Guest Post | Un-Growing Up.

Today’s guest post from Brynna Lynea King is dear to my heart and very close to my own story. If you’re a twenty-something like us - or any age for that matter - and still trying to figure out how to be a grown-up, this one is for you. Or have you had an epiphany like Brynna’s? We’d love to hear how each of you are working towards un-growing up.

Un-Growing Up 

brynna_htp_06Recently, I became a writer.  Oh, well, that’s not quite true. Let me start again.

One month ago, I finally decided, once and for all, to be a writer.  I started a freelance business that I hope grows into something fabulous.

Here’s the thing, though: I have written since I learned to write, which was nearly 20 years ago. I won writing contests in elementary school and had an original poem chosen for publication in high school. I majored in writing and literature.  I’ve been a contracted writer for a marketing agency for over a year. So what is the difference between that and what I’m doing now? Is it that I made an announcement, or named a business after myself? No. My identity as a writer is not a company name or a website or business cards or professional headshots. These may have helped me convince myself, but they came after my decision was made.  The reason I am choosing to be a writer is that, after a lifetime of self-doubt, I realized that I was at risk of letting my dream slip away.  And getting in the way was “real life” – or, what I imagined real life meant.

I “grew up” four years ago. I transferred colleges to focus on my future. Then I got engaged. After that, I graduated.  In barely over a year, I had gone from being an art-bleeding, hard-partying singer-songwriter and the keyboardist in a reggae band to transferring schools, cleaning up my act, and planning a wedding. Soon, I found myself applying to graduate school to be a teacher – because after all, what does one do with a writing degree?

But then came the trouble. I had a wonderful husband and a neat, pretty life.  But it wasn’t nearly as fulfilling as it was supposed to be. In my junior high classroom, I felt like a kid trying to act like a grown up in front of other kids, unable to be myself — my not-really-very-grown-up self — for fear of seeming unprofessional or losing respect. And I was wearing slacks.  At home, I was attempting to play perfect housewife, overwhelming myself with assuming all household responsibilities because I thought that’s what good wives do. I found myself in the midst of a violent, self-inflicted identity crisis based on my own assumptions about what it means to be an adult — assumptions that almost cost me my dream and a huge part of myself.

The truth is, I’m an artist.  I’m a writer. I have trouble picking up after myself, and sometimes I enjoy a little chaos.  And so, to balance the pendulum, I’ve been working on un-growing up — just a little.  Here are a few things I’m learning.

“Growing up” does not mean becoming someone you’re not.

Are you becoming a better version of the REAL you? I can try to be a neater neat freak all I want. But I am not a neat freak at all. Un-growing up here means letting go of selves I sometimes wish I was, and working purposefully on improving the self I am. The real grown-up qualities of responsibility, wisdom and maturity are good, necessary things. Add these to your true self; no made-up self can wear them nearly as well.

Growing up does not mean achieving perfection.

You’re driving yourself crazy. And I guarantee your spouse, boyfriend, or best friend is also growing weary of your constant pursuits in the direction of perfection. Repeat after me: perfect is boring. Some synonyms of “boring” are characterlesscolorlessdrab, and lifeless. When your goal is perfection, you miss out on creativity, which is almost always messy and never perfect. Perfectionism robs you of life and joy.

Growing up does not mean you can’t have fun.

One night fairly recently, I got mad at my husband when he told me he only likes doing chores when he can make them fun. To me, this sounded immature and irresponsible. Really? If chores can be fun, why shouldn’t they be? Stop taking yourself so seriously.

Un-growing up is letting go, deciding for yourself, and enjoying the process.

It’s throwing out expectations, unrealistic standards and, most of all, rules. Rules like “you must major in something practical” and “you can’t have any fun once you have kids” and “wash your sheets every week.” Says who?  Take your three-month-old camping. Major in underwater basket weaving, if that’s what lights your fire. And surround yourself with people like my amazing husband who will make sacrifices (like washing the sheets) to support you in your dream, because it’s what you have to do.

At the risk of sounding like your Facebook wall, I turn to the legendary Steve Jobs, who really had this one down:

“You’ve got to find what you love… Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.  And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.”

I didn’t decide to be a writer until I realized I might have to spend my life doing something else. I might just grow up and leave writing behind.

No, thanks – I’m going back for it, and it’s coming with me.

~

brynna_htp_20Brynna Lynea is a freelance writer and blogger at brynnabegins.com where she blogs about her creative process, taking chances, learning new things, pursuing projects and dreams, and leaning on the grace of God.  It is about enjoying today and not worrying about tomorrow.  It’s about paying attention to the process. Check out her stellar freelance website or follow some of her everyday musings @brynnlynnea.

book·ish : Was Shakespeare a Fraud?

Hello, dear friends. What did you do this weekend? I had a hot date with the hubs last night after a busy week and we went to see Anonymous, the new literary/political thriller that asks an extremely controversial question…
anonymous-movie-poster-01
Based on the theory proposed nearly 100 years ago, Anonymous purports that it was the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere, that penned the plays and poetry that we know as the work of William Shakespeare. This theory is largely regarded in academia as little more than salacious hogwash, yetAnonymous Director Roland Emmerich [known for such films as Independence Day and The Patriot] makes an extremely evocative argument, and I have to admit that the theory over all has some pretty solid points.
For instance, Shakespeare was a commoner with limited exposure to the royal courts, absolutely no travel experience, and little more than an elementary education. Yet, the overwhelming majority of his dramatic work is set in the royal courts and in a foreign land, most commonly Italy. And despite his minimal education, he wrote entire plays in iambic pentameter and his words are still some of the most well known and most well loved in the English language, if not all of history.
By contrast, Edward de Vere not only had the education, travel experiences, and exposure to the royal courts, but many circumstances in his life closely mirror those that are interspersed in Shakespeare’s plays, several of which are highlighted in the film. So the basis for the plot line is immediately compelling. [For a full explanation of the theory, view this trailer from the director.]
As far as the film itself, costume design and cinematography are excellent and the acting is superb on all counts. Rhys Ifans plays a tortured Edward de Vere that has spent his life writing an arsenal of plays and poetry that infuriate his wife and his father-in-law, William Cecil, who was Queen Elizabeth I’s advisor [played by David Thewlis.] But though he writes constantly, the Cecil family has blackmailed de Vere into never publishing his work. After attending a play at the local theatre and being taken with the way a good production can move an audience, de Vere talks Ben Johnson, a struggling playwright trying to catch his big break, into publishing de Vere’s work as his own. Johnson, aptly afraid he would get caught, confides in his friend and fellow actor William Shakespeare about the deal, leaving De Vere’s identity a secret. When Johnson hesitates to reveal himself as the writer of Henry V at the end of its first live performance, Shakespeare, portrayed as an illiterate drunk that lusts for the spotlight, jumps on stage and claims it as his own work, thus beginning a public sensation and making Ben Johnson de Vere’s only confidant in the truth.
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Perhaps the most controversial, confusing and disturbing theory that the film claims is not de Vere as the true author, but rather the why behind this whole mess spun that has spun so wildly out of control. The complex and rather jumbled climax of the film hinges on revelations of just how many central characters are actually the illegitimate children of the Queen. All of them that know the true identity of their biological mother want to stake their rightful claim to the throne. These revelations emphasize the political influence over theater in that era, but they also bring to light more deeply personal motivations for de Vere’s plan to publish his plays beyond popular acclaim.
ANONYMOUS-Movie-3-550x271
The plot is shockingly cringe-worthy, but also really really hard to follow for several reasons, all of which I would classify as directoral failure. The characters are addressed by both their royal title – the Earl of Oxford, Earl of Essex, the Earl of Southampton – interspersed with their first and last names. Okay, I can understand that one. But there are also flashbacks within flashbacks within flashbacks, in which the young and old versions of each character may or may not look like themselves but who definitely look like entirely separate characters in the film… that may or may not be blood relatives. The film has no steady chronological foundation, and it is immensely frustrating. If you want to see it, you should plan on taking notes.
The film is a rabbit-hole of who slept with whom and when, a complex web of incestuous and malicious relationships that destroy each of the characters. For the well-versed Shakespeare reader, every aspect of the film evokes the very soul of the infamous playwright that brought us Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Richard III – whoever he may really be.

~

book·ish/ˈbo͝okiSH/Adjective
1. (of a person or way of life) Devoted to reading and studying rather than worldly interests.
2. (of language or writing) Literary in style or allusion.
3. (of art and all manner of lovely things) devoted to the written word as a form of art and as a way of seeing the world.
4. (of SheWritesandRights.blogspot.com) anything of the aforementioned characteristics as they are found on the interwebs and reposted by Bethany, because bookish and writerly things always give reason for amusement.

Travel Memories : Life Goal Accomplished.

I stepped through the sliding doors of O’Hare and watched my fiancé drive away, willing myself not to chase him down and make him take me home. Three months traveling alone had suddenly lost its appeal. Despite my misgivings, I dragged my two gargantuan suitcases to the ticket counter before anyone could run over me with their own half-ton luggage.

Once my baggage was checked and sent off to board my flight, traveling alone felt slightly less daunting. My tickets in hand and with renewed determination in my steps, I found my way to my terminal. I had a phone call to make.

I had spent that summer living with my aunt and waitressing at a family diner in Janesville, Wisconsin. Howie, a 78-year-old retired GM assembly worker and one of my regular customers, came into the restaurant for breakfast and dinner every weekday. I’d flirt with him casually as I took his order [he had the specials memorized], listen to his latest encounter with Betty, the woman that he walked with at the shopping mall each morning. Every day Howie asked her out on a date, and every day Betty told him no. I’d tell him about my weekend and about my travel plans for the fall semester. He’d never been outside of the continental United States. At the end of the summer I promised him I’d send a postcard from each city I visited.

But when I arrived at the airport, I realized I had forgotten the receipt that had his address scrawled on the back. I called the diner, knowing that at eight in the morning he was probably still sitting in his corner booth finishing up his one pancake with peanut butter and a slice of ham.

Mimi, the manager, yelled to Howie that he had a phone call, and from across the restaurant his voice echoed through the receiver,

“For me? Are you kidding?”

“It’s Bethany,” she shouted back.

Several geriatric steps later, he picked up the phone, his breath heaving,

“Doll, is that you? You miss me already?”

“Yes, Howie! I realized I forgot your address.” I scrawled it on the back of my ticket envelope.

“Say, where are you anyway? Aren’t you supposed to be on a plane?”

I explained that I was waiting in the airport.

“You nervous?” he asked bluntly.

“A little,” I admitted. “Matt just dropped me off and it hit me: I can’t believe I’m doing this.”

“Listen, your old man Howie has never been anywhere in his life. All this nothin’ will be here when you get back. You wanted to do this all your life! Just take your ticket and go. Don’t forget to write me. You promised. And when you come back, you come out and see me and we’ll have a hot date and you’ll tell me all about it.”

“It’s a deal, Howie.” I replied. The wrinkle of worry across my forehead disappeared; a grin spread across my face. Who cared if anyone else in the terminal was watching.

“Alrighty. You take care a you and I’ll see you real soon,” he said, and hung up before I could really say goodbye.

Howie said what everyone had been telling me, yet hearing his voice as I sat in the airport solidified it at the right moment. It was too late to go hunting down my luggage and make a coward of myself. He was right. I was ready for this. And I was finally doing it.

versailles

After years of daydreaming and wondering if I’d ever be able to go, I was embarking on my greatest adventure, my biggest dream. And there were many moments when it felt surreal, when I stood at the edge of the Untersberg overlooking Salzburg, or stood atop the Eiffel Tower overlooking the winding web of Parisian city lights, or when I leaned my head against the window of the train and watched the tracks wind around the Alps, and thought:

Am I really here? Am I really doing this now?

I was afraid to shut my eyes, afraid I would miss it.  I luxuriated in each moment, each meal and city tour, anxious that I would gobble them up all at once and it would be over too soon. I journaled constantly, my hand glued to pen and paper, commemorating every memory to words so that on days like today, 3 years later, I wouldn’t forget.

And I wrote to Howie, careful to share as many details with him as I could fit in the tiny space on the back of each postcard. There was never enough room, so I almost always sent two postcards from every place I went. That’s the beauty of writing: it can vicariously transfer experiences, allow one person in one place to connect with another on the other side of the world.

versailles 2

And there were many moments when it felt scary, when I worried that leaving my home and my family was a mistake, when I went a whole week without hearing Matt’s voice, when I was utterly weary of trains and planes and dirty hostels. There were moments when being surrounded by the same group of friends every waking moment for 3 months couldn’t erase a certain isolation and loneliness that settled into me the longer we lingered there.

But. I did it. I achieved a life goal.

And the opportunity taught me that dreams, though they require sacrifice, are worth what you invest into them. I returned, changed and happy, satisfied and ready; whatever came next, I knew I was capable of doing it.

And when I slid into the booth across from Howie 3 months later, he grinned, his arthritic fingers wrapped around a thick stack of postcards.

Travel Memories : Exploring New Landscapes

Ljubljana
There’s something deeply inspiring about removing oneself from the familiar. Like a fellow writer shared last week,
“Travel does so much for the soul.
It reassures a writer that the world is still a beautiful and endless space.” 
Sometimes, a change in scenery is all we need to remember that life is not as desolate, or boring, or mundane, or hopeless as we might have thought. And sometimes, the change in natural landscape offers new scope for the human experience because it offers different cultural, culinary, creative, political or social environments. Travel, the act of going to places that we’ve never been before, adds dimension to the way that we think.
monchsberg
Some people don’t yield to it, allowing new places and experiences to shape or inspire their thoughts and ideas. For me, the opportunity to travel is an opportunity to grow. I find it impossible to be indifferent to new landscapes, both literal and figurative. The more space I have physically, the more free I feel mentally.
amsterdam
Salzburg, the place I called home for three months, is nestled among the Alps. The air itself feels quieter and cleaner there. And like its natural environment, the culture of the city is quiet and contemplative, as though the people who live there are there to rest, to live as simply and happily as possible, to go for a bike ride or a hike, to sit on a park bench and whisper to each other in Deutsch.
It’s so different than the way I live my life here in Chicago, driving my battered minivan everywhere I “need” to go, jamming my schedule so full that the last thing on my mind would be to take time out of my day to meditate and reflect, the way that I used to when I lived in Salzburg.
berlin wall
Other places like Berlin, Munich, Rome, Prague, Paris, and Amsterdam presented opportunities, too, to examine the way that people live, the way that they process and commemorate historical events, the way they eat or enjoy nature, the way they entertain, the way that they get from one place to another.
The change of scenery renewed my creative spirit. The change of culture challenged my mind.
How do you navigate the terrain of a different way of life? 
It’s a question I haven’t stopped asking since.
~
Photographs:  
 
1 : Ljubljana, Slovenia. October 2008.  | 2 : View from the Monchsberg. Salzburg, Austria. September 2008. | 3 : Amsterdam, Holland. November 2008. | 4. The East Side Gallery, the Berlin Wall. Berlin, Germany. October, 2008. 

book·ish : what do you read when you travel?

I stood in the airport before I left for the first of four flights en route to Austria for a whole semester, and realized I hadn’t brought a book. I was suddenly overwhelmed by the prospect of having nothing in my hands, nothing to preoccupy my mind for that much time. So I went to the book kiosk and picked upAtonement, and since I had already seen the movie, I figured I might like it. Did I ever! This is one of my favorite books of all time, and there could not have been a more appropriate novel to carry around Europe. When I read a good book, I love to become immersed in it, imagine myself as the characters. The setting for McEwan’s novel [1930’s and World War II Europe] was the perfect fictional backdrop to my travels and my studies. What are your reading habits when you travel? If you read books, do you prefer fiction or non? Autobiographical? Does a magazine suit your attention span better? Do you prefer a book to a digital reader?

book·ish/ˈbo͝okiSH/Adjective
1. (of a person or way of life) Devoted to reading and studying rather than worldly interests.
2. (of language or writing) Literary in style or allusion.
3. (of art and all manner of lovely things) devoted to the written word as a form of art and as a way of seeing the world.
4. (of SheWritesandRights.blogspot.com) anything of the aforementioned characteristics as they are found on the interwebs and reposted by Bethany, because bookish and writerly things always give reason for amusement.*
*All items posted in the book·ish section are found by myself and posted of my own accord unless otherwise stated. If you would like to be a sponsor or host a giveaway, please contact me at shewritesandrights[at]gmail[dot]com.

Travel Memories : Exposure to Great Art.

When I signed up to study abroad in the fall 2008, I knew that it was going to change me. And I wanted it to. I think most people get to a certain point in life and get bored. College is a great excuse to travel because you can get credit for it, and because you can run run as fast as you can away from the third-year slog when you’re sick of the whole school routine, but not ready to graduate.
So there I was, bored out of my mind and ready for something different, something independent, and I’d been wanting to travel abroad for as long as I can remember. So I choose an awesome program through my university that offered optimal traveling opportunities – 3 days of school work, 4 days of traveling each week with a 10-day trip to the destination of my choice. It sounds expensive, and you’re right – it wasn’t cheap. However, it was the best deal out there. It was the cost of a regular semester of tuition plus the inter-continental airfare, a 3-month EuRail pass, a €150 per week stipend for travel costs, and room and board included in the charming Haus Wartenberg [est. 1694.] Yes my friends, it does exist, this beyond-perfect program. I traveled to a grand total of 24 cities in 15 countries in less than 3 months.
prague profile photo
But what does traveling abroad really do, aside from letting you escape your normal routine? Why and how did it change me, particularly as a writer and creative?
vatican statues
There are less touristy ways to explore a city, but to me, the museums are one of the best ways. This is the essence of culture and human thought distilled over centuries, passionately portrayed through painting and sculpture, writing, architecture, furniture, and personal artifacts. One of my fondest memories was an afternoon spent at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, which houses the most extensive collection of his pieces and personal items in the world. Then, of course, there is the Louvre and the Musee D’Orsay in Paris, the Uffizzi and the Accademia in Florence, the Vatican Museum in Rome, the National Gallery and The Tate in London… I could go on.
vienna statue
The opportunity to see this kind of work gave me perspective on the scope of art’s emotional and cultural impact on humanity. Art matters. It is what remains of our legacy long after we are gone.
vienna statue 2
In that context, and at that time in my life, my perspective on my own writing and art shifted from being a source of anxiety to a source of identity, something to cultivate and be proud of. I still struggle with that concept, but I did come to understand that this is what God made me to do. The instinct to write when I was traveling became a source of solace and therapy, a way to commemorate my thoughts and experiences as I went, and to pay tribute to the artists that I deeply respect.
Have you traveled abroad? What are some of your favorite museums? Pieces of art?
~
Photographs:  
 
1 : Me in Prague, Czech Republic. October 2008.  | 2 : Sculpture heads, the Vatican Museum, Rome. September 2008. | 3 : Fountain outside of the parliament building in Vienna, Austria. September 2008.
 
[All images were taken by me, Bethany Suckrow, except for my portrait, courtesy of Brenda Ronan.]

Guest Post | Soul Traveling by Elizabeth Hudson.

Today’s guest post is brought to you by Elizabeth Hudson of StoryWrought.Wordpress.com. She’s traveling to Ireland this week, a place that is dear to my heart [I’ve been there 3 times.] What’s your soulmate country?

irelandphoto
Soul Traveling.
Even as I write this post, I’m sitting in the airport, tingly fingers moving across the keyboard.
Why am I nervous? I couldn’t tell you.
I’ve traveled before – many times in fact.
But never to my soul mate country.
My friend Amanda termed the phrase, and while I cannot take credit for it, I can understand it completely.
You know, that one place where you feel more at home than anywhere else in the world. And even if you haven’t made it there yet, that one place that you long for, unable to rationally explain the desire to others. It’s that landscape that you’ve dreamt of for years, even without glimpsing with your own eyes.
For some, it’s Chile. For others, it’s South Africa, Italy, or Thailand. For you, it may be New Zealand or Sweden. But for me, it’s Ireland. And it’s always been Ireland.
And it’s Ireland that I’m betting everything on.
Four days ago I said goodbye to a steady salary, a position with promotional promise, the choice of renewing my lease with a roommate I call best friend. All for Ireland.
I booked a flight and gave my three-week notice, determined that a two-week road trip in Ireland would change me. Inspire my being with new experiences, new words, new characters and electrify my writing.
I haven’t the slightest clue what will happen in the upcoming months. I just know that I’m going to come home from Ireland [unwillingly], write until my knuckles ache, and look for any way to make it abroad again.
Because travel does so much for the soul. It reassures a writer that the world is still a beautiful and endless space. 
That purpose can still be found out there in the wilds of city streets and spongy moors. That all you have to hear is that clear whisper of vocation in your ear.
“But you must be quite sure, Stephen, that you have a vocation because it would be terrible if you found afterwards that you had none.”
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
So in only a matter of hours, I’ll be landing in Shannon to search out the answers I’ve been waiting so long to hear: that I am a lover of words for a reason.
Ireland must be that place.

~

elizabeth hudsonElizabeth Hudson is a writer and blogger at StoryWrought.Wordpress.com currently abroad in her soulmate country of Ireland. She writes about writing, creativity, travel and story. You can catch more of her musings at @wanderinglizzie.

[Photograph by Bethany Suckrow. Taken outside Temple Bar in Dublin, November 2008.]

Inspired By.

I’m headed home in the morning to spend the weekend with my family for a belated birthday celebration. As I go I am distinctly aware of the blessing that this moment is. Holidays and birthdays and anniversaries tend to flag a reminder: you’re in a different place than you thought you would be. That can be good, and it can be bad. A few months ago I was afraid of my birthday. I was afraid that it wouldn’t be celebratory, because at that point my mom was in the hospital, and we weren’t sure if and when she would leave. But this birthday has turned out differently, beyond expectations. She’s home, and the distinct cheer in her voice leaves me speechless, deeply grateful beyond words.
It’s this gratitude for life, this gratitude for grace that is my motivation and inspiration for the project I’m working on, soon to be revealed. And so I ask you, as I often do when we reach the end of another week, what is it you’re grateful for? What inspires and motivates you? What makes you laugh? Cry? Create? Demonstrate your gratitude.
Next week I want to go in depth with you about the experience of traveling abroad and how it changed the way I approach life, my writing, my dreams and my goals. If you have had a similar experience, I’d love to read about it. Please email me at shewritesandrights[at]gmail[dot]com to share a guest post next week about traveling as it relates to personal, creative and spiritual growth.
Until then, here are a few lovelinks from around the interwebs this week…
Happiness or Holiness? What should really determine a good relationship.
“The times I argued I was an adult, I was a child. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have had the fervor nor the interest to make my point.” No Children in New York.
I love Missy Durant’s imagery here about holding the door closed. And also this quote, “…That’s because I wrote a book. Which was a good idea, until I realized people would read it. “ Um, yeah.

The Age Issue.

It’s funny. I don’t feel 24. And perhaps that’s because I’ve never been 24 and the feeling of it will settle into my skin as the next 365 days wear on. Sometimes, I feel older. The kind of older that comes with experiencing life at a faster pace than a lot of people my age. Sometimes, I feel way too young for the things I’m doing, especially when people have the habit of telling me so. Sometimes I feel far removed from the younger me, the adolescent me that felt quiet and sensitive and frizzy-haired. Sometimes I am her again, and the present feels like an alternate universe I stepped into, unknowingly, as I opened my closet to get dressed for school.
So what advice can I give myself as I step into a new year?
I think,
given the unpredictability of the present,
given the patience required in this stage of waiting and growing,
given the fact that I am now officially 24 years old and I do not have things figured out as 14-year-old me might have expected,
the thing I must do is learn.
I don’t want to have things figured out. I want to stay curious and hungry and restless enough to want to learn. I want to read and reflect and write and ask questions and search and pray so that the ideas and the answers and the possibilities keep coming. I want to begin each day with anticipation for what I will discover that day, understanding that whatever it is will not be the whole puzzle, but merely one more piece.
Learning is my motivation to live.
~
Here are a few posts that taught me something this week:
“I wonder if I’m still a writer or a content creator.” And 4 other things that I wish I didn’t have in common with every other writer/blogger on the planet.
Remember this post? Here’s another beautiful essay about the Fading Art of Letter Writing.
We’ve sheared the textile of our own lives. And it’s time to put down the scissors.
[Thanks Tyler for the great links yesterday!]
[Image via]