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Know Thy Shelf

Meghan Thomassen | Thursday, December 6, 2012

My dad said this to me over the phone as I sat alone in the library, the only one studying on a Football Saturday. At that moment, my story didn’t look all that exciting.
The novelty of new classes and new people had worn off, and I was even getting used to having an undefeated football team.
Two years done at Notre Dame, I looked back on those semesters and all the adventures I had. Appalachia, Notre Dame Encounter, classes with amazing professors, nights spent watching random movies, spring break in Florida, spring break in Chicago.
“College is going to be the best four years of your life,” people say.
Well, I hope not, because that means I’m over half way done with my quota, and when that’s done, what am I supposed to do? Spend the rest of my life reminiscing?
And that’s what it sounded like to me when my dad said, “Keep writing your own story.” Writing your story sounded like reflecting and remembering on the good times, while staying holed up in my one-room apartment trying to type my way from reality.
The thing is, I always wanted to be a writer. The intoxicating, time-stopping disembodiment I experienced when I wrote was the closest thing to transcendence I ever achieved.
And it’s not until after an article is finished that I realize my words achieved that same coherent, fluid authority of wordsmiths, novelists and journalists. Those people craft performative, compelling statements without having to say aloud what has already been implied, “I write, therefore I am.”
For me, it has always been, “I am, therefore, I write.”
It is the natural response to experience. Even if I go months without so much as a drop of creative impetus, when I see a striking tree loosing its winged leaves into the autumn air or when I lay back on the docks in Maine to question the stars, the floodgates open.
I lose myself in a train of thought that collects treasure from around the pockets and veins of gold lodged deep inside somewhere.
Automatically, rhythmically, I reach for my pen, and dig around for the right sentence. I have to find it – that word, that thought.
This will be my last column on campus this school year. On Jan. 9 I’ll join a flock of other Notre Dame students as we take London by storm. It will be my first time in Europe, and I plan on seeing buildings and art museums and gardens and markets until my eyes pop out. I’m going to walk until my shoes fall apart and take pictures until Facebook revokes my rights to post photos. I am going to enjoy every last second of next semester.
“Study abroad is going to be the best semester of your college experience,” people say.
Well, I hope not, because senior year and the years after that still hold possibility. And I realize now I can take my dad’s advice a different way.
“Keep writing your own story.” That doesn’t mean my story is over. Storytelling is performative. The way I write is the way I live. To quote that sage, Natasha Bedingfield, “Today is where your book begins, the rest is still unwritten.”
Contact Meghan Thomassen at mthomass@nd.edu.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.