We so often find solace in the words of friends, family, and those we trust to help shape our life decisions. Sometimes we become so used to this convention in our life that when these people we care about offer praise, we don’t take it wholeheartedly. In these instances, strangers are the best people to trust—even for someone as introverted as myself.
While in Albuquerque, N.M. for the 2015 Sigma Tau Delta International Convention, I found myself a bit perplexed. I love writing, and I love being around thinkers and literary-types. By average standards, that would make me nerdy in my own right. By convention standards—well, I was on the low end of the nerd spectrum.
At first, the trip itself seemed a bit surreal. A quiet New England kid set in the desert for the first time expected to do some intermingling with over a thousand book-loving strangers, that’s all I was. It was the first time I had heard the term “y’all” with any extensiveness from anyone other than Professor Lartigue. I didn’t know quite what to expect. The convention would be enjoyable, spending it with a group of talented classmates. I knew there would be a surplus of educational wealth to take in, and the trip would be invaluable. What would my place as one individual amongst a crowd be?
The themes of this convention, because of its setting, were Borderlands and Enchantments. Sure, these sound like hollow words you would find in an uninteresting fairytale, but they had obvious implications to New Mexico and its history, which is quite the contrary of a fairytale. More importantly, they took on specific meaning for my own life by the end of the trip.
In essence, throughout five days I learned that reaffirmation from strangers can be invaluable. It’s human nature to write off your endeavors as inconsequential. When peers tell you that what you do is important, it’s still easy to brush it off. Connecting with strangers with common interests is a refreshing experience. Your one passion in life could be rock collecting, as mundane as that may sound. If you meet up with a thousand other rock collectors, there will be an undeniable feeling of camaraderie, even if some of the rock collectors are like you and some aren’t at all. There is a shared interest, and a shared community that a lot can be learned from.
Writers have one of those communities. Writing may have a more prevalent place in society than rock collecting, but still. Amateur writers spend hours of their time writing just for the passion of it, never truly knowing if their art is worthwhile or a waste of time. When a stranger reads your writing, and says it offers one of the most honest perspectives they’ve ever seen and asks you to send them anything else you have written, it’s a damn good feeling.
At the “borderlands” between an undergraduate education and a professional life, a little personal reinforcement goes along way. I will likely never be an educator or a writer that will synthesize linguistic art that will really ever have an impact on the world. If it’s important to me, or even just one stranger, that’s enchanting enough. It won’t earn me a dime, and I don’t have any boyish dreams of being the next Charles Bukowski, but it inspired me to keep writing a part of my life. I won’t dedicate my life to it, yet it holds a truth that should be taken seriously.
Every person has a perspective that someone else in the world can astonished by. I’m not as radical as some of the characters that value the same artistic perspective on life, like a young man with unwashed hair I met that wildly impersonated his grandmother fending off emergency medical responders during a heart attack. Weird stuff for sure, but he was immensely talented, and I can appreciate that.
Do what you like, even if there is no goal associated with it—and connect with people that will appreciate it. If you like to write, do it once a month or every day. It really doesn’t matter how seriously you take it, just do it.
If you love to collect rocks, keep doing your thing. There are so many people in the world that there is certainly someone out there that will appreciate your scope, whether you expect it or not. You could love nothing but playing Frisbee golf and there is a community of others out there that feel the same. When presented with some sort of borderland in life, find some enchantment somewhere—even out of thin air. Breathe it in. Enjoy it.