I've been meaning to write this post for a couple days now, but just haven't had the time. I've also been sick, so I haven't really been in the mood to move, much less write a blog post. But this past Monday, something happened that changed my life.
I met John Green.
My amazing friend invited me to the signing a while ago, but the magnitude never really hit me until I got there. In fact, I'd argue that I didn't really realize the reality of it until I was a couple people away from him and ready to hand over my books for signing. I have to admit, I was a little bit afraid to meet John Green. I'd watched his videos for years and loved his books, but I was afraid that in real life he wouldn't be the man I expected him to be.
Well, in a room full of 1,100 Nerdfighters, in walks John Green who may or may not have been shocked by the number of people who showed up to a book signing on a Monday night in Cincinnati, Ohio. I'm not going to lie, I was completely shocked. I didn't expect there to be that many people because most people I talk to have no idea who John Green is, despite his countless subscribers, followers, and fans. John began to talk and he was just so modest about his accomplishments and popularity. I sat there and yelled (the best I could with a nearly-gone voice), "GOOD MORNING HANK, IT'S TUESDAY!" and was in complete disbelief that I was officially part of a VlogBrothers' video - even if no one would ever realize it. It was just so bizarre to sit there and hear the voice of a man that I normally heard from the speakers on my laptop. John Green's lecture was so funny, I wished I had recorded it. Some of the things he said would have made excellent quotes.
I sat there and thought about John Green's book, Looking for Alaska, and how much I had loved it when I read it. I read it my freshman year of high school, not long after Jimmy was killed in Afghanistan. I remembered how much the book tore me apart thinking about what, exactly, an "instant death" meant. I remembered how much it struck me thinking that we really did define our lives as "before" and "after" a death. Thoughts of my cousin came back to mind and my mood wasn't the best there for a bit. But then I was reminded of why I loved the book so much. It made me realize I'm still alive. I wasn't the one who died in Afghanistan that day, no matter how much I'd wished I was. I was alive, and maybe for a reason. I was living, breathing, loving and no matter how much life without Jimmy sucked, I knew that it beat the alternative.
As the talk ended, we prepared to wait for our letter to be called so that we could get in line to get our books signed. We got letter Q, so we knew we'd be there for awhile. During the two and a half (ish) hour wait, we all got a little slap happy / sleep deprived. I tend to find myself a lot funnier than I am during these times and thus kept making puns about the letter Q. And then, of course, we found a stray nerd (candy) on the floor, and since we are Nerdfighters, I declared that we should fight it. And, of course, I had to take pictures with the nerd at that point. And then we found another nerd. I think this was one of those things where you just had to be there, haha. It was a lot funnier at the time. Oh, and by the way, I kept those two nerds. But along with the laughs, I grew increasingly nervous to meet John Green - if I had his hair my puff levels would have been extremely high. I had no idea what I was going to say to him. I wanted to say so much, but knew that I couldn't hold up the line. I just wanted him to know how much he had impacted me and my healing process, but I had no idea how to put that to words.
Finally, the Q group was called and we stood in a ginormous line. And finally, it was my turn to approach the table. My earlier fears about him not living up to my expectations were squashed as he was so genuine and nice. He thanked me for waiting the whole time, as if it were more of an inconvenience to me than to him. I told him about Looking for Alaska and how much it meant to me, with the little voice I had left. I became kind of emotional right then as I realized I was actually talking to John Green. I doubt he remembers me, but I hope that he realized how much he impacted me. As I concluded, I grabbed the penny around my neck (a necklace I made in memorial of my mom, whose name was Penny), and said, "And by the way, they're not worthless." Mr. Green smiled and said, "I almost want to reconsider because you're so sweet. But I. . . I still think they're worthless." : )
I walked away from that library feeling so amazing. I looked down at my copy of Looking for Alaska and realized that before I had been bothered by being able to see my finger prints on the book cover. But now I realized that John Green's finger prints now mixed with mine on the cover of a book he wrote and I read. A book that was semi-biographical to him, and life changing for me. And like the marker that he signed my books with, the mark he's left on me is permanent.
The next morning, after about four hours of sleep, I woke up and prepared for a long day at school. I looked up at the sky that Tuesday morning and the stars were so clear. The air was crisp and the skies were so clear. I thought about those stars on the way to school and wondered how many of them that I could see were already burned out and if that news just hadn't reached earth yet. For some reason, this led me to think about books, and more specifically authors. Some authors' light burns out much quicker than others, but some authors' light continues to burn on for centuries. Shakespeare, Jane Austin, Poe, Homer, to name a few.
Writing is something much bigger than I'd ever imagined. Meeting John Green and seeing the insane amount of people that showed up out of love and respect for him showed me that. When I sit here at my laptop and write whatever I happen to be working on, it doesn't feel like I'm ever going to make a difference to someone. Writers don't write with the mindset that they're writing it for an audience. Writers, in my opinion, write first and foremost for themselves. And I think that's what makes books so personal. An author wrote it to do something for them and we can often relate to individuals who have experienced pain. If a book were written strictly for an audience, I feel that we could not as easily related - we need to feel it was written for US, not EVERYONE.
Mr. Green, when asked what advice he'd give to writers, compared being a writer to being an elephant. He said that he couldn't tell someone how to be an elephant, because he doesn't know how to be an elephant, he just is. He's not a better elephant than any other elephant. He made me realize that I always want to be an elephant. So many authors have impacted my life, John Green just happens to rank high on that list. I want to be able to return that favor and if something I write touches just one person the way so many have touched me, I'll be completely happy.
Thank you, John Green.