If you weren't able to make it to the event last week, you can watch the entire conversation in the video above, thanks to Strand Book Store's YouTube channel. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have had the very first signing of my career held somewhere as iconic as The Strand. This event showed me what I was capable of.
In 2013, at the age of 17, I read my poetry aloud for the first time at a local coffee shop's "writers and poets night." I truly didn't want to do it. I wanted to keep my poems in the safety of my journal and the internet, where I didn't have to listen to my own voice quiver as I poured my heart out to a crowd of people who both did and did not know me. After that night, I felt pride in having done it but still thought that I didn't want to make a habit of it.
In following years, my anxiety only grew more debilitating. In 2014, I left college after one week because I couldn't cope with my agoraphobia. It hasn't been until this year—5 years later—that I feel like a functional human being (which is, like, the bare minimum of existence. But feeling functional, to me, feels like flying.) Even just 4 months ago, I wouldn't have felt confident enough to say yes to a reading or a signing, much less seek it out without external pressure (I knew it would make sense to try to do an event while I was already in NYC on vacation, so I emailed my publicist to see if anyone would have me. I made it happen, although I knew it was out of my comfort zone. 2013-me would be so proud.)
I had pretty much decided at some point that I wasn't the type of person to be able to confidently do readings. I made excuses like, "I'm just too introverted" or "my writing isn't really meant to be read aloud." The Strand changed that for me. I felt poised and secure in the words I was speaking. I felt like it was something I wanted to do again and again.
I keep coming back to the concept and beauty of transformation. of change. of miracles. What my friend, JohnMark, said that night at a 'house' (apartment) party in the Lower East Side really stuck with me. A paraphrase:
“Miracles look like whatever you need them to. It’s a miracle that I’m here facing new challenges/struggles that I wasn’t facing a year ago.”
My life is full of miracles. It’s a miracle that I’ve written two books at 22. That I’m in spaces I never knew were possible this early on. That I got up in front of a group of people, without any help from Ativan, etc., and spoke from my soul without my hands shaking.
Because the world can make you feel so small, and it’s hard to really believe you are capable of all the things you so desperately want.
I am in awe of the realness of change. I have experienced it firsthand. Your dreams are within reach, no matter how big or small. My small: taking the subway without having a panic attack; going to an apartment at 11pm full of people I don’t know, by choice. My big: having a talk/signing at The Strand, in the presence of people who cared what I had to say.
Thank you to everyone who braved the ugly weather to share this moment with me. I love you. Thank you thank you thank you. If you're reading this and have photos of us at the event, I would love to add them to this sweet little album below. I am so thankful for these pictorial memories.
PS, Leah. I am so glad we got to experience this together. Thank you for being my partner in crime.
PPS, Christopher. I love you. Thank you. For everything.