A Project Uprooted

Being a copy editor means you’re with the project until the bitter end. As we put the finishing touches on “If I Leave Here Tomorrow,” though, there were no longer any meetings or blueberry pancakes. I was in North Carolina; Kelly was designing in Michigan; David was leading the project from Washington, D.C.; and Brad was herding all of us from Texas.

My primary goal was to wrestle with every word, ensuring that the little details, which often go unnoticed, were correct. At the same time, I was absorbing the stories one more time, and I finally grasped the importance of one of the themes of our book: travel.

It’s not hard to see the effect that travel had on each Invictus writer. Several stories leave our hometowns, and some even exit the country. For most of us, we had to leave our comfort zones — first to experience our tales, and then later to write them. Travel also shapes who we are now, as we physically and mentally change into the next phase of our lives, the book acting as our final impression on that act of our play.

***

Growing up, I always thought I’d live in Bloomington all my life.

I was pretty lucky as a child. I had opportunities to see America that many others didn’t. But going back to Bloomington, Indiana, was always part of the plan. These ventures outside that city were just opportunities to dip my feet in the water, never straying too far from the safety of my home shore.

Eventually, though, I came to realize that Bloomington, the city that I thought contained everything I needed, really didn’t sustain me. I had to branch out. That journey didn’t take me far: two hours north to Muncie and Ball State. From there, home was still within reach. I had expanded my horizons slightly but still believed that staying in the state of Indiana was my final destination.

But that’s not where the opportunities lay. I was awarded a tremendous chance to travel to Bristol, Connecticut, to be an intern at ESPN. I had to leave the confines of the Hoosier State, a fear that took me most of the summer to conquer (and was a major component of my Invictus essay).

That experience taught me that I could break free from my comfort zone. No longer do I feel confined to living in one place all my life. I love my birthplace, but it may not be “home” any longer.

I have spent the summer working at a newspaper in North Carolina. Over the next two weeks, I will make a jaunt back to Indiana before heading to Connecticut and getting a second chance at ESPN. There I will start to lay new roots, turning this formerly unknown and terrifying territory into my new home.

***

As the book came out, the Invictus Writers were spread across the country. There was no grand unveiling at a bookstore. Instead, we all clicked together to see our words on a computer screen and buy our book on a website.

If some of the writers have their way, we will soon be spread across continents. The great thing is that even if the Writers don’t congregate in one physical place again, we will continue to be united through the tools we have learned and the product that was unveiled this week.

We may even get to create together again. As I write this, projects are being mulled over and slowly put into action. The distance that used to be a problem won’t be, because we’ll always be connected.

The first class has graduated, and David will lead the second batch of Invictus Writers to expand on our original effort. We will watch, mentor and congratulate them through their beginning, their struggle and their ultimate achievement.

For the six of us, we will continue to travel, whether it’s down the street or across the world, because that is what we do. It’s how we experience the tales we will later write.