When I was a teenager and not playing competitive piano anymore, I spent almost all my waking hours either:
a) Running around with a smile on my face, desperately trying to please everyone and preserve my own psyche in the process.
b) Crying in my bedroom alone while reading many, many poems about sex and death.
I discovered the poet Alison Townsend while doing b). A poetry Livejournal site that I followed would periodically reblog her work - probably not realising that halfway across the world, a Singaporean teenager was growing increasingly emotionally dependent on each new update. I read Alison Townsend poems about divorce, and bodies, and depression, and the many things that a person might be capable of living through, in order to later write about. Her writing gave me hope that there was another side to whatever this thing was - this thing that I was still in the midst of, and didn't yet have the words for. I remember looking her up on the internet one time, and learning that she was a professional poet, and thinking: How do you get to be like that? The distance between where I was and where she stood seemed truly staggering - especially for someone like me, who felt pretty much denuded of a story to tell.
Yesterday night, I found out that because of our adjacent surnames, Alison Townsend and I are sitting next to each other on the Notables list for this year's Best American Essays:
Even though the placement is a total coincidence, this feels like such a huge moment for me! I'm so happy, and teenaged me is totally flipping out. This essay isn't one that I feel a ton of resonance with, at this particular point. In fact, I think I may want to revise it somewhat in the coming months - or at least write around it - because so much has changed in my feelings around race, and my husband Thomas, and myself, over the last two years. But I never thought that I'd someday be on a list of writers with this person - and also, it makes me happy to know that the essay in its current form continues to bring people something valuable. It's been a wild fucking ride to get here, from my days crying and reading Livejournals in my bedroom, to knowing my life story well enough to write about it - just like the artists I admired from afar. I hope that this path will go on. :-)