"No soul is desolate as long as there is a human being for whom it can feel trust and reverence."
Almost four years ago, I attended one of my first writers conferences. Wet behind the ears, dazzled, and sick with nerves, I started out the day in a small workshop with other aspiring authors. I took a random seat and ended up next to someone who would change my life.
A bit intimidated by her warmth, openness, and talent, I kept a polite distance but left with a wonderful impression of this girl. We ran into each other at various functions and book signings after that and my impression widened into healthy respect and admiration.
Five months later, I had one of the hardest days of my life and almost blew off an evening with her and another dear friend. It was a narrow thing. That night was surreal, a moment that feels removed from time. For a person who has grown gun-shy and vaults away emotion, I was drawn out of myself and into something transcendent. I'm learning that it's in those narrow, almost-misses where miracles bloom.
We promised each other we'd always remember that night, that we wouldn't let it whisper away and dissipate. We'd remember the shared stories and the kindness. Maybe we saw our self-guarded natures reflected in each other—and saw a friendship more important than protecting ourselves. Maybe we realized some things are worth risking.
I've never regretted taking that risk.
We keep our promise. Sometimes the days stretch longer between visits than they should, but every reunion is another transcendent moment, another discovery into chambers of my heart that I never knew were empty before. There's a part of me that unfurls without reservation when I'm around her. We talk about the deep parts of life: the pain and the joy, the fear and the fearlessness, the fathomless dark and the blinding light. We laugh and we cry. We just are. It's a kind of peace that purges everything bad and when we wave goodbye, it seems the sun is always shining.
She's the kind of person who renews faith in others, reminds you to slow the beat, see the world as a wide, breathable haven. And when it isn't? She stands against the rages, dares to be a lighthouse, and embraces the jagged rain that shapes us into something better than we are.
Her name is Ali Cross and today is her day. Today, Ali gifts the world with a slice of herself in the form of her debut novel, BECOME. I've had the pleasure to read it multiple times and it is a haunting, beautiful tale of what we choose to become. She writes with a raw honesty, shapes words with a mastery I envy, and brings emotion to the surface like a breaking swell of sea. I'll be telling you more about her book next week.
For now, I'm rolling up the words in my heart, slipping them into a narrow neck of glass, and stoppering it with all of the things I can't adequately convey. Almost four years ago, I met someone who changed my life. Ali, you changed me for the better. I love you. I'm so proud of you. And if you catch a glimpse of sun in the water, just know the letter's from me.
(Today is also the incredible debut for Christine Bryant and RaShelle Workman. It's a trifecta of awesome. Learn more at the Dark C.A.R.M.A. blog. My most heartfelt congratulations to all of you!)