Recent and archived work by Natalee
Years ago on a road trip up the coast from LA, I met an older gentleman at a Napa Valley inn. His name was Mike and he was a retired physicist for the government. After some wine, and maybe a little whiskey, we closed down the bar, totally immersed in conversation. I mostly listened because I found him so intriguing. No bullshit pretense or smooth moves. Just real, authentic dialogue about all of life’s ups and downs. He had lived a lot more years than I had. And though he was a complete stranger, also navigating through the complexities of loss, he didn’t feel like one.
Somewhere within the bulk of our exchange, I told him that I was headed back home to Seattle to try and ‘live out a dream’ by selling my book, Boob Job, which was my thesis in school and based on my experience working in a lingerie department. My plan had fire, and my recklessness had speed. I was nervous about subletting my apartment and leaving a place I had grown to love, but I knew it was something I needed to do. The death of my mom had quietly taken its toll, and my dad, who reopened his doors for as long as I needed, was alone. I was incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to begin with, and it was bound to be a memorable time. However, I wasn’t prepared for the strength and fortitude needed to put my aspirations into action.
Rejections poured in like a motherfucker. I went broke buying texts on how to land a literary agent and write a winning book proposal and find my inner warrior. Summer turned into fall and fall turned into winter. I finally signed with an agent and then split amicably because I was too much of a risk. People had other ideas. The project needed work. Publishers wanted experienced writers.
I’d lie awake countless nights wondering where I had gone wrong, and more importantly, what I needed to do to get it right. And then another summer turned into fall and fall turned into winter. My apartment found its way into a storage unit I couldn’t afford. My dad died. Blockbuster closed. And I was living out of a pickup truck and the downstairs of family friends who threw me an unexpected lifeline that ultimately redefined the concept of gratitude. The fast burn of rejection hit like bricks as life placed its chokehold. But somehow along the way, I refused to take no for an answer. I refused to give up on something I had passionately believed in—and continue to believe in. The power of narrative in the context of women has always carried the most beautiful and bravest of truths. Plus writing was the only thing that ever felt right. So when a rejection came in, a submission went out.
My time in the dressing rooms, from Seattle to Los Angeles… and back to Seattle, taught me a lot about the power of vulnerability, empathy, and what it means to love. Deeply and unconditionally love. The experience also taught me how to listen and learn. How to be present and welcome new perspectives from people who didn’t look like me or talk like me. Individuals who had endured far greater hardships. And what I had in my corner as time worked its magic, was Physicist Mike from Napa Valley. That night in the bar, before we parted ways, he looked at me dead in the eyes and firmly delivered pieces of Charles Bukowski: “You write until your fingertips bleed. And then let it kill you,” he said. My eyes watered as he kissed my forehead and then turned to walk away. I knew I’d never see him again, but his words and hours of sincerity created a lasting imprint, which I’ve replayed over and over in my head, season-to-season, blow-by-blow.
As this fall and winter nears, I finally get to celebrate a win! With an awesome agent, a badass publishing team, and a few more final touches, Boob Job is set for a spring release. I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’ll continue to learn and enjoy the ride, knowing that perseverance, resilience, and a profoundly deep trust in self, really can prevail, covering every last inch of clichés—and every aching desire for purpose. Life is short. But life is good, from the messy to the magnificent. Find your passion and let it kill you. Every. Single. Day.
Over the past few weeks, I've read numerous open letters to President Obama regarding criminal justice reform. I've discussed my views with friends and held conversations with strangers, all while memories from my adolescence came back in strong waves. With this said, I was inspired to share my own personal story, which is sadly just one of millions out there, just like this.
Over the weekend, I went to see the movie Manchester By the Sea with Casey Affleck. It was spontaneous and worth every minute. I cried and laughed and loved the way I connected to the film. The writer and director, Kenneth Lonergan, did a remarkable job introducing the rawness of grief, especially how different the experience can be for everyone. It hit home for me on a personal level, but we’ll talk about my stuff another time. The movie also got me thinking about the importance of film and television in today’s society, and how they both have the power to transport, enlighten—and heal.
Let’s just say girls’ weekend in Portland didn’t exactly go as planned. In fact, it couldn’t have been more unexpected — and certainly one for the books. Typically, for our annual getaways, we’ll gather our plastic and stock up on enough booze to fuel our shopping and eating binges while we catch up on each other’s lives. It’s always a nice escape from the daily humdrum, and full of memorable laughs. However, this year’s annual girls’ gathering sent me on a train back to Seattle with profound longing and a barrage of hard questions.