A month ago, I celebrated my 5th hoboversary. It’s become my habit to write each year around my anniversary with some reflections (Here’s year one, year two, year three, and year four) but this year I just didn’t have much to say–I know, it’s unusual. I thought about sharing lessons I’ve learned, but I’ve done that. I was tempted to list the things I don’t take for granted anymore (putting things in a drawer or having extras of something that you keep just in case) but it just sounded like a list of complaints.1 Maybe share a few stories? But I share them all on Facebook as they happen. How about this: five things I love more than I did five years ago (and five I don’t).
The Saints. For all I talk about Saints, you’d think I’d been obsessed from childhood, but I wasn’t that into Saints until a few years ago. Then I read Modern Saints by Ann Ball (volumes 1 and 2) and began to realize that the Saints are more than cool, they’re amazing. And I read The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas and saw for the first time the incredible power of storytelling in the service of evangelization. So I started to get to know the Saints as they really were, not the dull, whitewashed stories we’re usually handed, and now I just can’t get over them. You’ve been following my Saint stories over on Aleteia, right?
Downtime. I’m really extroverted. I can stay up for 30 hours if there are people to chat with. When I drive I have to listen to narrative-driven audiobooks because that’s close enough to social interaction to keep me awake; if there are no characters, I have to pull over to take a nap. So when I started hoboing (by which I mean a life of constant small talk every moment of every day forever) I thought it was awesome. I chatted all day every day (driving and prayer time aside) for 18 months before it was too much. Then I took a day to myself and was ready for more friends. But that kind of thing begins to wear on you and these days, I’m thrilled when people tell me they’re going out for the afternoon or–miracle of miracles–putting me in a hotel. For Easter this year, a stranger offered me her house while her family was out of town and I’m pretty sure I cried. I’m still an extrovert, I’m just also a human being and human beings need some time alone.
Books. I wouldn’t have thought I could love books more, but since I started using a Kindle for the sake of travel and general hoboness, I’ve become even more aware of how wonderful it is to hold a book in your hands, to mark in the margins, to flip to a random point and find a spot you once loved. I’m grateful that I can take hundreds of books with me when I’m abroad for two months, but it sure makes me miss real books.
Instagram. Seriously, it’s the best social medium. No drama, just beauty and laughter and support. Plus, you don’t have to follow people back, so unlike Facebook (where my news feed is absolutely out of control) I only follow 22 people and it’s so manageable. And when I scroll through someone’s page, I don’t see controversial links or ugly formatting, just a glimpse of the beauty and struggle of their lives. Heart-eye emoji.
Being Known. It’s the desire of every human heart to love and be loved, to know and be known. When you spend your life with a constant stream of strangers (many of whom think they know you very well from your internet presence), you become very aware of how powerful it is to be known as you are, not just as you present yourself. One of the biggest ways this has been hitting me recently is in my constant battle to be called by my name. My name is Meg. It’s not Megan. It’s actually short for Margaret. It’s not Megan. At all. In any way. But several times a week, people call me Megan. Introduce me (on stage) as Megan. Advertise that Megan Kilmer is coming to speak. Hand me a name tag that says Megan. And I’m a ragey person with feelings that are far bigger than is healthy, so I correct gently while internally berating the entire world. It’s been happening even more recently, so I took it to prayer: “Lord, is this something I need to get over?” But names matter. And no, I shouldn’t be angry, but I don’t have to be okay with people calling me by the wrong name. Your name is your identity, it’s your self. When people confidently (and repeatedly) use the wrong name, they’re acting as though they know you while refusing to see you. I’m not accusing anybody of anything; I get that some people have memory issues or whatever. But when people know me–know my name, that I love lilacs, that I’m obsessed with Bl. Peter Kibe, that I loved country music in the 90s–I feel the gaze of the Father. I used to take that for granted.
Bananas. They’re disgusting. And I know, because I keep trying them. During the Triduum, I ate three and almost puked in my car. Please don’t feed me bananas.
Conflict. The trouble with being a public person, and especially a public person with an online presence, is that apparently you cease to be a person and are instead a target. People tend not to be terrible in person, though often enough they are.2 I know I should offer it up and rejoice to share in Christ’s sufferings and imitate the Lamb without blemish who opened not his mouth, but I just want to shred them. I’m too afraid of conflict, though, so instead I rehearse pithy responses in my head while saying nothing in actuality. Which is better than flying off the handle? But not much.
Talking about myself. Seriously. I used to joke that I didn’t need someone to introduce me–“I’ll talk about myself,” I’d say. “I’m my favorite topic.” But after 5 years of answering, “How did you decide to do this,” I’m over it. It’s all I can do to remind myself that repeating the answer to this question for the 3000th time is an act of charity. (But if you’re planning on having me to dinner, feel free to read the FAQ.)
Itinerancy. I do love seeing all of you, and if the time ever comes that I stop hoboing, I know I’ll miss having the freedom to spend time with everyone I love. But there’s a reason people live in a place, and for all it’s great to go all the places and do all the things, there’s a lot I would trade to be able to own clothes that don’t pack well and buy more chocolate than I can eat in one sitting.3
Twitter. I still don’t get it. There’s no room to say anything of substance and you can’t have real conversations because things get lost if you don’t tag stuff right. I’ll stick with Facebook, thanks.
I’m speaking all week at a big diocesan youth camp and thinking that one thing that hasn’t changed in 5 years is how much I love large groups and crowds of people to love. If you’ve got a conference or know someone who runs a conference (youth, women, men, everybody–I’m equal opportunity) and you’d like me to come, drop me a note. As of right now, everything in my life is a giant question mark once mid-August hits. We can add discernment and uncertainty to that list of things I don’t love more….
- And after the few nasty responses I got to the vulnerability in my Mother’s Day post, I didn’t want to risk dealing with the fallout. [↩]
- I’m looking at you, man who stood up, restated my explanation that confession in the early Church happened in public, then said, “INCORRECT!” while pointing your finger at me. I was less gentle in correcting him than I usually am. [↩]
- Everything melts. Everything. [↩]