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Whales

Growing up, there was a book I read over and over again called “Just Like Everyone Else”. It was a small square book with a red cover and pen drawings of a little boy named Jonathan James. On each page of the book the author writes a sentence about a morning task Jonathan James completes, like getting out of bed, and on the adjacent page it read “just like everyone else.” You follow the overall-wearing 5 year old brushing his teeth (“just like everyone else”), eating breakfast (“just like everyone else”), getting his backpack on (“just like everyone else”) and so on. On the last page of the book, when you expect our Jonathan James to walk to or ride the bus to school (just like everyone else) you see Jonathan James put out his arms and gracefully fly through the air off to school.

My mom read this book to me hundreds of times, but the thrill of Jonathan James flying off the school, not just like everyone else, never got old.

In the suburb I grew up in, being ‘just like everyone else’ (or even a little better off) seemed like the highest value to those around us. My amazing single mama marched to the beat of her own drummer and encouraged my sister and me to as well. She taught us to value justice, adventure and kindness over the material things that seemed to matter most to my classmates. We never quite fit in. A number of school lunches were spent in the library, a bathroom stall, or sneaking home in order to not be the kid sitting by myself in the cafeteria.

Being outside many of the conventions of the culture I grew up in was helpful preparation for life. Of course there are times when I want to fit in and I sometimes struggle with a strong desire to be liked. Sometimes I worry the choices we make, such as taking our kids out of school or planning or lives week by week will be judged by others. Yet I have also been able to increasingly lean in to letting go of these concerns and to step into the life that works best for me and my family.

While each step we have taken in this direction still feels unknown and scary, it has also led to a staircase toward more joy and freedom.

This morning, I woke up, brushed my teeth, got dressed, and made breakfast, “just like everyone else.” Then I walked down a dirt road along an ocean lagoon with my husband and kids, got in a small fishing boat, and rode out to sea. We were quickly surrounded by giant gray whales who playfully swam under, next to and around the boat, eager to be pet and interacted with. The holiness of this experience flooded our bodies with a joy and exhilaration we never felt before.

This evening we made dinner, resolved sibling fights and figured out finances, just like everyone else. But tomorrow, we will wake up with a new view out our bedroom window and we will walk (or boat or swim) through our morning in the way that suits us best.


Just Like Everyone Else, Addendum And. I realize there is no such thing as ‘just like everyone else.’ Everyone I know is also trying to figure out how to live in this messy world without a map. Sometimes we fly. Sometimes we walk. Sometimes we roll, or boat, or just can’t get out of bed. Each person has different life circumstances based on the array of privileges, life circumstances, luck, and tragedy. I think of this as ‘our basket’ of ‘stuff’ that we come into the world with and add to along the way. During this time on the road, the uncertainties of life, the highs and the lows are magnified. Writing publicly about it feels vulnerable- how much of the lows can I share while protecting some privacy of our family and friends? If we mostly share the highs does it seem like our life is more fantastic than it actually is? Just like the rest of the trip, writing is an act of uncertainty and trust. Thanks for reading.






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