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October 2017

Blog, Writing

My New Narrative

October 12, 2017

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

My New Narrative


“Hi, I’m Danielle. I work in new business and strategy,” I would say, balancing my tiny spear of swedish meatballs in one hand while I extended the other at a networking event. The person I was introducing myself to would nod, acknowledging my role, recognizing the large company I worked for. We’d sip cheap red wine and talk about our industry. I felt confident in my place in the world and in my “story” as a corporate executive.

I never introduced myself as a writer. It was a subplot to the “story of Danielle,” written into casual conversations about hobbies, somewhere between “brussels sprouts connoisseur” and “die-hard dog person.”

Two weeks ago, I attended a small business expo. This would be my first time introducing myself as a writer in a professional setting. I felt shaky, worried that as I uttered the words, someone might laugh. They might tilt their head, the way my dog Nala does when she hears a sound she doesn’t recognize. Would people recognize me as a writer when it was hard enough for me to recognize myself?

Fear pushed aside, I pulled my shoulders back and for several hours of networking, introduced myself as a writer. Generally speaking, I heard these three responses over the course of the event:


  • “Ohhhhh, that’s interesting,” they’d say, eyes sweeping the horizon for an escape route, looking as though they’ve just swallowed a live chicken. As we continued our conversation in halting phrases, one of their body parts would begin to bounce or twitch. They’d see “someone they know” at the farthest corner of the room, and were gone so fast I was surprised they didn’t leave smoke trails.


  • “That’s so cool, I write too! I’ve got a great idea for a book, it’s about this guy who’s a sloth keeper on a frozen planet…(fast forward several minutes) do you do any ghostwriting?” Their eyes bright and I’d smile, mentally taking inventory of my own partially edited manuscript, all my unwritten blogs posts, the deadline for an article, which I was now counting down in hours instead of days. Our conversation would pitter-patter back and forth until they realized I’m not really going to write their book for them and then they’re off to refill their drink.


  • “Interesting. What kind of writing do you do and what are you currently working on?” A book person, I’d think to myself, thank you, Jesus. I’d list the different types of freelance projects I have in the works and mention I’m in the process of editing my manuscript.

“What type of manuscript? Fiction?” they’d ask.

“No, memoir actually,” I’d say.


Here is where the conversation would hit a pivotal moment and I’d watch them curiously, knowing our casual chatter would abruptly end or shift to a deeper level of dialogue.

If it started with an awkward silence, then I knew the rest of the conversation was going to flop around like a dying fish on a dock. They would avoid asking me any questions about my project or joke about how I’m neither old enough nor have the life experience to write a memoir. I’d laugh and ask them a question about their line of work, watching the worry lines between their eyebrows soften, and knew the conversation was not veering anywhere near writing again – not memoir, not freelance writing, not writing of any kind.

Those that were brave maintained eye contact and asked me what my memoir is about. So when I’d tell them it is a story about motherhood, about my journey through the fertility process while losing my mom to cancer, I’d carefully watch their face, high fiving them in my mind for hanging on for the ride. To a man (or woman), they’d smile and I’d let out the breath I was holding in. Then we’d talk about the challenge they’d had having kids or about how hard it is when your parents are aging, or about writing, or something else entirely. These were the folks that asked me for my business card and the ones I collected in return.

This was a chance for me to learn how to tell my new narrative. Without fear. Without judgment. And while it may take me some time to get used to it too, I like this new story and I’m excited to tell it.


I No Longer Wish to Understand

October 3, 2017

I no longer wish to understand what “active shooter” means. I don’t want to know the difference between semi-automatic and automatic weapons. I have no desire to know how many rounds are in a magazine.

I no longer wish to understand your desire to protect your second amendment rights above the lives of your fellow Americans. I am not interested in your diversionary tactics, your smug analogies of blaming the car and not the driver for DUIs. I am tired of your constant question dodging when I ask things like, “Why would a regular civilian need to carry an assault rifle or a machine gun,” or “What’s the problem with adding additional steps to the gun purchasing process?”

You will tell me that overall crime rates are down in the past several years. It doesn’t matter that our homicide by firearms rates are almost four times higher than the next closest country on the list. You’ll say that restricting certain gun purchases won’t keep them off the black market, even though logic would argue restriction is a natural deterrent. You will blame mental illness (at the same time supporting a congressman that wants to remove funding from federal mental health programs). You’ll be unable to answer why you support border walls and travel bans to protect our country from international terrorism but stand silently by while our country is torn apart by domestic terrorism. You’ll say you don’t want to politicize the tragedy, sending your thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families, buying yourself more time and emotional distance before you refuse to engage in discussions about gun control. Because 1500 mass shootings in five years isn’t a pattern in your mind. It’s not something fixed by gun control. You’ll point to Chicago, erroneously claiming that they have the strictest gun control laws in the country and the highest homicide rates. Those “strict rules” have been laid bare by NRA lobbying, no longer requiring citizens to have permits or register their weapons, and in 2013, allowing them concealed carry. But New York City, with stricter gun control laws and homicide numbers trending to historic lows, doesn’t fit your narrative. You will use a hashtag like #Imwiththenra.You may bring up the car analogy again. I will remind you that cars are not designed for the purpose of killing people. That I am tired of your empty condolences and of your loyalty to a piece of metal over flesh and blood.

I no longer wish to understand what you think about the initial constructs of the second amendment. I no longer wish to understand your opinions, theories, and arguments about your right to bear arms. I am tired of listening to you spout off NRA sound bytes as if they were your own, tired of defining faith in our country in absolute terms by an outdated ideology focused on owning weapons. I am tired of listening to you defend a killing machine instead of the people it kills.

I refuse to defend an object responsible for so much death and destruction, and quite frankly, I can’t understand why you would either.