What a joy to see this project finally come to fruition!
As described in our companion magazine, my husband Frank coined the phrase “I come from the world” in 2011. I bought the .com the day after because Frank hit on a universal theme, one that felt right to both of us as descendants of immigrant grandparents. What does it matter where we come from geographically, the world holds us all together. “I come from the world, that’s where I come from!” How wise and forward-thinking, how f/Frank.
As the years turned to 2012, 2013, 2014…the concept was re-imagined many times over. With one friend it could be a travel site—we’ll help others travel everywhere we want to go but can’t afford and live vicariously through them. With another friend we’ll sell wares and crafts from home-based entrepreneurs all over the world, and circle back to my mission mid-late 1990’s of supporting entrepreneurial parents who work at home with their kids.
I secretly wanted to partner up with an ivy league university whose mission of global citizenship—and grant fund eligibility—could create a new full-time Director of a Center position for me.
But then the Spring of 2015 hit our family like a pseunami. Two of my adult sons and I were hospitalized with serious illnesses. Life fell from the top of Maslow’s triangle (aspirational) to the bottom (survival).
In my case, I was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of melanoma that spread to my brain within months. With the help of angels-on-earth that appeared at every turn, I was gifted another year, along with my sons who joined me on the path of recovery. In fact this date, July 19, marks the one-year anniversary of the second of back-to-back craniotomies last summer, in June and July of 2016.
But that’s not all. Just months later, the campaign for president tilted the national conversation toward questioning our identity as an immigrant nation. In short, the election results gave new clarity to what “I Come From The World” could do for the world. And as importantly, what it could do for my husband, children, and stepchildren in the wake of a now uncertain America.
In short time, 99designs came on my radar through the MFA Colleagues page on Facebook, and Frank and I decided to run a $500 contest to see if graphic designers around the world could somehow give a “face” to my mission statement, which now read like this:
I am looking for a cleverly illustrated logo for a new website, IComeFromTheWorld.com, featuring the world (this Earth) through the lens of humanity. I am a writer who is very visual so am attracted to logos where the lettering and graphics are fully integrated.
We are all here on Earth by happenstance of birth. The message should convey at-a-glance that this website is a safe space and place for people around the world to gather on topics that touch us all in safe & positive ways – laughter, food, music, nature – and in time, as the community grows, on larger issues like Humanity, Sustainability, and the Global Economy.
I am open to all types of interpretations of what it means to “Come From The World” but the tone must be positive and world-affirming.
That’s where we found Sajan Rajbahak, whose original logo design felt so full of joy. We asked him to add color to the globe and voila! “I Come From The World” now radiates inspiration wherever it appears visually. We are super pleased with the feel of the design.
Our next step was lining up guest judges for our first year of publication: Kim Bridgford and Pete Duval for the first issue, and Eric Lehman and Amy Nawrocki for the second, both couples I met at Fairfield University and the University of Bridgeport where I worked, respectively. They generously jumped in, nearly as enthusiastic as Frank and I. The next task was coming up with a theme for the first contest, which came easily as well. How many different interpretations would writers and poets have for the phrase, “I come from the world”?
This first call delivered interpretations wide and varied, in keeping with the human experience. I was honored to see the quality of submissions that poured in for our fledgling journal, and selected, as all editors do, the ones that resonated most to me. The works of those 25 writers and poets were then forwarded (blindly) to Kim and Pete, who together delivered the award recipient of our first literature prize: Vyasar Mamta Ganesan for his braided essay “VMG.” Vyasar explores the origins of each of his three names through family heritage and lore as his own sense of identity is clarified. His search for identity through the initials of his name is both clever and poignant.
That awareness of one’s sense of self comes through in a few other honorable mentions, including Trace DePass’s “When a thing becomes its opposite there are always sparks,” David Holper’s “Listen to the Voice That Speaks Within Your Heart,” Teresa Sutton’s “The Food Police,” and “Longs Peak – Where I Touch Stone.” The latter two are nonfiction essays that hit home in particular to me, as I recalled the heavy judgments made at Sunday dinners growing up in an Italian home, and the triumph of a difficult hike as a youth working at Yellowstone National Park. Finally, the grief that accompanies surviving in “Mending a Life” and dying in “Dead Man’s Hat Collection” reminds us all of the value of throwing our attention toward work to “mend” and staying open to a child’s new words such as “Boom Shakalaka.”
Among the other nonfiction essays selected for this inaugural issue, you’ll find themes of ability transcending disability; the self-assuredness that comes from enjoying solitude and volunteering; and a tribute to a brother whose voice still resonates.
Our guest contributor Baron Wormser kicks off our poetry selections with his irreverent fictional character Renfrew, who catches and confronts a litterer in action. Other poets contemplate the Milky Way, eagles landing, the struggle between Mother Earth and mankind, and how hope illuminates darkness. Through more poetry selections we consider the way people tick on Facebook and cable news, the saving grace of words, and the state of being injured. Poetry is also the medium through which we see grandmothers emerge as memorable characters: one through a Welsh bible, a family heirlom, and the other in the reflection of her baby granddaughter’s eyes. Many of our poets submitted more than one stellar poem, so make sure to scroll down each page.
Have we exhausted interpretations for what it means to come from the world? Of course not; we’re just beginning. My hope is that the question “What does it mean to come from the world?” becomes an open and ongoing submission call at icomefromtheworld.com, where we intend to continue building this community and much-needed conversation.
Scroll for the Editor’s Take on the Theme
What does it mean for me personally to “come from the world”?
This is the prompt the judges and I selected for the literature contest for this premiere issue, so perhaps it’s only fitting that I answer that question myself for my first “Letter from the Editor.”
I came into the world intentionally by a father and mother who tried for many years to conceive their third and last child. As my mother tells it, their first two, my sister Joann and brother Phil, came pretty much on cue three years apart, but three years later when they tried for their third, it wasn’t happening. “By happenstance of birth” I arrived six years later instead.
Likewise, when I became a mother myself, my first and fourth were born by “happenstance” while my second and third were intentional. No matter; each of my four children transformed into an armful of joy when I first held them. Of course this happens often—but not always—all over the world.
For those first two years, my parents delighted in my life daily. I know this because when my daughter was born twenty-something years later, my father said of all children, “If you pour love into their hearts for the first two years they will feel loved all their life.” I can’t speak for my brother or sister or my children, but this theory has certainly held true for me.
Along life’s unpredictable road many have tried to strip me of my sense of worth for whatever reason, but my strong sense of self is a gift that keeps on giving. Turn my time or thought elsewhere and there it is: joy again. Works every time. And I’ve been tested in the way most people everywhere are. The spectrum from joy to sorrow and back again touches most every life around the world.
In mine, I experienced the common stigmas found in my country that include a mismatched marriage and consequential implosion of a six-unit family, a job layoff the year I turned fifty, the diagnosis of mental illness among close family members, and most recently, an assault from within that caused an unlikely form of cancer.
“I’m no more or less than you and am not entitled to any more or less than you.”
When Life happens, people who have always been friendly when your world looks good on the outside are suddenly not so friendly anymore. You find out who on your life’s stage will stand by you no questions asked, and who will disappear no questions asked—and what that says about their character, not yours.
You learn that the word “entitlement” has two sides: the one you’ve been judgmental about (“Oh, he’s just a narcissist who feels entitled to everything”), and the one that teaches you humility (“Oh, I guess I’m not entitled to a happily-ever-after family / full-time job / good health / life itself…after all”).
You learn gratitude for this one day, every day.
You take comfort in the basics:
“I cry. I smile. I laugh. I dream. I breathe.”
You realize that no matter where you are in the world, no matter your circumstances, your humanity keeps you connected to friends and foes and everyone in between. Set character, ethics, morality, politics, faith, culture and ethnicity aside. We share what we share, including the one Earth we live on and the one moon that watches over us each time day gives in to night.
“While I’m here, I need the Earth and the Earth needs me.”
We need day to turn into night and night to turn into day. We need the world to turn, and time to pass, and birth and death to happen in every lifetime—scary as it might be when it becomes personal.
We begin to recognize the importance of our watching over each other and watching over the Earth, because our stewardship is needed for both humanity and Earth’s sustainability.
And when we knock up against the end of our life, we realize what an extraordinary gift Life is to begin with.
“I am here but for a moment, and what a moment it is!”
— Lisa Calderone-Perrelli, Founding Editor