Ten Things I’ve Learned in 2021

I frequently think of a line from Leigh Stein’s collection, DISPATCH FROM THE FUTURE: Life is only too short if you’re having a good time. I want it to feel short, I want to feel a bit breathless and excited.

A good friend and I collaged this week. We were reflecting and planning after a big year leaving our past jobs for new opportunities. I felt compelled to memorialize my meandering thoughts in blog format. They’re a mix of running, creativity, chronic illness—you know, my life.

1. I have missed collaging. Through workshops with Cinder Hypki and making more cards this year, I plan to bring the practice back more frequently in 2022.

2. People will let you down. It’s not your obligation to change them.

3. I like books that can be frustrating. Well, I already knew this, but it was very clear when I read the new Sally Rooney. I kept wanting to scream go to therapy!!

4. I love racing for the comradery, but I am perfectly happy exploring running routes with no races to come.

5. I can paint a house in color.

6. A chronic illness is forever, but it’s not my full identity. I’m still working through this. Now that I’m not in daily pain, I’ve been learning how to manage my symptoms and set boundaries that prevent flare-ups.

7. I can make big changes, even if I can’t project exactly how they will change the future.

8. Calendar invitations are my love language. Send three dates and times, then let’s pick one. I can’t stand the back and forth of “I’m free whenever!” You’re not. I’m not. It’s stressful. Plus, as we’re still in a pandemic, I like to have my social time planned out so I am factoring in time between seeing people.

9. I would like to never feel obligated to sit in a loud bar again. My brain can’t process the background noise and focus on a conversation. Let’s sit outside forever. It’s beautiful anyway.

10. I process through lists and that is just fine. My favorite poems are in lists. Maybe everything is a poem.

Books I’m thinking about/recently read:

  • Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
  • In the Belly of the Mirror by Tafisha Edwards
  • Dispatch from the Future by Leigh Stein

Stay sweaty and glittery. Black Lives Matter.

I’ll Remove the Cause

I have a half-finished draft about the races I ran over the past two months and grappling with disability as Covid boosters have limited availability—but I have not been able to finish it. If I’ve learned anything from getting an MFA, visiting authors, and participating in workshops, the block means I should flex my creativity in another way and return to the piece later. Perhaps it belongs in a longer form, pitched and submitted for payment. Anyway, call me if you are a literary agent.

Instead, I’ll write about my pandemic hobby: watching horror films. Even though I once wrote in a poem that I watch documentaries instead of horror films, I have always had a soft spot for them. Horror isn’t an escape. Horror is fear at the front of the brain. The dream where you know you are dreaming, but your consciousness is stuck in quicksand.

Or maybe it’s because of memory. My mom and I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer from the start together as I grew up. I have a special tradition with some friends to pick a horror film the night before a memorial 5k. Whatever the cause, even when I’m uncomfortable, I’m generally comforted by the genre.

In no particular order, I listed all the horror films I have watched since March 2020. Some have annotations, if I was moved to do so. I’m always looking for more, especially filling in the queer cannon, so please recommend any in the comments. Friends and the Internet “best of” lists helped build this.

Cursed (2004)
Teeth (2007)
Ginger Snaps (2000): This had the vibes I wanted Teeth to have.
Parasite (2019): Horror and commentary perfection.
The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
The Neon Demon (2016)
Prom Night (2008)
We Summon the Darkness (2020)
Jennifer’s Body (2009): How did no one sit me down to watch this before???
Nightbreed (1990)
The Evil Dead (1981): Practical effects freak me out more than CGI.
Hellraiser (1987): See above.
Lyle (2014)
Old (2021)
The Covenant (2006)
Sorry to Bother You (2018): Hulu told me it was horror! Isn’t any movie about capitalism?
Martin (1977)
Raw (2016): I don’t do gore. This wasn’t even that gory, but wowowow the intensity nearly had me hurling. I still loved the pacing of the film. It’s one of those “where is the horror in this” type of film.
The Babysitter (2017): I dug the camp.
The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015)
Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)
The Invitation (2015)
The Strangers (2008): I will literally talk to anyone about why this film was a shift in the horror genre.
Girl on the Third Floor (2019): I wanted to see a professional wrestler star in a horror film.
Black Christmas (2019): Way better than I expected!
Promising Young Woman (2020): I couldn’t watch a movie for weeks after this. It’s everything I wanted from a revenge film. Carmen Maria Machado  wrote about it perfectly in How “Promising Young Woman” Refigures the Rape-Revenge Movie.  

Books I’m thinking about/recently read:
The Glass Hotel, Emily St. John Mandel (this would be a great atmospheric, slightly spooky film)

Stay sweaty and glittery. Black Lives Matter.