The world from my window looks the same. The cars that drive by could be the same as yesterday, and the day before that. The same headlights, same person behind the steering wheel. They make their way down the street in the same fashion as the car next to them. Nothing changes.
And yet, everything has.
I was sitting in my literature class. I love studying English literature. It was an unexpected joy that I found in high school, that soon became a passion, and something I wanted to pursue as a career. There was nothing greater than writing a book to me. That was the epitome of the great contribution to society that someone could make. I wanted to make that same contribution. And, I never hid in my books, though I wanted to. I studied them, I talked about them, wrote about them, tried to understand what they meant to me.
It felt like it mattered. Literature mattered.
And, then suddenly, it didn’t. Everything that was tangible and in front of me didn’t seem to matter at all. Everything seemed to fade away into destruction and into troubles and toils of an everyday life that I didn’t recognize. The way cream looked when it was poured into coffee, that looked so beautiful, didn’t matter. The way the waves crashed onto the shore didn’t matter. The low hanging fog that seemed to sweep across the morning didn’t matter. The stories I loved didn’t matter.
Words didn’t matter. The things that had been my hope perched on a branch, the thing with feathers, they didn’t matter. The letters that strung together to make incomparable sentences didn’t matter.
I was sitting in my literature class, discussing literature, and Betsy Devos had just been sworn in as secretary of education.
And there was nothing I could do about it.
I use words to understand. I’ve always done that. When I don’t understand something, I write about it until I do. It’s how I’ve written seven novels on things like depression and cancer and anxiety. I can’t explain those things to you, but I can to myself. In a way. But, always, words have helped me. Then, they stopped.
I was sitting in my literature class, and I felt like the world was crumbling around me. People were dying, people were crying trying to save what they never could. People were fighting. Things that were awful and awesome were happening, and there I was, seemingly miles away, sitting on a grey chair, in a grey room, studying literature.
It didn’t matter.
While I felt like it was a feeling that was entirely mine, my professor seemed to notice this in everyone, because he spoke up. He told us that he knew it seemed pointless to be doing what we were doing, sitting in literature class, but he told us that what we were doing was the most important.
What was happening in the world didn’t matter if there wasn’t someone there to frame the narrative, and that’s what we were doing. We would write and unite and tell the world what was happening, what was really happening, and give a voice to the moment.
To the movement.
Because this isn’t just a moment. This is a movement. People are angry, they’re upset. They’re fighting back.
And the coffee matters. Because it tastes good. The waves matter because they make my mom smile. The stories matter because even now, the boy with the lightining scar gives me hope.
And words matter.
Because they help me understand.
Because words are hope to me.
And it perches in the soul.
And sings the tune.