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376 pages, Hardcover
First published March 31, 2015
In friendship we are all debtors. We all owe each other for a thousand small kindnesses, for little moments of grace in the chaos.
“I think I've loved you since that first day.”
“The idea of us still hung in the air, but we’d never be more than a few golden memories and a bundle of what-ifs. How do you find closure in that—especially when strangers treat you like a widow to a devoted husband?”
“In friendship, we are all debtors. We all owe each other for a thousand small kindnesses, for little moments of grace in the chaos. (...) Because with true friends, no one is keeping score. But it still feels good to repay them - even in the tiniest increments.”
“Ryan Chase was my eight-grade collage, aspirational and wide-eyed. But Max was the first bit of grilled cheese on a snowy day, the easy fit of my favorite jeans, that one old song that made it onto every playlist. Peanut-butter Girl Scout cookies instead of an ornate cake. Not glamorous or idealized or complicated. Just me.”
"Knowing what happens is different from knowing how it happens. And the getting there is the best part."
Hi guys, for my first post for The Start of Em and You Week, I decided to talk about how Paige and her story made me have a kind of revelation - one that's made me more accepting and fearless about my own life. Read on for my thoughts about The Start of Me and You, Emery's latest novel, and for an AMAZING handpainted book tote giveaway!
TELL ME, WHAT IS IT YOU PLAN TO DO WITH YOUR ONE WILD & PRECIOUS LIFE? -Mary Oliver
In the past year, I’ve continually noticed this quote in the footer of Emery Lord’s website, and it took me awhile before I realized that it’s the perfect quote to sum up the lessons I learned from Paige while reading The Start of Me and You.
The Start of Me and You is about Paige, a girl who recently lost her boyfriend of two months to a drowning accident. Because of that, she has sort of closed in on herself a bit. People give her a lot of sympathetic looks and she’s tired of being “The Girl Whose Boyfriend Drowned.” With the start of the school year, she decides to try to take her life back, starting with a list of things she wants to do this year. The list includes dating track star Ryan Chase, joining a new club, and facing up to her now fear of swimming. Paige’s journey takes her onto the Quiz Bowl team, where she (re) meets Ryan’s cousin Max. Together with her friends, she begins to make small changes in her life in order the move forward.
It’s this: the small changes part, that really got to me. At the beginning of the school year, Paige is just trying to get the simplest list of things done. She’s someone who has gone through a terrible ordeal, and has realized how important her friends and family are.
She’s not really feeling the guilt of being alive at this point. It’s been months since her ex-boyfriend died. She’s gone through that. Now she’s just trying to survive. And there’s so much beauty in the effort to do that. For Paige, her one wild & precious life is simply trying to live.
I love the rom-com. I’m a huge fan of The Cutting Edge, and 10 Things I Hate About You, She’s The Man, and a whole host of other romantic comedies, especially in movie form. And to me, there’s one thing that separates a good rom-com from a great one: the little, perfect moments of realism and uniqueness where you see the characters talking about the craziest rumours about them and whether they’re true, or the surprisingly thoughtful gift that the main characters give each other, or the fact that they’re trying to flirt over a wheel of cheese. These little moments give the characters a little more depth, a little more weirdness, and a lot more humanity.
The Start of Me and You is, to me, romantic dramedy in book form. That’s what it read as to me. It reads like a rom-com written for TV or movie - and no wonder, as the main character, Paige, is an aspiring screenwriter who is obsessed with television.
Recently, Amy Sherman-Palladino, the creator of Gilmore Girls, did a panel where she talked about how on that show (and others), she has learned to make the little moments big and the big moments little. I feel like that’s how The Start of Me and You is written, and how Paige lives her life.
Those little moments when Paige is in the car with Max, banter, or when she’s hanging out with her best friends at a football game and they rib her about a boy buying her a hot dog, or when Paige’s best friend Tessa decides to put a special song on the radio in the car for Paige...these are the moments that make this book a little magical. And Paige doesn’t take them for granted: the book is chock-full of little realizations from Paige that her friends are really her family and that these little moments are really big.
I woke up in the middle of the night last week with a big realization - one that maybe Paige had gotten to before the book even started.
When I was in high school, I had a bucket list like Paige’s list. It included things like, “play percussion with a world-famous orchestra” or “work for the UN” or “start a charity to end world hunger”. It did not include things like “join a new team” because I was a person who was already doing that kind of stuff. To me, that wasn’t a lofty enough goal. I wanted grand, immense, world-saving things for the future.
Let me just say, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If you have goals of becoming a president or running Oxfam, do it. But the thing I realized is that there is also nothing wrong with having smaller, more attainable goals like Paige does. In fact, to Paige, these things are huge and big. And going with her on this journey, I’m realizing how big those little things can be.
I’m 32 now and let me just give you the short answer: No, I haven’t done everything on my bucket list from high school. I’m not a world-famous percussionist. I did work for the UN for awhile, but I definitely haven’t ended world hunger. My life is pretty much what a lot of upper middle class lives are: I have a steady 9-to-5 job, a nice husband, a couple of cats. We bought a house. We have friends and family and life is pretty good.
And occasionally - maybe more often than I’d like to admit - I feel a bit like my life maybe went the wrong way. Maybe I wish I was living a more romantic life, where I’m constantly travelling the world to help save people. Maybe I feel like I should have been a famous singer whose music everyone downloads and talks about.
I realized, though, that no one in my favourite rom-coms have that kind of life. My favourites are ones where people like me find a little magic in the everyday, whether it's through love or friendship or family - through living their lives. Paige and her rom-com reminded me that my life bucket list doesn't need to be so grand - that there is grandness in the little moments, and grandness in just surviving.
Sometimes grandness just means setting realistic goals and achieving them. Sometimes it means allowing sadness and the mundane to be part of your life so that you can really appreciate those perfect, unexpected moments with your cats and family and friends. Sometimes it means just living everyday with the knowledge that you're improving and making things a little better for yourself and the people around you.
So, tell me, what are the goals you are setting for yourself? What little moments are you making big in your life?
Love The Start of Me and You like I do? Share your love by entering to win a handpainted The Start of Me and You book tote made by Becca of Pivot Book Totes! Guys, if you haven't seen Becca's other work, she is ridonkulously talented - I own a Fangirl tote by her, and I adore it. For this tote, she will even customize whatever quote you want on the back. Enter the giveaway below - open to US/CAN mailing addresses only (sorry, international followers, I promise you'll get a giveaway tomorrow)!
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Before I could tell them I was fine, Morgan's arms engulfed me and Kayleigh was right beside us, pulling Tessa in, too. I could pick out their scents--the soft vanilla of Morgan's perfume and the floral of Kayleigh's hair and the spearmint gum that Tess chewed any time we were outside of school. With our arms around each other, I almost believed that strength could travel between us like the heat of our bodies. Nothing, not even sadness, could be greater than the sum of us.
Ryan Chase was my eight-grade collage, aspirational and wide-eyed. But Max was the first bit of grilled cheese on a snowy day, the easy fit of my favorite jeans, that one old song that made it onto every playlist. Pleanut-butter Girl Scout cookies instead of an ornate cake. Not glamorous or idealized or complicated. Just me.
"Our little nerd," Kayleigh said, pretending to dab at her eye. "All grown up and competing against other nerds."
"I am your best friend," she told me, avoiding my gaze. She was still on her bed, picking at her nails. "Which is why I won't let you make hair-related decisions when you're this upset."
"You have a type now?"
I shrugged. "Possibly."
"Yeah." He thought for a moment. "Your type is nerd."
"Maybe your type is nerd."
"Oh, it absolutely is."
"Hot dogs are so good," I said, after what felt like minutes. What. Did. I. Just. Say?
"You have a big life ahead of you, sweet girl. And beginning again gets easier with each step."
The first boy to really notice me drowned in a freak accident, and I would never know the whole of him.
There, I thought. A plan. At the top, I wrote:
How to Begin Again