Confession: I have always felt guilty for wanting so much.
I’m pretty sure I came out of the womb as a big dreamer. (Tiny babies with funny ears and no eyelashes or eyebrows can be big dreamers, too, okay?)
I like to think that I know myself pretty well. I know that I’ve always wanted so much out of life. Too much maybe.
There lies within me an insatiable need to do something big. To do something with my life. To change the world. To pursue life radically and unapologetically.
But I struggle with the how.
Side note: Claire gives incredible pep talks. She will be the first to admit to you that, as a cactus-like individual, she does not like pep talks and does not wish to receive them. But….she will also be the fist to brag on her pep-talk giving skills.
I’m probably the most frequent recipient of these little golden truth nuggets that she gives out. Yesterday, we were in the car and I said without being brave enough to look her in the eye, “Sheeby, I want to do good work. I want to do something that matters. I’m afraid that I’m not doing something good. I want to matter.”
It felt weird to say it out loud, but I want to matter…
She was quick to remind me that I go to work and do good everyday. My job may not always be hands-on, and may not always directly make a difference, but I’m lucky to work for a place that is unabashedly and to it’s core, a force for good.
She said, “Ashley. I’m gonna lay this out for you. Here is what you do. You stay in your job and learn from Nancy every last minute that you can. If you need more money, get a second job on the weekends. Then, when your time at TVS is up, you pack your little Vera Bradley bags and move yourself to Charleston. You go adventure. And then when you’re ready, you move back home, beg TVS to take you back, you buckle down and get to work doing more good.”
Since Friday I have been reading an incredible book called “If You Find This Letter” by the incomparable Hannah Brencher. This book is Hannah’s memoir, about how she found hope and purpose during her first year out of college living in NYC, by writing love letters. This book is incredible and has made me laugh, cry, and has shook me to my core. Probably because I am in my first year of post-grad, struggling with the same things she was during her year in NYC. It’s a grand comfort to know that I have not been alone. That I’m not the only one that has traveled this road, searching for something that I can’t even name. Searching for something bigger than me. This book has been a serious piece of inspiration. You. Need. To. Go. Read. It. Right. Now.
Follow this incredible lady and the More Love Letters project at hannahbrencher.com and moreloveletters.com. You won’t regret it.
In the 24 hours since my Claire Pep Talk (she should trademark them, really) I have come to the bold realization of something. Yes, it’s true that I don’t feel like I’m doing something with my life that matters. But WHY? The why is this: I have been going about it all the wrong way.
I have been focusing on me me me. What I can do. What I can change. How I can make things better. Where do I go next?
But I’ve realized that in order to soak up alllllll of the goodness of life, I’ve got to shift the focus. I’ve got to shift the focus to others. Life can’t and won’t matter when it’s all about you.
Life can and will matter when it’s about what you can do for those around you.
Now, two more things before I tie this big ole ramble all together. If you’ve stuck with me this far, I applaud you. Please keep sticking around. I promise it will be worth it.
#1: I LOVE PEOPLE. I mean, I really really really really really love people. Is there such a thing as loving people too much? I would like to think not. When I was thinking yesterday about ways to make my life matter, I realized that will only happen when I tap into, aside from Jesus, what gives me the most joy and the most hope. And that always has been and always will be: people.
#2: I have always been amazed by the power of words. Amazed at how effortlessly I can string them together to tell a story or share a truth or (shamefully) hurt someone or make someone laugh until tears roll down their face–there is nothing that gives me more joy than that. I can use them to tear someone down or to lift someone up. But unquestionably, the times when words amaze me the most are when they let someone know just how much I love them. But–I’m afraid that I don’t always use words the best I can. I don’t always tell people how much they mean to me. I don’t always tell them how much they matter.
I woke up this morning at 5:03 am. At 5:03am I was convicted with the words “write the letters, Ashley.” So, not wanting to scoff in the face of conviction, that is what I’m going to do.
My friends, I hope that this does not sound crazy, but I want to write you a love letter.
I realize now that life will never ever mean something unless you make sure others know how much they matter. I know that I will spend all my life trying to do just that.
With time, this will undoubtedly take on different shapes and look different.
But right now–right now it looks like letters.
Please go on this journey with me. All of you. Family, friends, acquaintances, everyone. I don’t care if you’re my best friend, or my cousin, or someone I took one college class with, or went to elementary school with, or someone I met at a weekend retreat four summers ago.
Send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Send me a Facebook message. Tweet me. Send me a text message. Send me your addresses. I want to write you a letter.
Friends, I beg of you, share these words. Send me your addresses. I bought stationery today. I want to write you love letters. Please let me.
PS: Hannah Brencher deserves every bit of the credit for the letter writing idea. She rocks and I hope to one day be half the writer she is.