A note on growth
The first ever author event I attended was at Greenlight Bookstore in 2019 for Hugh Ryan’s When Brooklyn Was Queer. I didn’t have many friends; I went alone. I have a terrible memory, but I can remember the neat rows of filled chairs, the gentle recitation, the caring answers. I went not because I was a writer, not because I knew Ryan, but because I was simply interested in Brooklyn queer history.
I wasn’t a writer then. I didn’t know being a writer was even a thing. I loved books so much that the idea of human authors existing would have ruined my love for books, because books had never let me down. Only humans had. And yet here we are in 2023, four years later, having my own author event for Chlorine at Greenlight Bookstore, in the same space as that first ever event I attended. Filled chairs, gentle recitation, caring answers.
And I remember in 2017, going to a screening of Julia Ducornau’s Raw at IFC Center, where she sat in conversation afterwards wearing a hot leather jacket; me, in the audience, stunned that such glorious bloody art could exist. Be allowed to exist. And this coming week, on Wednesday, hosting a showing of Chungking Express—one of my favorite films featured in Chlorine—at IFC Center, afterwards in conversation about my own bloody art with my dear friend Anna Kodé, NYT reporter & writer. Did I think at all in 2017 that this sort of event at IFC would be mine, six years later? No. I didn’t dream of it at all because I didn’t even know it was even possible. And yet here we are.
Anna and I had big creative dreams when we were babies in college. Again, I have a terrible memory, but I do hazily remember us talking about them on someone’s roof, at a party, over food. Not that these dreams of ours were fully formed. Because they weren’t. We didn’t know who we would become, we didn’t know what exactly we even wanted to become. We just knew that we wanted to be somebody who makes things, something, anything. Somebody who makes work they believe in. And I think we’re achieving that. We’re continually working towards achieving that. I’m proud of us. I really am.
And I’m proud of me. I picked up pole dancing last month because my mental health was shit from publishing. I needed a hobby/activity where no one knew me. An activity completely unconnected to anything literary, that allowed me to move my body in a measurable, healthy way. It’s been a month since my first class, and I’m happy to say that this week I did my first pole sit and I did my first invert. I went upside down! I gripped the pole between my bare thighs and elevated myself! That’s growth!
And all the above, everything I just wrote, is growth. And even better, I have people in 2023 who would’ve gone to that 2019 literary event with me had we been friends then, and that itself is the biggest gift of all. I’m continually shocked by what I’ve done and who I’ve met—how I’ve grown—in the past six years, but I didn’t even think of it as growth until I flipped upside down on the pole and realized this was something completely new I had accomplished, and had no idea was even a possibility one month ago. I needed pole dancing this week, such a new physical act of growth and experience, for clarity in all the ways my life has changed since 2017 at IFC, 2019 at Greenlight.
I’m still me, yet I feel more me in 2023. How will I, how will you, how will we, grow in the coming years? I’m curious to see, and I like this feeling of curiosity. Of growth.
Perhaps growth feels easier in the sunshine—when I’m sweaty-walking to my favorite apartment in Clinton Hill to say goodbye to P, when I’m laying in Fort Greene Park with J and talking about love and its realities, or sitting at Brooklyn Bridge Park with T, then again a few hours later with E and J, talking about love and its failures, about the past and future. When my brain starts firing off a million ideas about love and intimacy and what it all means at the Coyote Park: I Love You Like Mirrors Do exhibit at Leslie-Lohman. When I’m grocery shopping in Chinatown with S, something so mundane and banal yet nauseatingly lovely in ways I couldn’t have fathomed myself enjoying last year. Perhaps growth means figuring out what banalities I want to keep and which I deserve—and what love even is, because it seems there are a million ways to express it or feel it and I need to figure out which ones I want. And which ones I can give. Because love works both ways, and this realization is also growth for me, and one I want to keep growing into, even if it’s painful, even if it’s vulnerable, even if it’s wrong, even if it’s unreciprocated. Even if, in the end, it ends. Everything ends eventually. An ending is a sort of growth, too.
Get your tickets for Chungking Express x Chlorine on April 19th at IFC! See you there.