Today, I didn’t get to meet my favorite author.
Maggie Stiefvater writes some fun books. She lives a fun life. She’s inspired and inspiring. For a long time, ever since I realized she had written a book that wasn’t primarily kissing, I’ve read and enjoyed and sought out her writing wherever I could. I’ve read a lot of her books. I’ve learned a lot from her books. And right now, I’m only talking about her books. Y’all can research for yourselves what else she gets up to. She’s multi-talented— nay, she’s dedicated. To a lot of different things. All at once.
She’s inspiring, and has been for a long time. That’s why, when I realized she was coming to NYC on a weekend I was free, I made a plan to go get some books signed.
At first, it sounded like a large commute and small window of fun. You see, I have obligations. As a freshman at a service academy, I’m a bit confined as to when I can do things. This confines what I can do. But, trekking out into the city for a couple hours to see the Stiefvater seemed like it could work.
Then doors began to open. I could cut down on the commute. I could get a little extra time to get over there and get back. In fact— and here’s the exciting part— I might even get some books signed. That’s better than just being in the same bookstore. All this because I got to go home this weekend instead of just traveling from my school.
It was a great weekend. I got a lot of fun stuff done, listened to a sister’s orchestra concert, made progress in a couple of other projects I’ll break to you later, and in general pushed my life forward a couple more baby steps. I achieved what I had to do. When the time came to hit up the bookstore, I was riding a wave of productivity, inspiration, and feel-goodiness.
We show up just before the event is about to start. The bookstore is crowded. I’m in my white dress uniform. We can’t find the checkout line, but eventually we get there and buy a copy of The Raven King. We get our number for the signing line.
Triple digits. Almost three hundred people ahead of us. Everybody seems to have stacks of Maggie’s books taller than they are.
Okay, we think. We’re fine. The event is slated to end at 4, and they must have expected this many people. We’ll get out of here on time.
(At this point, it’s 2 and I need to be back at school by 6. That isn’t a guideline. But we’ll make it! Optimism always wins!)
The Virginian speaks. She stands on a table. She wears black. Everything is As Seen On TV!™ And I smile, because it’s nice, but the fact remains that I’m in whites, I’m on a deadline, I just knocked something plastic off a bookshelf and it’s too crowded to pick it up, and I can’t help but feel like this isn’t worth it.
I mean, it’s great. I enjoyed the talk. It was nice to see Maggie in person, instead of just in pictures, but… wow. It looks exactly the same as in the pictures. There was no ethereal glow that no synthetic lens can capture. There was no sense of destiny.
It’s silly to think that way, but I thought I’d gain purpose, new inspiration, a new drive to be better. But… nah. I saw the person who had inspired me in the past, and continued to inspire me, but you know what? I had gotten all the inspiration I could get. I couldn’t keep waiting for the next jolt, expecting it to come from the same place.
We laughed as she joked around, as she told stories in that unique style of hers whether on or off the page, as we saw her live and thought, “Wow, this is exactly how I imagined her!” She was funny, she was smart, and she took too short a time to wax eloquent about her cars and goats. That was probably for the better, though, because around me the initial bubble created by a person in a uniform (an obviously clean uniform) standing in a crowd was closing. I started breathing onto somebody’s hair and wished I could climb onto the bookshelf behind me.
The talk ended, the signing began, and we still had a good cushion of time. I had to be back at 6— the commute was about 45 minutes. The event wasn’t supposed to go past 4, and it was only 2:45. We were solid. #281 would come in no time.
At 4:00, they had reached #115. It’s no fault of theirs— Maggie is a nice author who likes her people, and likes defacing her own books even more. At 4:10, however, we had to leave. It took longer than 45 minutes to get back to school. I saw, at 6:15, on Twitter, that they were now calling numbers through 285.
I didn’t get a book signed. I didn’t get to talk to Maggie, or take a picture, or do whatever ardent fans do with famous people (kidnap them and hold them for ransom, I don’t know— I didn’t get to do that either). But I got to see that one of these creators I admire, who have inspired me to go beyond what I thought I could do, was real. That inspiration wasn’t a farce. It is possible to draw things and write things and play musical things. It’s possible to race things, raise things, and raze things. It’s possible to inspire other people, to tell amazing stories, and to live a life that is a story worth telling, all at once.
But you know what? That isn’t her job.
Her job isn’t to inspire me. Her job isn’t to make me want to be productive. That’s no one’s job except mine.
Now, this sounds really pessimistic. Part of it is because I’m kind of bummed to have missed that signing, after jumping through hoops to get there. Part of it is because, although I wish it was different, sometimes I make promises to myself and to others that depend on other people. Unfortunately, you can’t promise someone else’s time. You can’t promise their effort. You can’t promise their attitude. You can’t speak for anyone other than yourself.
You can’t define yourself based on someone else. I’m sorry, let me pull that away from you, because I can’t speak for you. I, personally, have found that I’m the only person reliable enough to fulfill my own promises. And sometimes I don’t even make it, but at least I’m responsible for that.
People can inspire me, but I can’t rely on them to inspire me. Books and surroundings can make me want to write, but I can’t rely on them. All sorts of external forces can make me want to learn, to get good grades, to get in shape, whatever. But those are external. I have a piece of paper on my bulletin board that I glance past every day. I wrote it a couple months ago. “MOTIVATE YOURSELF”. I will always motivate myself to go further and higher than anyone else in the world can.
Because when it comes down to it, God is the one who motivates me. He’s the one who has given me everything I’ve ever needed, everything I’ve ever used to get to where I am today. I make my own choices, all the time— but he guides me into the best possible place for the best possible choice. And I believe that the events of today were his plan.
No one else in the world can motivate me to go as far as I can motivate myself. No one else in the world can inspire me as well as I can inspire myself. No one else knows exactly how much I can take, with all the pressures and goals and things clamoring for attention. But God knows that. He helps me make the most of everything I’m given. He has blessed me in so many ways.
This blog post started out very negative. In general, it feels very negative. It feels very depressed and self-pitying. (My blog kinda feels like that right now and I don’t really know why. I need to make it happier.) But I digress. This started out very negative, but I didn’t mean for it to be. I have a history of making short-term dreams that depend on other people, which then get crushed. Well, I’ve got a list out the door of long-term dreams that God has helped me approach and achieve, and He’s never let those die. I can’t just end this post on a lonely note, because I’m not alone.
I don’t talk much on this blog about God. I haven’t in the past, at least. I think it’s about time I add “God” back into my vocabulary. I think it’s about time I start being real with y’all again.
We achieved a lot today, God and I. We moved toward goals. We started things I didn’t know needed to be started. We reframed my life and my perspective. I think that’s worth a whole lot more than a couple scribbles in a book.
Today, I didn’t get to meet Maggie Stiefvater. But I think I got to meet my favorite Author.