My writing mentor (even though we’ve never met or talked), Augusten Burroughs, writes some pretty wonderful advice about love and life and everything in-between. In his book, “This is How,” he gave his readers some insightful advice: Who you are is made up of multiple things, but you do not have to define yourself with any of them. In essence, labels are straight-up bullshit. You label yourself.
This is not a quote. In fact, I cannot find an actual quote of what specifically this book taught me (I highly recommend it, obviously). Anyway, I want to hash out that idea here.
Assume all quotations in this piece are by Augusten Burroughs.
I first had pickled watermelon rind at a farm-to-table restaurant in Milan (pronounced MAI-LIN), NY and it seemed odd until I put it in my mouth. Watermelon rind is pretty good and I’ve even had it raw. While at my local co-op, someone had dropped a whole watermelon and it became cull. I took the free watermelon home, shared it with my family, and told them all to keep the rind.
I am nineteen and sitting in the campus counselor’s office. Her room is sunny and overlooks the quad, where boys in shorts toss frisbees with shouts and girls in floral shirts clump together at a picnic table, laughter and chatter floating above their open laptops. I look down at my hands, fidgeting in my lap, as I wait for Alexa to sit down in the arm chair across from me.
The arrangement of the room is more suggestive of a conversation between friends than therapy–– we’re both in arm chairs, a small table between us. Her notebook lies on the table when she isn’t writing. On the first day she explained this to me:
“I keep it there because I want you to be able to know what I’m writing, if you’d like.”
You’re poor. No matter what type of poor, you don’t have excess money. Perhaps you spend more money commuting to your job than you make at your job. Perhaps you just graduated from college and you’re scrimping on your puny little savings, mad at the world. How could the world that promised you so much offer you so little? Yeah, you’re not alone. Maybe you joke about being poor. Maybe you never use the word. Maybe you have a laptop and a car and a smartphone so you couldn’t be poor, right? Listen, you don’t have to admit anything. You’re just reading this post out of curiosity. It’s cool.