A Letter and a Response

In my Facebook inbox this morning, from a graduating senior (when I taught her in Literary Magazine, she was a junior):

Lately, I’ve been reaching for our conversations from last year and I can’t help but to miss you so very much. I miss Imagine. I just wanted you to know that you probably take the place for the adult with the most profound effect on my life. I’d like to think you had something to do with the fact I am eight months sober from absolutely everything. I’ll be finished with school in a month and I don’t want to work as a server for my whole life. I need to do what I love and I was hoping talking to you will inspire me like it has many times before.

I’m happy and my mind is at ease, but I’ve never felt so anxious.

I can’t write how I used to, at least it doesn’t feel like it and I feel frightened of what the future holds.

I can’t find the exact reasoning behind this message,
I simply miss you and appreciate every late sleepless night we’ve spent together putting our heart into the Lit Mag. I hope all is going great for you, I think about you almost every day!

( Super Shih’s Sidekick)

My reply:

Words cannot describe how much this message means to me, nor can they capture how profoundly you’ve impacted my life. I’m proud of your sobriety, but even more than that, I’m proud to see you fighting to live the life you want to have. Most people don’t have this kind of courage, but I’ve always known you were a wonderful exception.

It’s funny that your message should land in my inbox just a few hours after I gushed about Lit Mag and Yearbook to a new friend. In particular, I told him about you and about that crazy night when we rush-ordered the Haunted House…

I feel pretty emotional just thinking about it. Thank you for giving me so many great memories to revisit.

I’m glad you reached out to me at this exciting (but equally daunting) time in your life. I’m still figuring out adulthood myself, so I won’t profess to be an expert. From my (limited) perspective, here are a few things I’ve learned:

  • Know your worth. I’ve seen your work, so I know you absolutely can and should be a writer and artist. You are exactly that talented. Surround yourself with people who value your dreams and encourage your passions (I will gladly be one of these people for you). In moments of low self-esteem or doubt, reach out to your support system. Remember your worth.
  • Solicit and consider feedback. All work, and (I would argue) especially artistic work, needs feedback. Other people’s eyes and ears are your sounding board to developing as an artist. Enjoy the praise, but consider it equally alongside constructive criticism (key word is “constructive”). You are never obligated to make the exact changes that others dictate (and usually it’s best that you don’t), but leave room in your creativity for someone else’s perspective.
  • Be flexible, but persist. Adulthood quickly brings some unsettling discoveries. The most offensive of these is that we can’t always do exactly what we want, when we want. We have to pay the bills and fulfill basic responsibilities. For someone who wants to be an artist, this means you’ll have to be flexible about where you apply your skills. I’ve seen two different approaches: There are those to take a subset of their interests and try to apply it to a related field of work. Then there are those who choose jobs and careers entirely unrelated to their passions and interests.In my opinion (which surely contains bias), it’s better to do the former. In the very least, you’d get to feel relevant to your true self in your daily work. It won’t be perfect, and there will be times when you feel unsatisfied, but I’d like to think it’s better to stay in the vicinity of your dreams than to forgo them altogether.

    But (and this is essential): Don’t forget to actively pursue your passions. Don’t let work stop you from writing creatively in your spare time. Seek venues to submit your work. If there are no viable venues where you live, create your own venue (i.e. start a blog). There are a lot of rejections in the publishing world, as are there rejections in the world of art. Space is always limited. Let rejections strengthen your resolve. Don’t fear competition; relish in the opportunity to improve. Above all: PERSIST. Every success story is also a story of persistence. The gal who wins is the gal who never gave up.

  • Step into different perspectives. Originally, I was going to say “travel.” Which, of course, you should do. But people often mistake travel for its larger endeavor, which is to absorb new perspectives. Often, people travel without coming back with real insight. Don’t be one of those people.

    All artists thrive on perspective. And a new perspective is yours for the taking at all hours of the day. Sit in a park somewhere and observe the people around you. Step into their lives for a moment, and consider how they perceive the world. Take a look at your mother, your brother, your friends, the seedy politician in the news, the homeless man down the street, the old lady pushing a shopping cart, your coworkers. Think in their minds for a brief second. If you can do that, you’ve (in essence) traveled. Travel every day. Write about (or paint, sketch, draw) the mysteries you uncover.

  • Keep a clear mind. Basically, stay sober šŸ™‚
  • Call me anytime.

Much Love,


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