Our theme for the month of July is “stunt journalism.” Writers were asked to try something new, take on a challenge, or perform some other interesting feat strictly for the purpose of writing about it.
This is Alissa’s last post with us, so a special thanks and a warm goodbye goes out to her today. Alissa has been writing with us since the very beginning in July 2013.
I don’t know if I’ve ever been as excited about and intrigued by a theme month as I was this month—and on top of that it’s my last month writing for the post calvin. But as week after week went by, I found myself unable to find that perfect, fitting thing to do and memorialize in writing.
Most of the ideas I had centered around things I had to do anyway: Graduate (in Latin, because I’m cool). Pack my belongings into boxes. Start a new job. Move. Buy a car. But I do these things because it is time and because I need to do them, not so that I can write about them, so I’m not following the rules.
I also thought I might just do something I enjoy, like reading a book. Then I realized that reading a book in order to write about it is already a thing. It’s called a book report.
After that, I started thinking maybe this is all some sort of metacommentary on my inability to do something for the sake of writing about it. I liked the sound of that—everything I do is part of my identity and working toward a greater purpose (though the underlying truth is that I’m fairly low-energy and not particularly spontaneous).
I swung to the opposite side and began to think that if we’re honest, as writers our lives are our fodder for writing. In this mindset, anything I do could be “guerilla journalism”—some things perhaps more or less interesting to read than others. Writing, though, has magic in that it can make even the most mundane into poetry.
The bottom line, though, is that I failed at this assignment.
I could have chosen something to document—how packing boxes went from carefully categorizing and labeling each box and entering the contents into a spreadsheet to dumping in everything within arm’s reach and calling it good. We lived in a one-bedroom apartment, so how we managed to squirrel away that much stuff remains a bit of a mystery to me.
I could have written about what a different experience it is to hire movers instead of getting a few friends to help (10/10 would hire again; there were 84 steps to our walkup apartment), or about how we were about to get on our super’s bad side right from the beginning by taking too long to move in, until he met the movers and they realized they were all Serbian and everything was forgiven.
I could have written about the experience of starting to serve at a new church, about how it feels both fumbling and familiar, because the pattern is more or less set (thanks, Episcopal Church!), but the means of adding variance to the pattern are abundant, and working with a new team is always, well, new.
I could have written about any of these things, or plenty of others, but the truth is, I was so overwhelmed by packing and tired from moving that…I didn’t.
And that’s not actually such a bad note to go out on, hard as it is to admit. Because writing—and living—are not always about success. Sometimes they’re about fumbling around, missing the mark, and admitting defeat. And that’s okay. It’s okay to be gentle and forgiving and understanding about a failure. It may not feel quite as nice as a rousing success, but holds just as much for us to learn.
Thank you to the post calvin community for giving me that—a place for successes, failures, and a lot in between. It’s been a pleasure.
Alissa Goudswaard Anderson (’10) lives with her husband Josh in New York City, where she is earning her Master of Divinity at General Theological Seminary. Alissa enjoys private kitchen dance parties, big Midwestern thunderstorms, and perusing other peoples’ bookshelves. For more, find her online at www.episcotheque.wordpress.com or tweet her @episcotheque.