My Lake of Glass

My story “Where Suns Collide” is about a time in my life where I had to make a decision to climb out of the rut I was in. After a series of failures, I struggled to find my footing. I went to the Minnesota wilderness to get away from it all and wrestled my way out of a past that had me pinned down. When I walked out of the wild, I was a different person.

I came back to the world and made it what I wanted it to be. I joined the original gang of Invictus Writers my first semester back after the Minnesota trip, and together we published “If I Leave Here Tomorrow: Tales of Risk and Rebirth.”  In the summer of 2011, Anjee (my girlfriend in the story) and I went on the trip of a lifetime to Vietnam. Shortly after, I was accepted into a prestigious internship program hosted by Georgetown University and cut my journalism teeth in the D.C. media market. Anjee came to visit while I was there and I proposed to her underneath the Fourth of July fireworks on the banks of the Potomac River. The year ended with my completion of a fiction novella for Brad’s Transmedia Indiana class and my subsequent graduation from Ball State University.  After my short time in the Boundary Waters, I devoted myself to writing and to becoming a better companion to the woman who always believed in my ragged shell of a soul.

In February of this year, Anjee and I received our tax refunds and spent the money driving across the country to get married in Joshua Tree National Park. We tied the knot on February 22, and I brought my wife home to live at my mom’s while I anxiously awaited to hear from the four graduate schools I applied to. The first rejection letter came from the University of Texas at Austin. Next it was the University of Oregon. A signed rejection letter came from the University of Iowa a few weeks later, and on March 25 I sat in the corner of Best Buy in Lafayette, Ind.–where I was working to save money for grad school–and learned that I did not get into the University of California, Irvine. The future I had banked on as a writer had suddenly fallen apart and I found myself back in a familiar rut.

After the writing programs rejected me, I didn’t feel much like writing, but the daunting task of constructing an essay for Vol. 2 of the Invictus Writers project was still in front of me. I strongly considered throwing in the towel and sitting this one out because of where I was in my own mind. However, I crawled through the writing process with my Boundary Waters story and it helped me remember why I wanted to be a writer in the first place. Eventually, I locked myself in my friend’s house he was renovating that had no internet and no distractions and I spilled the words onto the blank page. After a few weeks of solitude, I had a product that I was ready to share with the people that inspired it.

One of the first people I let read my rough draft was Mark Lam, the guy I went with to the Boundary Waters. We don’t get to see each other much these days, but he had to come from his home in Washington state to the town we both grew up in–where I was living at the time–to be with his mother as the cancer she was diagnosed with years ago metastasized. He spent his last days with her asking about her life and reading my story to her when she was able to stay awake with all the medications in her body. He finished the story not long before her body gave up, and I think in some way it might have helped her understand her own son before she passed away.

These sad circumstances made me remember what I love about writing. It’s about the connection we, as writers, make with our audience and how we help others through their pain with our own. During one of the most painful times in his life, I was able to take Mark back to an amazing adventure we had, and I hope I was able to show Mark’s mother the same adventure through my words. That connection is what this is all about.

In my own life, I am still trying to get out of a rut, and I am taking drastic measures to do so. In August, Anjee and I sold most of our belongings and used the money to move to Southern California to start a new life. Our grand plan has not played out as expected, but I am learning to take the tangible measures of success as they come. This rough process is teaching me patience and perseverance all over again. I am nowhere close to where I thought I would be after school, but Anjee and I have two cars, our own place, and decent paying jobs. I don’t have the writing job I thought I’d find out here, but I spend some time each day searching and trying to make this life what I want it to be. That’s the lesson I learned in the Boundary Waters: in this life you will struggle, but if you choose to summon your inner strength and work your way through the black water swamps, there is often sunshine and a lake that’s smooth as glass on the other side.

I’m hopeful that I will find my way back to the writing and making connections with my readers, because those connections mean everything to me. They are my blue sky and lake of glass.