by Emilie Harris, guest blogger
Last year I read a book called The Other Wes Moore. The book is an autobiography written by a Rhodes Scholar who was reading the paper one day and stumbled across his name. The article he was reading was written about a man serving a life sentence for murder who happened to also be named Wes Moore. The more Wes read about the other Wes Moore, the more he wondered why his life had taken such a different turn. How had he become successful and the other Wes Moore had been reduced to a single jail cell? The book is fascinating and I highly recommend it – learn more about it here.
The book resonated with me mostly because I have the same name as a lot of people – Emilie. And as I read it I began to wonder about all the people I could have turned out to be. Mostly, I can tell you. I can tell you that growing up I wanted to be a heartless businesswoman in the middle of a Los Angeles high-rise. In high school the only thing I wanted worse than to get out of Waco, Texas was to disappear completely. In college I wanted to be the President of my sorority – the girl with all the answers.
Before he died, John Lennon told a story about himself as a child. It goes like this: “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
In the end, my other Wes Moore story isn’t about a stranger at all. It’s about me. I have been hundreds of different people over the course of these 22 years and I’m sure I’ll be hundreds of other ones over the course of the next, and there’s a great deal of power in that. I like to think with each new person I get better. I learn from my mistakes. I learn from the people I love, and I work towards a final product by practicing mercy and understanding and most of all, joy.
I guess what I’m saying is this: if someone read about my life in a newspaper and tried to compare it to theirs, I doubt they’d feel particularly moved. The things I’m most proud of, the things I would want a newspaper to write about me, aren’t the cold hard facts. The facts are I work in a cubicle from 8 to 5 Monday through Friday. I run during the week and eat salads more than I eat hamburgers, even though I wish it was the opposite. I do the dishes and watch television just like everyone else.
What a newspaper can’t write about me is how deeply I feel every sunrise and sunset. How it makes me smile to watch my boyfriend with his nephew. The way I feel when my mom tells me the name of every flower in her yard. The intense gratitude I feel when I come home every night to my best friend who wants to hear about every detail of my day. What makes up a person? Why does it matter? I think it’s because it’s like John Lennon said… Your occupation, your name, your hometown, those facts and figures are simple logistics. I’m not sure anybody would want to be the other Emilie Harris, but this ordinary life feels pretty astounding to me most days, and I don’t think I’d want to swap it… even with a Rhodes Scholar.
Emilie Harris is a past high school nerd, present Brand Development Manager for The Woodlands Convention and Visitors Bureau and lifetime pursuer of an unstoppable positive attitude and the perfect fountain Diet Coke.