There are fewer more embarrassing things for a writer than when someone — a prospective client or random reader — mentions they’ve visited your blog and you haven’t posted in months. Like, many months. It may not be my life goal to be a voracious blogger, but a professional writer shouldn’t be a negligent one, either. It would be easy enough to blame the lapse on being busy at work, which I have been, or distracted by parenthood, a legit enough excuse, even if I’m loathe to admit it. But the real reason was a single moment in time last September that got lodged in my heart and has blocked my creative flow ever since. It was that boy. The one on the beach.

peteprodge via flickr

I was just one of millions, of course, in my shock and sorrow upon seeing the photo of that tiny boy being carried away from the sea that took his life. Like so many others, I felt paralyzed by the reality of a situation I knew, intellectually, was occurring, but I’d been too privileged to witness before. Like the rest of the world, it made me hold my family closer, prompted me to take some small action that felt like helping, and caused me to search both my soul and the internet for answers: How can this be prevented? What more should I be doing? What meaning should the world take away from this tragedy? How should we be changed by it? How should I be changed? Because surely, we can’t live in a world in which something like this happens and nothing changes, right? Something should change. Everything should change.


The answers still elude me. I’ve dedicated more of my time to volunteering. I’ve better protected the boundaries between my work and my family, and I’ve consciously soaked up every second of joy my little girl brings into the world. It adds up to so many seconds. Most of my waking hours, in fact. But none of those things are answers. And so, in the midst of what has undoubtedly been the happiest year of my life, every time I’ve sat down to write anything that hasn’t been for work, all I can think about is that boy. How can I write about the quirks of freelancing or another life lesson gleaned from my endearingly idiotic dog? The only thing that seems worth writing about seem to be those answers, and I just don’t know what they are.

The practical need to burst my emotional blockage and just get on with being a professional who writes stuff requires me acknowledge that the boy on the beach is still on my mind most days, as I imagine he is for many people worldwide. It requires me to admit that, even so, I haven’t been able to draw any wisdom or inspiration or concrete conclusions about how life/the world/I should change from his death. I imagine that’s how his family must feel, how all people feel when faced with the death of a child. That there is just no takeaway here. There is just the awful reality of what happened.

But life moves forward, and so I’ll do the same. I’ll blog about stuff. I’ll jot down ideas for new creative projects in notebooks and finally begin to flesh out old ideas that have been on pause. I may never find the answers to the questions raised by the terrible image of that little boy on the beach, but my hope is that eventually, something will come of waking up every day, thinking of him, and asking, How can I be different? How can I do better? How can I help make the world a safer, kinder place?

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