Unleash Your Inner Elle

As I was deciding what to write for today’s blog post I scrolled through some old freewrites and came across this gem. I wrote it during those strange four months following the termination of a three year relationship and before graduating with plans to move halfway across the country for a fancy job in a steel mill. My life leading up to this point had always been orderly and structured and, if not easy, at least manageable with a killer game plan and tremendous support team. Suddenly, for the first time, there was no game plan beyond the next four months and I’d just utterly upended the status quo that had seen me through the better part of a difficult engineering degree. 

Little did I know that would be one of the best decisions I ever made. I had no idea what was in store for me when I set up shop in Valparaiso, IN. Since then, I have happily embraced my inner Elle Woods although I still need the occasional reminder to let her shine. We’ve all wondered if we’re on the right path, if what we’re doing is what we’re meant to be doing, if where we are is where we’re supposed to be. I don’t think that feeling ever goes away completely. To be human is to walk through life with your head held high, knowing full well that you’ll never have all the answers. Sometimes the very best thing you can do for yourself is to cease all of that meticulous planning, take a deep breath and jump in with both feet.  

Looking back at my terrified, sleep deprived, boyfriendless, 21 year old self, I’d tell her to hang in there because things are about to get so much better. 

Often I feel like the Elle Woods of engineering school, the dumb blond that tags along after all the smart people because I didn’t have anything better to do. I didn’t always want this. I decided one day that it was a good idea and I’ve been working at it ever since. To be fair, my Warner wasn’t a complete jerk but that doesn’t excuse all the things he did (and didn’t do). Still, I occasionally wonder at exactly how my engineering career began. I did it because I wanted to make my parents proud and there’s a chance that I stuck with it because I wanted some guy to think I was smart, good enough. I worked so hard to be and he never really rewarded my efforts. Not that I regret it. I’ve found success, with and without him. 

Now, I’m single with no desire to get him back. I’m about to graduate from a prestigious engineering school with a great job lined up that I can’t wait to start. Everything is amazing but I still can’t help feeling like I don’t quite belong. I still feel like the dumb blond along for the ride. That’s not to say that I think I’m an idiot. I know that I wouldn’t have made it this far without at least some smarts. But I look around and I see a bunch of other people doing it so much better, people who are so much more well versed in this world. My mom says I need to grow some confidence and she’s right of course. But it’s difficult when I keep fumbling my elevator pitch. 

That was one problem that Elle never had. She was a people person, even if they didn’t like her. She always said hello and goodbye and dolled out compliments to the competition. She had an amazing capacity to forgive people, even Vivian, and managed to win nearly everyone over. She was good at making friends. I met my best friend because she introduced herself on the playground in third grade even though she was the new kid at the time. I only had to say hi and follow her to the swing set. Now, I read books on how to talk to new acquaintances. Approaching people I don’t know well and fostering friendship does not come naturally. In fact, it is appallingly unnatural. I like people and I like getting to know them but I can’t stand failing at it. 

I need to be more like the Legally Blonde star. I need to unleash my inner Elle. I know that deep down, it’s in there. I’ve just never been brave enough to let it out. She can be incredibly thoughtless and naive and yet she manages to make friends wherever she goes and does it with a splash. I need a little more of that.


Technical Difficulties

Of course, the day that I’m finally struck with a creative brainwave for a short story that I’d love to write, my computer decides to fail me. New characters are clamoring around in my mind, playing tug-of-war with my emotions and using my mouth to speak their emphatic heartache, begging me to write their story, and I can’t seem to get a good wifi connection. I sincerely hope the trail of creative breadcrumbs I’ve left for myself will be enough to find my way back at a later date when I can log into Google Docs and get to work. It’s always a danger with writing. I can’t wait to get to know those characters, interview them over a cup of coffee. I want to learn their names, who their friends are, where they grew up and why they made the choices that they did. But for now, it’s enough that they’ve stopped shouting and we can all get a good night’s sleep. 


This short freewrite was the product of a quiet afternoon shortly after relocating to Indiana. It’s a welcome reminder. Whoever you are, don’t ever forget to practice your pirouettes. Happy Friday.

She was so giddy she felt lightheaded. Her toes barely brushed the floor as she bounded from kitchen to living room to bedroom with her arms splayed in what she imagined was a graceful arc above her head, like a professional ballerina. She’d never wanted to be a ballerina but in that moment she was so happy that she could have pirouetted with the best of them. Anything was possible. The sky was the limit and she had such grand plans. The last time she could remember being so intensely full of yellow joy, she’d been eleven and had just discovered the truth about Santa Clause. It had been the best Christmas she’d ever had and she was too happy to care that it had been her parents leaving those gifts under the tree all along. Mom and Dad were Santa but it didn’t matter because they’d just given her the most perfect, most magical Christmas she could think of. 

Great Art

A lot of people seem to think that the most tortured souls are the most beautiful, that from great tragedy springs great art. By that definition, I wonder if I’ll ever be a great artist. I hope not. 

Maybe the reason this theory gets passed around is because sadness is one of the easiest emotions to evoke. Everyone has felt pain even if it wasn’t the emotional kind. To be human is to hurt and people are used to trudging through the trenches of life. There are plenty of occasions for grief but that’s not the kind of story I want to tell. Someday, I want people to be smiling when they put down a book with my name on the cover. I want them to have a taste of this immense joy that I feel. 

What do you think? Is it possible to make something beautiful without making something sad? I think so. The world shines so much brighter when seeing it through happy eyes. Tears of joy are considerably better for the skin and the soul. 

Chasing Seagulls

This short freewrite was inspired by one of my recent lazy beach days. We found the seagulls at Michigan City Beach to be a bit of a nuisance. They crowded around in a vulture-like fashion as soon as we cracked open the cooler and dug out our sandwiches for lunch. However, there was one person on the beach that was not shy about sending the seagulls flying. 

Her jaw is set, eyes ablaze as she charges across the beach. Small, weather-smoothed stones jut up from the wet sand to meet her bare feet but she hardly notices. A sharp gust ripples the glittering blue to her right, whipping her braids behind her shoulders, threatening to slow her progress. But the wind is no match for her. She unleashes a wild roar, arms thrust into the sky as she meets her foe. The two highlighter orange inflatable bands on her biceps make her look large and menacing. Her tiny feet send up a great spray in the shallow water as she gives chase to an offending flock of seagulls. They’re sent squawking and fluttering down the beach. 

“Good riddance!” She thinks quietly to herself as she turns on her heels and stomps purposefully back the way she came to where her mother waits with a towel and a bottle of 30 spf sunscreen.