it in an email, currently fried as fuck.

Therefore, even though I’m behind on entries, I’m giving myself permission to take another breath and look at the blue Minnesota sky and work on regaining some equilibrium. A little boring for anyone who actually reads this blog (all 4 of you, I think!), but you also know me in other ways and can always poke if you want actual entertainment.

Until then, have a song from cheerful anime of girls who are pop idols with magic voice power:

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Into the New Year

2019 was the end of a lot of things in my life, which means 2020 can only become a beginning. I had 5 goals at the end of 2018, and of those 5, I think I managed to accomplish most of them. Getting back to writing was the great failure, but I did continue querying, get back to exercising, get more comfortable in my role as a Co-Head of Operations, and sort out the housing situation.

I did query the novel hard — more than 50 queries sent. Now the time comes to end that process. If someone chooses to pick up the book, I would be MORE THAN THRILLED, but I gave it its shot and now I need to move forward. Write the next one, begin again. If a single book that failed to gain traction was the end of my willingness to work towards publishing, I would be a poor author indeed. Writing is always about failure and trying again. Every novel is better than the last, every character stronger, every quirky use of language more deliberate. Writing is a constant process of growth, and that includes abject failure to launch. It hurts, of course it does. But it’s part of the cycle and publishing wouldn’t mean anything to me if it came easily.

On the exercise front, 2019 is the year that I came to terms with the fact that now is the opportune moment to be real about my own health. After watching heart attacks and health scares throughout my family and friends, it’s impossible for me to blithely assume that I can live as long as I want to live and be healthy, and not do anything to help it along. It’s not about body shape or size — it’s about keeping my heart young and fit, my lungs strong, my tendons loose. It’s about putting in the work now that will pay off in twenty years when things start to weaken. I’ve never been good at exercise, but I very much want to have enough time to write all my stories and be with all the people I love, and so for those things I can get on the elliptical.

2019 is also the absolute last year that Sarah and I will ever want to own and live in a house. Holy CRAP is it nice living in a condo. Seriously. Snow falls and we don’t have to think about shoveling. Windstorms arrive and there’s no need to pick up sticks. It costs more, which is a whoooole other problem, but overall, the change from house to condo has been the right one and has worked out beautifully. Plus, being downtown is amazing and I don’t think I could go back to the suburbs or a small town again if I tried. The energy of life here is great, not just nature (though having the Mississippi out my window helps with that), but of people, of ambition, of dreams, of creativity, of community — it’s so much sharper here than it ever was anywhere else I’ve lived. I can breathe up here in the sky like I never did on the ground, literally and figuratively.

We lost things, though. We lost Maia. We lost others (not friends of ours, but friends of friends, and sometimes the mourning process happens to you even if you aren’t the one grieving). I lost a lot of time and stress to personal grief about people I love who were on the edge. I lost a kind of blind faith in certain organizations. We lost a fridge to a squeaky death.

And yet, I can’t define myself and my life by what I lose. I can only define it by what I gain.

I gained a new job this year, a new perspective on city living, a new daily view out the window. I gained confidence in being a Co-Head of Operations, and gained greater trust in my team. I gained more closeness with people I love. I gained perspective on writing and how that intersects with CONvergence (post for another day). I gained a new appreciation for public transit. I gained the ability to sleep at night without worrying about noises outside. I gained the ability to run a lot farther and faster on the elliptical. I gained new music and new art on my walls and new shows/movies to watch and consider and new books to enjoy. I gained a new kitten.

This is Tadashi, adopted the weekend after Christmas at 7 months old. Because everybody needs a pause for kitties!

His current favorite pastimes include “burying” toys in the gaps between couch cushions, getting held and pet, pouncing on toes under blankets, wrestling with Kiba, aggressively licking and being licked by Kiba, eating, finding out what the humans are eating, trying to eat what the humans are eating, bonelessly napping, and purring while sleeping on feet.

So. Cute.

Anyway.

There will always be more loss and failure and disappointment on the horizon, and usually not very far off, either. Death and grief happen because life is invariably fatal, no matter how much you love someone. The world doesn’t always give you the gift you ask for, and there isn’t always a fair or soothing reason why. Bad shit happens. People disappear. Hoped for dreams fail miserably. Future paths dry up and leave you stranded.

But, for me, I can’t measure my life by those. Life is dark and light, black and gold, wrapped around one another like twin vines. Growth comes in the contrast, in the places where they meet, in the glow of like crashing against unlike. And if I spent all my time looking at everything that didn’t go my way, looking at only one side of the coin, I would miss out on so much joy. I would miss out on so much laughter. I would miss out on so much hope.

In the middle of 2019, I had a lot of stress and despair and fear, and at points I was low and scared and sad and nothing in the world seemed beautiful. And looking ahead to 2020, it doesn’t mean those feelings won’t come back, or won’t find new life in new crises. But today I can let things end with peace. Today I can look back at all that was lost and gained, and I can see the wheel turning in all those changes. Life doesn’t stop, even when we wish it would, for good or ill. Death cycles to renewal, failure to growth, despair to relief and hope.

Life is a cycle, not a circle. It is a spiral, winding ever upwards. Even when you pass over what you’ve walked before, you aren’t in the exact same place. You’re up a level. You’ve come farther, even when the stairs are familiar.

And for all the pain and sorrow and grief, there are joyful, amazing, soul-affirming things too. 2019 has ended, and so much with it. I look forward to every new beginning 2020 will bring.

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New writing project

The blog posts in December will be short (and will dry up in the last couple of weeks) because I’m really trying to focus my creative energy on writing a new novel. It’s original, urban fantasy, but with absolutely no vampires or werewolves. I’m taking a new look at what’s possible, at the monsters in our midst. Vampires and werewolves grew out of historical fears about disease from dead bodies, wolves in the woods, etc. Humans are always afraid of the dark places where danger lurks. A millennia ago, those places were the forests and mountains, deep and dark and filled with risk and the unknown. Now those places are the cracks and corners in our cities, the abandoned buildings, the maintenance shafts, the closed-off areas. So that’s where I’m finding my monsters.

If you have ideas of either a place that’s a crack in the city in which something might lurk, or something odd that might choose to live out of the light of day, get in touch with me. I’m compiling a list.

Or, alternatively, if you have an eye on any place in Minneapolis or St Paul that would be great for a scene, let me know. I’m setting the whole story here in the Twin Cities, so I need more places to play!

I’ve got a playlist for this novel on YouTube, but the true theme that inspired me and keeps me focused is this:

If you want the rest of the playlist, let me know and I’ll send you the link.

In the meantime, welcome to December! Hopefully by the time I welcome you to January, this novel’s initial draft will be finished. That’s the goal.

Let’s see how I do.

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Heroes, Misfits, and Rebels

The Rebel Girls concert went so, so well, and people were in tears at times as we talked about the women and girls who have changed and are changing the world. From Harriet Tubman to Malala, from Abigail Adams to Greta Thunberg, we sang and spoke about women’s courage, women’s choices, women’s actions, and the changes that came from them. Me, too, thinking not only of the figures of history that paved the way for me, but the people in my own life who changed my own little world.

As Ann Reed says in her song “Heroes:”

“One life can tell the tale,
That if you make the effort, you cannot fail.
By your life you tell me it can be done,
By your life’s the courage to carry on.
Heroes appear like a friend
To clear a path or light a flame.
As time goes, you find you depend
On your heroes to show you the way.”

It’s also true that we are what we pretend to be. Want to have more courage, or charisma, or to live boldly? It doesn’t happen because you wish for it — it happens because you pretend for it, and eventually it becomes truth. By the same method, the people we see as our heroes become our blueprint for ourselves. The people we revere, we respect, we cling to, they are the mold we set for ourselves.

All of my heroes are rebels.

As part of a getting-to-know-you exercise with my Operations team, one of the questions I’ve added to our list is “What fictional character(s) best represents you?”

For myself, I have to choose 4. It *just so happens* they align nicely to the elements.

Air = Leonardo of the TMNT. This is where my leadership happens, grounded in the ability to just keep going, to lift the burdens of others, to be first one in and last out, to bleed for the protection of those I call my own. This is the peace of mind I seek, the insight, the stillness of meditation and the reverence for honor. But it’s also the unexpectedness of me being silly after I’ve been staid and solid too long. It’s the ability to see through a situation and find a path home.

Fire = Li Syaoran from Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles. This is the burning intensity of my ability to dedicate myself to a course of action and follow it to the end, NO MATTER WHAT. This is my loyalty, my devotion, my love. It’s also my courage, burning with the power of a lightning strike, to fight and fight and fight and never let the darkness of doubt win. It’s my ability to accept failure and stand back up and try again. It’s also my ability to take the hardest road, knowing it will hurt, but being willing to defer my own ease for the sake of what lies at the end of the path.

Water = Lacus Clyne from Gundam SEED (Destiny). In utter contrast to the previous, this is where I am soft and warm. This is love and emotion and gentleness and patience. This is the wisdom to know when to listen. But it’s also a steely strength of its own — not to fight, but to endure and resist. To sing the song of peace against the storm. To hold up others in their own battles, providing a safe refuge for them between the fires. To heal what is broken.

Earth = Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel from the MCU. Stubbornness. Not the burning refusal to be defeated as Syaoran, but the part that chuckles at failure and says, “huh, that was cute” and tries again. The ability to grow from something damaged, something incomplete, and embrace what lies within. The confidence to be grounded, steady, with an even temperment in the face of stress and a joke in the face of danger. This is also probably where my own independence streak lives, not doing the work or facing the troubles for someone else or for any high ideal, but because I am Defiance and hear me roar.

They are all rebels and troublemakers, every one of them. Leo, who lives under the honor of his family still lives his own life by his choice, in spite of the human society and enemies that hunt him. Syaoran…well, to avoid spoilers, let’s just say the dude is willing to challenge everything, even the makeup of spacetime itself, if he has to — and he cannot and will not apologize for doing what he must for the person he loves. Lacus is literally a rebel, joining a faction that takes no sides but the side of humanity and peace in the midst of a war and inciting people to follow her. Carol finds that she is on the wrong side of a war and leaps to at the chance to finally free herself from her constraints and claim a new place for herself.

They aren’t my heroes, per se, because my actual heroes are all real flesh-and-blood people who inspire me to live in this world with its rules and find ways to break them. But they are rebels who get to the heart of who I want to be. The rebel I want to be.

I came upon this quote while reading a fanfic sometime in the last couple of weeks, and I emailed it to myself so I would remember to post it at some point:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
― Rob Siltanen

Now, I know that this is a quote that came out of a marketing meeting and was used to sell Apple products. I know that. But it doesn’t make the point less relevant just because it was invented purely to sell computery things trading on the reputation of a CEO.

Truth is truth wherever you find it, from a fortune cookie to a line scrawled on the sidewalk.

And the truth is? I’m a misfit and a rebel. I have been since I was 3 years old. My earliest memory is from when I was about 4, and I crept away from the backyard into the woods, because I wasn’t supposed to go there, but it was alive and interesting and I wanted to see what the world looked like on the other side of the hill. I can remember being 6 and getting in trouble in kindergarten for not wanting to play house or dolls — I wanted to build a fort under a table and pretend to be a family of dogs taking shelter from the storm.

I’ve never been what anyone wanted of me, and I’ve never done things the way others did. And I’ve never been sorry about it, either.

I’m not sure I’ll ever get the chance to change the world per this quote above, and I’m certainly no genius. I’m not even a hero, and my name won’t ever be sung alongside the names in Ann Reed’s song.

But I’m okay with that.

Sometimes, being a rebel means living quietly in a manner which is solely yours, no one else’s. The world is full of quiet rebels, donating money to causes, marching in protests, playing the game of capitalism, and yet their spirits fight every day from their homes and cars and dreams. To be a rebel doesn’t mean one must be famous to make a difference. And any difference, no matter how small, counts towards the greater whole.

Maybe I’m not the rebel who will push the human race forward. But you better believe I’ll be right beside her starting to walk and backing her up.

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Rebel Girls are Never One Thing

This week is concert week for the TCWC. Which also means I have limited spoons this week and I need to conserve them. So I’m giving myself permission to write a short blog.

This concert’s theme is “Rebel Girls” and all the songs are about powerful women through history and today, from Abigail Adams advocating for women to have the right to vote in the Articles of Confederation to Malala and Greta Thunberg. Encore’s doing “Warrior” about finding the courage to step up and speak, and Elizabeth Alexander’s “What’s Keeping You From Singing?” which is about women helping each other find joy.

Another of the songs is “Never One Thing” by May Erlewine. The choir sings it with a lot of spirit. A lot of the women in the choir have been rebels themselves, and I love seeing them rejoice in owning that power. And I love sharing that feeling of “I will not be pinned down or pigeon-holed” because I am right there with them. There will be a lot of grinning and rocking out on this one.

And, of course, my favorite is the song inspired by the Charlotte Tall Mountain poem I posted not long ago. There isn’t a good video for it, unfortunately. That’s the one that’s going to dig into my heart and set me free.

Plus, we get to sing a version of Ann Reed’s “Heroes” which is just…if you don’t know it, go hear it. Truly. And feel that litany of names and know that every one of them helped build the world brighter for all of us.

Really, this whole concert is about women’s courage, and about Defiance. It is about changing the world, laughing, never backing down. It is about refusing to be defined by expectations and doing the thing that needs doing.

It’s going to be a good one, especially if I can keep from tearing up every other song. Either way, I’m going to be in my element.

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