|Children on a Path Outside a Thatched Cottageby Helen Allingham, late 19th century|
With the first round of edits wrapped up on A Soft Breath of Wind, I moved on this week to my first round of edits on The Lost Heiress. (Lots of editing going on around here!) There are some changes I know I'm going to make, some inconsistencies I'm finding. An old (for me) story taking on new life.
But one of the major themes in this book has been there since I was 12, when I first started writing it--the one that involves Brook, this noblewoman raised in a country not her own, finding her rightful place. Finding her home. Finding her family.
When I was writing this in seventh and eighth grades, it was easy for her. She lifted her chin, screwed her stubbornness and faith into place, and took England by storm. Her family all adored her, London adored her, life adored her. The only people who didn't were the bad guys, because they were evil and therefore couldn't love.
When I was writing this in seventh and eighth grades, I was trying to find my place. Trying to adjust to friends who were suddenly interested in boys instead of Barbies, in being popular instead of being genuine. I was trying to figure out how to be who I knew I was in a world that demanded I be who they wanted to make me.
I was an outspoken 13-year-old. The kind that refused to be led by other kids my age because, frankly, I found them obnoxious. I was the one who thought about consequences. About right and wrong. I was the one who told the other girls at the sleepover that if they were serious about trying a seance, I was going to call my mom and go home. The one who said if they were seriously going to try to sneak out, I would lock the windows and stand guard. The kind who greeted gossip with, "Are your lives so boring that you have nothing better to talk about than me? Seriously? Sorry to hear it."
Yes, I was an outspoken 13-year-old. But I also wanted those I liked to like me back. I didn't want arguments for no reason. I wanted to please people, when I deemed them worth pleasing.
I remember one time in the cafeteria, talking about spaghetti, of all things. I proclaimed my mom's homemade sauce the best (which it is. Just sayin'.). A friend asked, "Does it have chunks of tomatoes?" in a voice that I interpreted as meaning "because if it's the best, it will."
Now, my mom's sauce is ground totally smooth. But I hedged and said something along the lines of, "I don't know, maybe a few."
My friend then said, "I hate chunks of tomatoes."
And there I had a conundrum that brought me to an epiphany. My desire to make this friend agree with me made me lie--and now the truth, which would have been pleasing, couldn't be spoken. That was the day when I realized that my yes must be yes and my no be no. That was the day when I realized that having someone's good opinion didn't mean squat if it wasn't right opinion.
That was the day when I realized that my place in life couldn't always be easy--but that it was only worth having if it was really mine.
I've never been one of those people to be found in a gaggle. I have some awesome friends, but the best ones are few. I have an amazing family, but I'm not the one always throwing parties, or going to them. I'm not the popular one. Sometimes I wish I were, sometimes I wish people showed up to things when I host them, that I knew how to draw a crowd. Sometimes I wish my place was what Brook's used to be in my story--beloved by all, effortlessly.
But it's not who I am. And it's not my place. It's never been my place, not when I was a kid penning her first novel in class, and not now, when I'm rewriting it.
Brook's place has changed now too. Because though 13-year-old-me wanted to believe someone could have it all, 31-year-old-me knows better. Because while there may have been, in some point in history, one young woman who was beautiful and rich and popular and of strong faith and different from everyone else...that's not the story most of us know.
And it's not the story I needed to write this time around. This time around, I needed a story of someone who had to fight for her home. Someone who had to decide whether she was going to be molded or if she would do the molding. Someone who had to choose what path she would tread and then face the consequences.
Someone who is less who I wished I were back then...and more who I grew to be.
Someone whose place wasn't just waiting for her--someone who had to find it. And when she does, she finds there are those in it who oppose her. And those who would do anything for her.
Because that is life. We can never have it all.
But we can have what matters most.