|Me, Pam and Meghan|
I first read Meghan Daum when she wrote a story for The New Yorker about her move from Manhattan to Lincoln, Nebraska. It was 1999, and I was sprawled on the couch in my Massachusetts house,The New Yorker spread on my lap. “Who in the world would move from New York to Nebraska on purpose?" I remember thinking. "Is she out of her mind?” Despite her positive portrayal of the Great Plains, I didn't get why anyone would abandon Zabar’s bagels and MOMA for corn and cattle.Fast forward 13 years [I now live in Nebraska; the irony is not lost on me]. My officemate Pam invites me to have a drink with her and her friend, Megan Daum. “You guys will really hit it off, I know you will,” Pam gushes. I’m on the moon. The chance to hang out with a real live, published writer (I loved My Misspent Youth and Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in that House), a columnist for the LA Times? I immediately start planning my outfit and debating whether or not I’ll dare hand her my business card.
And then, on the day we're scheduled to go out, I don’t want to meet Meghan Daum anymore.
“What if she thinks I’m lame?” I worry all afternoon. “What if I don’t have anything to say? What business does a monthly columnist for the Lincoln paper have chit-chatting with a columnist for the LA Times over wine and calamari, for crying out loud?” I consider bailing. I could tell Pam I have the flu. It wouldn’t be far from the truth, I think, as my stomach roils and fumes.
My anxiety intensifies as I sit in the auditorium and listen to Meghan read from a recently published magazine piece. She uses words like avuncular. I don’t even know what avuncular means. She’s edgy and funky and writes for magazines I’ve never heard of, cool magazines published in cool cities like San Francisco and read by cool, edgy people.
I’m a Christian writer, I realize suddenly. I write about God and praying and the Old Testament and sin -- all very unedgy, very uncool. And I know, even as I’m thinking this, that it’s wrong to feel this way, because I’m a Christian writer for heaven’s sake; edgy and cool shouldn’t even be part of the equation. But they are. And so now I feel like a failed writer, a failed edgy and a failed Christian. And I haven’t even met the woman yet.In the end, I go through with it. I go to the Marz Bar in Lincoln for a glass of wine with my friend Pam and Meghan Daum. And it’s fine. It’s better than fine, actually.
For starters Meghan is cool. And yeah, I mean edgy cool, but also just cool – as in accessible, funny, warm, inviting and real. She feels like someone I could be real-life friends with. She not only Sophisticated Megan Daum the Published Writer and LA Times Columnist, she’s also a regular person. She has regular problems and worries and she laughs a lot and her hair unravels a bit from her bun and she itches her nose from time to time and leans in close when the waiter snaps our photograph. And when she asks what I write about and I tell her I’m a Christian writer and that I write about God and faith, she’s cool with that, too.
I can draw a whole lot of conclusions about my night with the writer Meghan Daum. But chief among them is this: in the end, despite my angst and insecurities and failings, I was myself. I laughed loudly like I always do, and I gave Meghan my business card even though it made my palms sweat as I slid it across the table, and I claimed my calling as a Christian writer (albeit sheepishly, but still), and I didn’t use impressive vocabulary because I never do.
I was who God made me to be, and that, as it turned out, was more than enough.
Besides, in the end it was simply too much work to be someone else.
So tell me...have you ever freaked out and then decided, for lack of anything better, to simply be yourself?