I feel compelled to apologize for self-promoting on my website. WTF? It’s MY website. Plus, isn’t that what people do all day on Tumblr? Re-post shit about themselves? So I’m going to re-post things, too. I don’t have a tumblr.
When I lived in Portland in 2013, I taught a class ONE Saturday at the Independent Resource Center. In that class, I met my BFF Fran and also Ben Jatos. Ben was such a kind and funny guy and some how had read Legs Get Led Astray (how, Ben?). He invited me to Fort Vancouver High School where he taught English. He taught some my essays to his students and thought it would be cool if I came to talk to them. He picked me up in downtown Portland where I as dog sitting/housesitting for the writer Cameron Pierce.
Yesterday Ben got in touch to tell me one of his students, Gracie Wilcox wrote the below piece. If I didn’t admit this mde my day…I’d be a monster.
Last year, I was advised by my favorite English teacher, Ben Jatos, to read one of his most beloved collection of essays, “Legs Get Led Astray” by Chloe Caldwell. I had never even heard of her, let alone expected to be so moved by every captivating word she published from here on out. He handed me the mint-condition, sleek, paperback-covered book and my emotions were never the same. In these essays were the most beautiful and inspiring stories I had ever had access to and I couldn’t believe someone with so much talent, someone I truly hoped to end up like in the world of literature, was not that well known. I finished it in a week.
Whenever I write, I think about her. I think about how open her essay was written on her dear friend who overdosed, and how the last thing they did was paint a mural and drank cheap wine in her apartment until all hours of the night (please don’t quote me, it was a year ago). I think about the super faint memory of the last essay in the entire book, and how I can’t even remember the name of it, but I know that it made me crave and ache for more pages and words.
I thought about Chloe today when I was asked to fill out my theater-bio-questionnaire, and how it asked “Favorite motto”. The first thing that came to mind was this:”I can accept that all I’ve ever wanted
is not very special —all I’ve ever wanted,
like most people, is proof of love.”And trust me people, this is only a hint of how great it gets.
I thought about this when I got home as well, because I didn’t realize how at the time it was so relatable. I mean, of course it’s “relatable”. Everyone is looking for proof of love, whether it be in a significant other, friend, or a stripper. But I didn’t realize how much love I had been longing for until I was tossing and turning over her words.
It’s a horrible feeling, desiring love. Not just love, but acceptance. It’s even worse when you had it. You grasped it, experienced it, and never thought it would leave you… until it does. It makes you feel like this is all the world has for you. Connections with others, people you let down and either love too much or don’t love enough. I’m fearful, because I don’t want to live a life where I’ll never be able to decide for myself, on what I want, how I feel, or what I love. This is why I write. I feel like if others know what I have to say, I’ll miraculously end up surrounded by people just as lost and anxious of the universe around me as I am. Something I always assumed I would have was love, and I’m scared that it’s not something you can possess. What if it’s something that floats throughout us day to day, and we give, and give, and give, never noticing what we don’t take. I think of all the people around me, and it depresses me even more to know that I don’t find happiness or acceptance in any of them. And I’m the only one to blame.
Chloe Caldwell’s “Legs Get Led Astray” gave me so much wonderment for what she had to say. It gives me hope that I can fill someone’s heart with that much satisfaction with just my words, if and when I become a writer someday. She’s what you call, #goals.
I seriously love you Chloe. Thank you for wanting proof of love. The one thing we spend our lives searching for.
Sniff, sniff! It is particularly moving to me when teenagers read and enjoy my stuff. I was such a shitty student and failed my high school classes. I did not know I wanted to write. I did not know high school girls would ever be reading a book by me. I love you too Gracie. You will definitely become a writer–you already are one. ❤ ❤ ❤