I have a rolltop desk; can a beret be far behind?

Sarah Comer is one of The News Tribune’s reader columnists for 2018 and early 2019.
Sarah Comer is one of The News Tribune’s reader columnists for 2018 and early 2019. phaley@thenewstribune.com

It’s not unusual for retrospection to sing its siren song at the start of a new year, but as 2019 begins and my time here as a reader columnist ends, I find myself looking back more than usual.

A year sounds like a long time and 650 words like a lot of space, but the truth is our time is always shorter than we think and there’s always more to say.

There isn’t room for it all – in writing or in life – so making space for what’s most important is often a matter of learning to let go of what isn’t.

I learned that sharing pieces of your life with strangers in a newspaper is just as scary as it sounds, but I was surprised, and touched, by how often people would write back.

As unique as every life is, even those roads we have to walk alone run parallel with the lives of others. And the path feels less lonely when a fellow traveler stops to wave hello.

More than anything this year reminded me that I’ve been in a torrid affair with words for most of my life. I can’t remember a time before writing.

My first work (penned in crayon) was a mystery about jewel thieves smuggling rubies inside fake flowers. Genius, I know. It was the beginning of a love that’s waxed and waned but never died.

When I was 16 my grandmother, who was very old fashioned, wanted to buy me a hope chest. After looking at several and their associated price tags, I popped my stunned little eyes back in their sockets (with muttered protests of “it’s a box, just a wooden box!”) and noticed the rolltop writing desks.

That most luxurious of writers’ luxury items was almost half the price. And much more me.

My grandmother understood instantly. She was a writer, too.

Writing has always made the chaos of life feel navigable. It never fails to ensnare me in the seductive notion that if you have the right words, if you spend enough time coaxing them this way and that, you can eventually make sense of the whole world (even the messy one inside your head).

Many years ago in a vulnerable moment I admitted to someone that I wanted to be a writer, and they responded with: “That’s a hard way to make a living.”

In their defense I think they were worried for me, thinking I was going to instantly quit my job, buy a beret and a monochrome wardrobe and wait to starve to artistic death, but it was a crushing response to my confession.

Because what I meant was this life isn’t fulfilling all of who I am, and I’m working up the courage to try something new and see where it goes.

But time went by, life – and death – got in the way, and writing fell by the wayside. Then a year ago my dear friend Claire sent me this message:

“If you’re looking to stretch your writing muscles in 2018, this might be a good opportunity,” along with a link to the TNT’s call for reader columnists.

Looking back on this year and everything that came from that one sentence of encouragement reminded me how the company we keep can change the paths we take.

Will I finish my novel? Will I buy a beret? Who knows, but this year brought me back to my love of writing and I am deeply grateful for that. So if this 30th trip around the sun has taught me anything worth sharing, it is this:

There are never enough words, so choose them carefully.

There is never enough time, so spend it on the things that matter.

There is no knowing the impact we have on the lives of others, so be kind, and be thankful when you receive kindness.

And always choose the writing desk.

Sarah Comer of Puyallup is musician, storyteller and community dance facilitator. She is one of six 2018 reader columnists for The News Tribune ending her tenure. Reach her at fiddleteacher@hotmail.com or read more of her work at www.sarahcomer.com/writing.