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My Message

A year ago, I heard the most meaningful thing ever said to me. It was a simple statement. It was said casually. I don't think he even really thought about the words coming out of his mouth. But they've changed the way I think. They've changed my purpose, my pursuits.

He was a small man, ten years or so older than I am. He was finishing his doctoral thesis in Kyoto and had come to the Thanksgiving dinner at KCJS because, like me, he had nowhere else to go on what is an occasion only for Americans.

It was a Friday. It was dreary and rainy and I had traveled for 2 hours just to eat turkey and stuffing made by hands I had never seen before. I made my salutations at the door, but my old professors didn't recognize me. I looked at all the students there, bustling around, sure of themselves and their environment like I had once been. I only knew one of them, and I didn't know where he was. Being an alum, I was assigned to a back table for the feast. I met up with other members of the Wash U crowd and introduced myself. The current students remembered me as the girl who always showed up late to meetings.

I was embarrassed, but I was not surprised. Well, I was surprised that they remembered me. I often don't remember myself--why should they?

Then I met Micah.

In the scheme of my life, he is as nothing. In another year, I will forget his face, his posture. His hair color, his white button-up shirt will be gone. I don't remember me, so how can I remember another?

We exchanged phone numbers and he promised to invite me to tea with a woman who lives in my neighborhood. He never called, but I wasn't surprised. Why should he remember me?

And then we talked. Or, rather, he talked. I smiled and drank something I can't remember and was pleasant. He told me about all the hard work that had gone into getting his PhD, and how he couldn't wait to get back to the States so he could graduated already. Said it was late enough in the game and he didn't need to wait anymore. I tried to think of niceties, but nothing would come out but air. So I continued to smile and laugh lightly. And then he asked me. He asked what I was doing. So I told him. I'm only here for two years, then I'll probably go back to the States for grad school. (I'm so unoriginal sometimes it just kills me.) And then he asked me.

What do you want to be?

So I told him. Well, I'm deciding whether to be a teacher or a comic book artist. In a blur, he lost his drink to a waiting table and his hands were in the air. The pure emotion that came out of him was astonishing. He expressed more resolution in deciding my fate than anything he had expressed in discussing his own.

"Comic book artist, comic book artist, comic book artist."

I distinctly remember him saying it three times. He said that I had to be a comic book artist, hands down. I was shocked. Why? Why the passion and conviction?

"Because either way, you have a message, right?"

I don't remember much of the rest of our conversation after that statement. It shocked me to my toes and back again to the ends of my hair. I have a message, right? Right? Right? Right?

no. i don't.

I am as nothing. I have a silenced voice. I have nothing to say. I have no message to give. I can give you sound advice on nearly any topic you can spring on me, but I have nothing to say that will change your life. Nothing that will knock your socks off.

I was simply searching for a good story before meeting Micah. I just wanted to entertain people. I wanted a strong fan base and a con booth. I wanted to be a better artist. I wanted my own drawing space and a little cash for my efforts to keep me on my feet. I never wanted to be rich or especially famous. I never wanted more than a good story. Something to entertain people while they read their email.

But this, this, this, this....

Since that moment, I have striven to find my message. And I have found so many messages that I cannot put them all to paper. There isn't enough ink in the world for everything I have to tell you. There aren't enough words, enough time, enough space. I cannot get it all out in my little lifetime. I have so much to tell you, but the only way for you to truly understand all that I understand is to find it yourself.

That, unfortunately for us all, is the best way. There are things that simply cannot be learned vicariously. It has to do with faith, belief, knowledge. I wish that life's most painful messages could be learned through others. But I know from painful experience that that simply isn't an option. For whatever reason, we are made to suffer, and to learn through our suffering.

My message here is not that life is pain. It is painful, but it is not pain. It is having a nose where it is so you can smell your food as you eat it. It is feeling a lady bug crawl across the back of your hand. It is seeing your millionth sunset and feeling like it's the first time.

I have other messages, of course, but I'm holding them, waiting for the time when I am comfortable enough with drawing and telling stories to tell you all the things I have learned.

But no matter how eloquently I reveal my truths, you will not believe.

I have just received another message: that is the pain of growing up and growing older.

Will you believe?


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Oct. 17th, 2004 01:54 pm (UTC)
nicely put =)
It really is an apt comparison between teaching and..er...comic-ing. Maybe the difference is that you can't really "teach" life truths as easily as "book facts" because everyone's life truths are different =) You can give us glimpses into your truths and that might be as good as we'll get

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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