I am someone who has never truly had family–biological or otherwise my entire life–the concept/building of which has failed more times than I can count. Because of this, most of my energy has been devoted to subjugating myself in order to squeeze into some space or another, deferring to monolithic Blackness or making White people feel safe, comfortable, etc. Anything rather than being completely alone. A couple of months ago, after switching antidepressants again, my shrink had me create a safety plan and I wasn’t sure what to put on it, so I scribbled down some bullshit and read it with enthusiasm like I was at a conference. I thought of hope, as a concept related to interpersonal connection, to be reserved for children and normies.
A lot of that has changed though. After a week-long nerd fest, boo loving with a gang of hyper intellectual, emotionally available, queer POC writers, coming back to work this week feels like falling backwards off the edge of a tiny VONA planet. Back to a world that lacks not only interiority, but the means by which to discover it. It’s hard to conceptualize that when most of my relationships were with static humans who order me to change. The whole VONA week though, I felt more comfortable, more safe, more seen, than I have in twenty eight years.
Now I can’t suppress my laughter when someone asks if I’ve watched “Underground,” nor can I suppress the tears when “We Belong Together” comes on. I can distinctly hear the voices of the Spec Fic (Rocketship) crew in everything I read alone, all double dutching into the critique as I underline passages and scribble in the margins, Tananarive facilitating her ass off, nodding her head, because it’s like she said; she chose us.
I wanted to write a reflection on VONA but I didn’t really think I could capture it. I still don’t. Then I couldn’t write anything else until I wrote something about it, so I set a timer and started this rambling.
VONA has taught me not to suppress everything I think, feel or desire, especially if it’s in service to the dominant culture. VONA has taught me that our stories matter. VONA has taught me that I do have family, and that finding them is worth it. VONA has given me the ability to write slightly less grim story endings. VONA has encouraged me towards self-care and away from canceling shrink appointments. VONA has led led me towards global community and away from settling. VONA has changed my life.
VONA may have saved my life.
I can’t thank everybody enough: The Spec Fic (Rocketship) crew, Tananarive, the VONA staff, hell, every single person I spoke to in passing or at the open mic. Ya’ll are the world’s greatest.