One theme. One poet. One memoirist.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Heart Don't Wish to Roam

I have never posted a piece of writing with more trepidation than I have posting this entry.

There are a number of reasons for this. The first is that I'm straying into memoir, which is LLM's territory and which she writes with a great deal of verve. The second, and perhaps more important reason for my anxiety is that when I write poems they're usually about people/events/ideas that are very comfortably in my past. Everything that I've written below is fresh and complicated. I don't have my normal distance here, and that's terrifying.

So, dear readers, instead of a funny, self-deprecating essay about how I became an uber-nerd, you have the below. Lauren tells me it's good enough to post, so I am posting.


My friend Kerry is responsible for two of my most lasting obsessions. That is, my taste for high-end scotch and my deep and abiding love for sci-fi television. Since encouraging me to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer two years ago, she's been my Virgil, conducting me deeper and deeper into the lower levels of nerdiness.  My gift to her (if one can call it that) is to send constant gchat updates about how wonderful the Adama family is or why I love Angel more than Spike.

During one of our more recent nerd-a-thons, Kerry said something that's been rolling around in my mind ever since. She reminded me that all good things are also, somehow, sad. Last night I had a long, pleasant dinner with some people who are very dear to me. As I was walking home I was looking at the stars and it occurred to me that with the exception of the year I spent in the Twin Cities and the four months I lived in China, I have always been able to see the stars. This is a big thing for me. I am one of those people who would like to pick up astronomy as a hobby. I look at APOD every day and was incredibly upset with NASA canceled shuttle missions.

I began to wonder about Duluth and light pollution and before I knew it, I was thinking about these people and this place that have become so precious to me. The thought of leaving them, even for a good job, a city I love, a new adventure, takes my breath away. Then I remembered what Kerry said, about good things also being sad. We were speaking about something very specific (television, actually) but it was so apropos as to be almost frightening. 

I don't think that I want to say that every thing good  is also sad. Rather, I'll say that every good thing comes at a cost, and try as I might, I never seem to be able to calculate how high those actually are . Over the past eight years here, I've seen and learned an incredible amount. Much more than I ever would have guessed when I first moved to Minnesota. But the cost of all of these experiences has been high--at times I wonder if it's been too high. One relationship precludes another that could have been deeper or more meaningful. Studying theology meant putting my love of literature away for a time. Understanding my religion intellectually has led to losing my faith. 

I've written about this before, but when it comes to my personal life, I'm not great at expressing emotions. I can do the opposite poles of anger and happiness pretty well, but when it comes to anything more nuanced than that, I find myself unable to express it comfortably. I experience it and struggle with it, but I do so privately. So when it comes to all the ambiguous feelings wrapped up with the cost of good things, I feel a huge spectrum of emotions, but I can't talk about them.

This is the real reason I love fantasy and sci-fi. The emotions portrayed are always raw and intense without (at least, when the writer truly has command of their story) sentimentalism or emotionalism. The choices that the characters have to make are always huge and seemingly obvious, but the costs of heroism or courage or love--all good things--are deeply personal. For Frodo Baggins, the cost of saving Middle Earth was The Shire. For Katniss Everdeen, the cost of saving the Districts was losing her home and her family. For the Doctor, the cost of being able to travel through time and space is real, equal companionship.

Moving to Duluth does not mean never returning to Central Minnesota. Meeting new people does not mean sacrificing old friendships. While my own costs are deeply personal, as they are for all the fictional characters I have grown to love over the years, they lack the same finality. I am not being asked to destroy the One Ring, bring down a corrupt empire, or travel to a distant world. I am making an adult decision, moving on to a different part of my life. My choices, it seems, are small indeed.

But that's where this genre of writing turns the reader on her head and along with its command of emotion is the other reason why I love it above any other genre. It reminds you, time and again, that it is the small decisions that impact the big ones. Lucy hid in a wardrobe. Bilbo threw a long-expected party. Luke lingered with Obi-Wan. Small choices led to the opportunity for heroism on a grand scale, but at what cost?

The odd thing is that it is the cost of the heroism (or courage, or love or...) that reveals to these characters who they are at their core. Inevitably they find that they are made of sterner stuff than they thought. They struggle and triumph and are forever changed because of small decisions that turned into bigger ones. They recognized that everything good is also a little bit sad. 

So now, as I pack away my books and DVDs, as I take the pictures down from my walls and reconcile myself to the idea that I won't be the one to force Lauren to sit through Battlestar Galactica, I find myself repeating Kerry's words again and again, reminding myself that every single journey for one of these characters started with one small decision. And that even when things are difficult or sad, there's always room for the good as well.

Life it seems, much like a well-designed TARDIS, is bigger on the inside.


  1. Bravo! Beautiful! I really enjoyed reading your thoughts and feelings about this move. You were honest and courageous. Interesting tie to sci-fi. Must we all read/watch sci-fi in order to be so brilliant, beautiful, funny, professional, and talented? You never told me that was the trick--I would have been reading the genre this whole time!

  2. Kelly, this was a beautifully touching post. I love all the unique facets of you, including your adorable geekiness. Whenever you are feeling anxious about being in the new city of D-town, I recommend going to the Portland Malt Shop and ordering a delicious malt. Take it down to a bench by the Lakewalk and enjoy it while listening to the waves of Lake Superior crash against the rocks, reading one of your geeky sci-fi novels. xoxo

  3. Wonderful, Kelly. This was a great read.

    And I know, because you do YOU so well, you will quickly surround yourself with more amazing, creative, passionate, loving people in Duluth.

    (heart explodes)