March 28, 2014: Under the Influence at Emerald Tablet

I never wanted to leave San Francisco. I had first moved up to the city from Los Angeles in 2007. After finishing undergrad, there were two options I believed I had available to me: go back to live at home, or go somewhere else that wasn’t home.

At that time, I did not view the home I grew up in in Los Angeles as a comforting place. There was a lot of heavy memories and moments that it represented. I made the choice to move to San Francisco 1) as a way to be closer to my boyfriend at the time and 2) to get away from my family, from my past, from the depressed girl I was trying so hard not to be.

I always tell people, “I moved to San Francisco for a boy; I stayed for myself.” I originally thought I’d be in the city for 1-2 years–I ended up staying for four years and would have stayed longer had I not listened to the quiet voice inside of me that was saying “You need to go back to Los Angeles for grad school.”

And after about two and a half years of some of the most intense, enlightening, challenging, and fulfilling work (emotional and creative and mental and psychological), I did come back to San Francisco. Upon my return, I was lucky enough to do a reading with Under the Influence at the Emerald Tablet, hosted by Evan Karp.

This is the premise of the Under the Influence reading series, per their website: “Each month, five artists read or perform a favorite influence and respond with original work that in some way channels or reflects that influence. Each artist gets 15 minutes of total performance time, and chooses a person who will perform in the next month’s show.”

It was a perfect first reading to do in San Francisco–to pay homage to my favorite authors and how they’ve inspired and continue to inspire me to do more, to reach for more, to expect more from myself as a writer, as a woman, as a human.

So on March 28, 2014, I performed a piece I had been working on after I had finished grad school. In fact, it was the only piece I had made good progress on since leaving CalArts in May 2013. I felt like I was re-introducing myself to the city and like I was introducing myself for the first time to the literary community in the Bay.

The author I had channeled for the piece was Lidia Yuknavitch, whose memoir The Chronology of Water presents a fluidity of poetry and prose that I utilize in my work as well. That fiction and fact are not on opposite ends of the spectrum, that we can get lost in and devoured by memory but saved by ourselves, that time is not linear but flows, like water.

“Out of the sad sack of sad shit that was my life, I made a workhouse.” –Lidia Yuknavitch, The Chronology of Water

Sometimes home isn’t a welcome place. You have to return to it, face the monstrosity that you believe it to be, that you believe yourself to be, rework your understanding of home and self, redefine. You have to dig deep into your dark parts and dive further into the muck so that you can remember that you got through it all, that you continue to get through.

I am so grateful to my beautiful friend and editor-in-chief of TAYO, Melissa Sipin,  for inviting me to read at Under the Influence, and to Evan Karp for hosting and maintaining such an amazing reading series. As writers we need to understand and be aware of who inspires us, who influences us, without being held captive.

The piece I read is called “The Journey Of”–a prose poem in which I touch upon my struggles with depression and self-injury. I’ve been trying to write about these topics for many years–through high school and undergrad, when it was at its worst, when I thought that if I could just make it to the next day, and then the day after that, without destroying myself, maybe there could be hope. A way out from myself. “The Journey Of” is the first piece (of the many, many, many stories and poems I’ve written on these subjects) that got even kind of close to what I want to communicate.

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