To the man in 8B,
I did not want to talk to you.
From the second I sat down next to you though, I kind of knew I was going to end up talking to you but I didn’t know why.
When you got up about halfway through the flight I took a deep breath. I stretched out a little, but couldn’t get settled. Something was stirring up inside and I knew that even though it was something that I detested-I was going to talk to someone on an airplane.
You know this now- but I talk all the time. To my tiny humans, their parents, to my friends, to my boss.
All the damn time.
On an airplane I like to read or watch movies or sleep.
But, I felt the need to ask you about your book you had been holding in your hand for the whole flight but never opened.
And then the dam broke.
You proceeded to tell me story after story about your writing, your 42 years as a lawyer and everything in between.
And then you disagreed with me when I made the statement that we are all connected. You refuted my statement with story after story about people who were truly lonely.
But, man on plane next to me, I hate to break it to you; you are the reason none of those people were truly lonely.
In all of your stories about your days of being a lawyer and of standing in for those who had no voice, you frequently said that you were the one they trusted, that you minced no words with them.
I hate to break it to you man on the plane next to me, but you were their voice when no one else was.
You gave people the hope that it all would end, that there was a way out- even if that way out was death.
As we talked I saw your heart breaking for the people you had helped in your past. I saw your joy when you talked about the moment when you got to lift 13 years of shame off of someone’s shoulders. I saw you be grateful for a moment that you had the ability to tell long forgotten stories in your writing.
And I had this feeling for a moment, that you were passing something down to me, as I gathered you and your wife had no kids.
You said a few things to me that stuck with me and will stick with me.
You told me that I was going to get burnt out doing what I do. And that you and my mom were in it together in battling the sicknesses that had been dealt to you. You reminded me that it was ok to have two brains- a writing brain and a teacher brain and that I had to shut off the teacher brain to write. You told me that my parents had done one good thing and that was putting me in the world.
You told me that you normally don’t talk to people on planes either- that you normally just shut down on your flights to and from Seattle. That you’ve made 20 of those flights essentially in the last year and you always bring a book but never read it.
And the very last words you spoke to me were this:
“Good luck saving the world one child at a time- remember Obama was a three year old once”
I think you believed I might actually change something. I think you believed that I had that ability.
I think maybe, you thought I knew what the hell I was doing.
I think you thought that because all those things are true about yourself.
You have changed something.
You know you had the ability to do it.
And you knew and know what the hell you are doing.
To the man in 8B,
You have lived an incredibly full 67 years.
I know you don’t know how many more you have left; but I want you to know this:
You have changed people. You have slayed dragons on the behalf of those who were unable to pick up a sword. You have brought people peace who thought they had no ability to feel that feeling.
You have stood by someone and let them be lonely but not alone.
I wanted to tell you all of this- but I felt in my depths that you’d be overwhelmed by those words. That the plane was your safe space from everything that was happening and had happened in your life and the fact that you told me those stories and listened to my words meant more than I can say.
To the man in 8B,
To the man in 8B,
I know this seems silly.It seems silly that I am sitting in church thinking about how a show about vampires is over.
I get it.
But as I am sitting here in church I am thinking about another church I used to sit in a lot. I sat in it mostly on Sunday nights, sometimes the mornings, for about five years. And there was a time in that period of about 2-3 years that I cried every single time.
I wouldn’t really break down during the week. I wouldn’t get emotional during therapy. I sometimes cried myself to sleep. Or on my walks to and from work.
But without fail, every Sunday I would kneel at the cross in the back left corner of the sanctuary to take communion and I would sob. I would cry and I would leave all the tears and all the anguish at the foot of the cross.
Hope for me was something for others. It was something that was tangible to a whole hell of a lot of people. It was something I felt capable of giving but not receiving.
So on Sundays I cried.
Let me delve a little before fall of 2009:
In June of 2009 I wanted to kill myself.
I wanted to be done. It all hurt too much. It didn’t make sense. I couldn’t see how I could go on.
I saw a flickering light in the midst of a dark room. I knew it was God. I knew it was hope.
But after that I was numb.
I couldn’t always find the words to say to people. I powered through a summer of day camp. I went to therapy once a week. I tried to wear a smile.
And come the fall, with the school year beginning again and so many other things that felt big and heavy I decided to start watching a new show that was so debuting on the CW.
So on Fridays after work, I watched the Vampire Diaries.
As I wrote in a letter to the creators, this show gave me light in the darkness.
It brought me back to myself when it felt like all the things around me that were supposed to be helping weren’t working. (They were by the way, I just couldn’t see it).
The show brought me back to story.
And that is beautiful.
It gave me a voice in the midst of a depression that wanted to and sometimes succeeded at silencing me.
It made me laugh.
And mostly, most importantly, it reminded me I wasn’t alone.
It gave me that hope I so desperately wanted to have.
And I found this community of people who didn’t know me or my problems or my depression. They didn’t know I was a kid person or a “failing” Christian.
They just knew I had zippy comebacks. That I was Team Elijah.
And slowly, slowly, they started to put me back together when I didn’t think anything was working.
It gave me place to laugh and to cry. Real emotions when none of mine felt real anymore.
So I know it seems silly that I was so emotionally invested in a show about vampires. That I broke down into tears when it finally settled in me that it was over.
But, in the darkest parts of my life, the healing of someone else’s dark parts, in the form of a story about vampire brothers in love with a girl, allowed me to look away from my tragedy and find emotion again without even realizing it.
It helped me feel again.
So, one day, when I have a teenager who is going through teen angst and probably thinks I’m not cool, or when she’s in college and homesick and heartsick, we will make some cookies and throw on our sweats and I’ll click play…
“For over a century I have lived in secret,
Hiding in the shadows, alone in the world.
I am a vampire,
And this my story”
Thank you TVD for all the things.
Dear Julie Plec & CO,
In September of 2009 I had been on antidepressants for a little bit under a year, both of my parents had, had stints in the ICU and basically I just needed more joy in my life. I needed something that was mine.
I didn’t have a lot that was mine.
So, I settled for something that was “mine” on the DVR queue at my apartment that I shared with three other women. I saw a show that was starting in the fall and I decided to make it my thing.
That thing, was the vampire diaries.
At first, I was just a regular tv watcher. I would watch it every Friday after I got off work in the solitude of my apartment. And then I remembered Television Without Pity and recaps and found CIndy McLennan’s writing which took me to Twitter and I found myself apart of a fandom that was lead by the writing voices of Price Peterson and Thomas Galvin, the ladies of TVDnews and the ones that created the Love You To Death companion and of course Zap2It and Carina Mackenzie.
And I found myself interacting and laughing in a span of time where I didn’t know how to do that in the actual world. It gave me human interaction in a time where any actual human interaction brought me to tears.
It healed parts of me.
It reminded me that I was funny. It reminded me that I had something to say. It was the beginning of a big part of my life which is story brings us together. Fiction or non fiction. Vampire or ER Doctor; story brings us together.
The mention of story brings me to the storytellers, the ones who wrote the story, the ones who brought the story to life through so many different venues backstage and the ones who acted out the story. As a writer, I know pieces of the story were born out of truth, heartache, hurt, laughter and joy. Pieces were born out of whimsy, fun and love for characters.
I have cried more over vampires then I ever want to admit.
I have laughed, I have “oh girl-ed’, I’ve fallen in love with the bad boy. I’ve thrown things at my TV.
I was sucked into your story.
And just like all those interactions I couldn’t have in real life at times, you guys gave me a space to have emotions I couldn’t have for myself, until I was able to once again have them.
You gave me space and a renewed creative drive to dive into story when I had lost faith in the world around me. You gave me space to put my foot down and make time for myself when it was the thing I was the worst at. You helped ground me after a year overseas when everything felt new and old and the same and different all at the same time.
Over and over again, the story of vampires found ways to heal me, to connect me, to spur on my own creativity and to be something that felt like it was mine.
So, I will raise a glass to season 8, the final season. To one more season of adventure and story and whimsy. To finding hope in the darkness and to being a bearer of light you didn’t know you had.
Thank you for all you have done and all of yourself you have given.