Happy Pride Month! This month, we honor the memory the 1969 Stonewall riots, the series of demonstrations that catalyzed the LGBT civil rights movement. As with Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I honestly think we should be celebrating LGBT identities year-round. (And won’t it be cool when we don’t need to have recognition months anymore, because no one is marginalized?) But for now, it can be nice to have a month to remind us to reflect on and recommit to our support for one another. Sort of like a way to hit refresh on respect!
Today, I want to talk briefly about language, specifically the ways that language can empower and disempower people in non-dominant groups. Historically, LGBT communities especially have had to deal with their identities being misrepresented in language. Words are never “just words.” Words convey our thoughts and beliefs; whether we are conscious of it, they betray our values. Reexamining our language and making sure that it truly reflects respect is the first step toward advancing understanding—which, in turn, puts us on a path toward achieving justice.
My personal goal this month is to educate myself on gender and sexuality. I realized that it was a weak point of mine, during a conversation I had last week with my boyfriend’s grandmother, on a humid night in rural Rhode Island.
I recently experienced a Significant Life Change. I won’t get into the details, but it was one of those events that made me reevaluate whether my day-to-day life actually reflected my values. (You might remember how my dad’s hospitalization forced me to think critically about health insurance policy for the first time.)
Long story short, I realized that my brief, fabulous stint in Silicon Valley wasn’t as fulfilling as I thought it would be. Of course, I learned a lot and met kind, smart people. But I wasn’t learning how to write well, and I didn’t feel like I was making public education more equitable. None of my personal goals were being realized.
It’s easy to underestimate or dismiss the impact of independent bookstores. When I was growing up, the only bookstore in my neighborhood was an enormous Barnes & Noble. It wasn’t until I worked in publishing in New York that I realized the importance of independent bookstores—how they help to shape a sense of community and identity around books, particularly in communities of color.
It’s been a while, and I know what you’re thinking. At least, I know what you’re thinking if you’re also me: You’d better have been doing something fabulous during this unconscionable absence from the blog!
So what was it? Was I scaling mountains in far-flung countries? Was I preparing a new and edgy article that will bring justice to the world?
Flattering! But no. In the past month-ish, I’ve mostly been working on confronting my fear of failure—in less-nice words, I’ve spent the past few weeks applying to various literary projects and getting rejected from them.
If you want to read my previous travel-ish essay, check out my Notes from Lake Tahoe. Unless you already have—in which case, good for you!
On a Sunday with no obligations, my boyfriend and I decided to pick some city at least an hour away and explore. Most travel guides recommended Sebastopol, and almost all of them described it as “artsy.”
For as long as we’ve been dating, Tanner has cringed at that word. “Artsy,” he often says in quotation marks. “What does that even mean?”
When I was in college, my boyfriend and I subscribed to local produce “shares.” Here’s how it works: Each week, we’d pick up our basket of seasonal produce from regional farmers. Each week, we’d examine the vegetables and ask, “What is this radish? It looks like a creature from a Miyazaki movie.” Then, one of us would shrug and say, “Google it.”
About last Saturday night: I was sitting cross-legged on the second-floor landing of an elegant rental house in the mountains of South Lake Tahoe, nursing a plastic cup that I hadn’t bothered to fill with anything and wondering if I was doing my youth wrong. Below me, in the kitchen, people with whom I had been affable all weekend were already several shots into the evening. They danced to Top 40 songs and occasionally erupted into peals of laughter.
I was persuaded to come on this trip months ago, when the long late-summer days exacerbated my loneliness. I was new to the Bay Area, newly far away from everyone I had loved. A snow-mantled weekend in the mountains, sharing a house with the other 20-somethings in my company, seemed like a good idea at the time.
I’m skeptical of New Year’s resolutions. There, I said it! If I were being completely honest, I think that New Year’s resolutions are inherently tenuous. At worst, they are destined to flounder by March. I usually make resolutions in September because the structural transformation of the new school year always seemed to make more sense to me.
January, though? Every December, we see a crop of articles giving people quantifiable(!), actionable(!) tools for keeping resolutions. And yet the reality is that gym memberships spike for the New Year, only for attendance to peter out as the year progresses. Yeah, take it in.
So this year, I’ve decided to move away from formula. I’m starting my year with a mindset, which I think is far more productive than a self-improvement-y “resolution.” And, more importantly, it’s easier to keep than a gym membership. And most importantly, it’s free.
Did you do National November Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) last month? It’s a month-long sprint that challenges writers to produce 50,000 words between November 1st and 30th.
Despite being involved with creative writing for my whole life, I’ve only participated in NaNo for the first time this year. (I know!!) Though I should note: Because Novembers are uncharacteristically busy for me—I prioritize a lot of family celebrations, which entailed traveling for almost half of the month—I set my personal word count far lower than 50,000.
So while I can’t speak to meeting that lofty goal, I learned a lot about myself as a writer, the creative process, and writing at airports.