A year ago today, a dream of mine came true.
September 27th, 2012, my very first post went up on AfterEllen.com.
It was something I had wanted to do for a very, very long time. AfterEllen helped me so much when I was first coming out – in fact, it’s probably the only reason I felt comfortable enough admitting to myself that I was a lesbian. Here was a whole website, a whole community of people who were just like me. Well, not just like me, but that was the beauty of it too. We all fit into the LGBTQ spectrum, but we were all different.
That was part of the problem for me as far as coming to terms with my sexuality. I was raised in a sort of bubble and went to Catholic school my entire life, so my only real knowledge of lesbians were the extreme stereotypes I was indirectly taught by peers, adults, and the media. I remember at one point telling myself I couldn’t be a lesbian because I liked having long hair. Just to try to demonstrate how utterly lost I was. AfterEllen showed me that being a lesbian was already part of who I was, accepting it wouldn’t have to change anything about me.
What I didn’t realize that coming out would change me, but in the most amazing ways possible. I was suddenly entirely comfortable in my own skin. I felt more confident, like having this secret had been a cloud over my personality. I still felt like me, but a more vibrant me. Me in HD. (Ha! Sorry. That’s lame. But it makes my point.)
Anyway, when I was in grad school, I re-discovered my love for writing. In college I had to write so many papers that I had little to no time (or desire) to write for myself, with the exception of a journal that was not really writing as much as it was word vomit. I used to love to write – I was part of a creative writing club in high school, I wrote a “book” in elementary school just for fun, my second grade teacher told me I would be a great author someday. College tried to squash that, making writing more of a chore than anything. I knew I was good at knocking out a 10 page paper the night before it was due and still getting a decent grade, but that felt more like survival than anything. The writing class I took in grad school changed all that. Somewhere between realizing how much I enjoyed the exercises, reading other peoples’ work, and getting positive feedback that made me practically burst with pride, my love for writing was reawakened. A few close friends convinced me to create this blog, and I started up imagination station once again.
I wrote anything and everything I could think of. I wrote in as many genres as I could, as often as I wanted, and it was freeing. I felt like I was learning about myself and about writing, and it was all just for me. Not for a grade, not as an assignment. Just because I wanted to.
Around this same time, I also rediscovered my love for reading for pleasure. Similar with writing, I had so much reading assigned in college and grad school, I rarely picked up a book just because I wanted to. Mind you, as an early childhood education major in undergrad, and getting a masters in literacy education in grad school, I did enjoy a lot of the assigned reading in the last few years of my higher education, but it was still quite the juxtaposition from the little girl who used to leave the library with books stacked as high as she could physically managed or the teenager who read all the books on the optional summer reading list because she wanted to.
Suddenly I was reading everything. I started with books I had obtained during my semester working at Barnes & Noble (best retail job ever) and went from there. I would read on the train, at Starbucks, in the park, on my fire escape. I would even sometimes write about what I read. It was a revitalization of my favorite things, and I was dusting off and polishing my favorite part of me – my imagination.
I loved stretching and growing my imagination and delving into the worlds of other people’s imaginations. One of my favorite people’s imaginations to dive into was Heather Anne Hogan’s. Her Pretty Little Liars recaps (and everything she wrote that I could get my hands on) were absolutely magical. I was in awe of her talent, her humor, her everything. I started tweeting with the fellow #BooRadleyVanCullen-ers and it was quickly becoming my favorite day of the week. Whenever one of my tweets was chosen for Heather’s tweet roundup the next day, or if she would tweet at me and tell me I made her laugh, my heart would soar and I would feel like I was on top of the world – the person who makes me laugh more than anyone on the internet thought *I* was funny. One night, twitter was being weird, and I joked that Heather wouldn’t be able to find me, so she followed me. I was over the moon. And little did I know it was only the beginning.
One day, Heather sent me a DM saying that she had found my blog through my twitter profile and that she liked my writing and that I should keep doing it. She called me a talented writer and she said I had a strong, unique voice. Which was the highest compliment coming from someone with such a strong, unique voice herself. Basically, my own idol was telling me that I was good at doing what I loved doing and I didn’t think things could get better than that.
I told my friend Christine about this exchange, because I simply could not keep it to myself. Shortly after I had started my blog, I had started doing my own Glee recaps. This was before Heather had started doing them; the person who recapped it before her was a great writer, but her (understandable) disdain for the show was obvious in her recaps and it hurt my heart too much to read, so I started writing my own. I had so much fun doing it that I told Christine that it would be a dream come true to write recaps for AfterEllen someday. When I told Christine about Heather’s comments, she said that this was a great opportunity to ask Heather about writing for AfterEllen – how to apply, what kind of experience I would need…basically, what steps I should take if I wanted to someday write for this website I loved so much.
I drafted and deleted about a hundred emails over the course of eight months. Every time I’d have an email for Heather ready to go, I would become overwhelmed with self-doubt, panic and delete it.
Finally, one day in August 2012, Heather posted something on her Tumblr about how she used to dream about writing for her favorite website, and now she’s interviewing celebrities for that very same website. She ended the post with, “What I mean is: If you want to go to the moon, go to the moon.” I said out loud to my computer, “I want to go to the moon.”
It still took me two full days to work up the nerve, but I finally sent that email I had wanted to send for so long. It was long and rambly and incredibly cheesy (very much like this post), and I felt like I was going to pass out as soon as I clicked ‘send’. Unsurprisingly, Heather was gracious and kind and the most helpful a person could be. I sent her some writing samples, we talked about ways I might be able to fit into the AfterEllen lineup, she “introduced” me to Karman, who was beyond supportive, and next thing I knew, the puzzle pieces all snapped together and I was asked to recap Once Upon A Time. As a starter-post, Karman suggested I put together a little recap of what had happened in the first season, and thus my first post was born.
Here we are, a year later. I’ve written 64 posts so far. Mostly recaps, though each show I wrote about gave me the chance to explore something different. Once Upon A Time tested my gay girl goggles with more subtext in each episode than most shows have in a whole season (my goggles work fine, thank you very much). Orphan Black tested my ability to recap action scenes and to write coherently about plotlines while swooning over Tatiana Maslany. Mistresses taught me that I was allowed to be snarky if a storyline was absurd. Rookie Blue showed me what happens when an actress is passionate about her character and her show’s writers are understanding. I dipped in a few other ponds along the way – I made some ridiculous Father’s Day Card post that I’m not even linking to because it was so silly. I’ve written random pieces about random news stories here and there. I’ve covered a recap or two of shows that aren’t usually mine. I even got to interview two actresses I admire: I got to send Tatiana Maslany questions and got the most thoughtful and insightful answers back, and I got to talk on the phone with Charlotte Sullivan, someone I have loved in Rookie Blue for the past four years, and who I’ve feared in the best way possible since seeing Harriet the Spy at age ten. I’ve even gotten the opportunity to tweet with actresses like Jes Macallan and Aliyah O’Brien about their shows and sometimes even my recaps. Everything single about the whole experience has been beyond surreal.
For example, every week, the AfterEllen writers participate in something called the Huddle. A question is sent out to all the writers, and we all respond with our answers. Participation is totally optional, but more often than not, the majority of the writers contribute. And every week, as I read the emails and cackle wildly to myself, I feel so fortunate to be in the company of such smart, witty, talented women.
The AfterEllen community extends beyond the writers, though. #BooRadleyVanCullen still stands as one of my all-time favorite things to do on the whole of the internet. The AE-specific hashtag pool is constantly growing. Tweeting along with people about the shows we love feels like watching television in an arena packed with all your friends. I always used to smile and laugh when I saw people (including myself) using Heather’s made-up terms about Pretty Little Liars – Out of Town, adrenalized hyperreality, BEAUTIFUL TOYOTA, and so much more. When it started happening to me with Mistresses – Handsome Jacob, Zombie Paul, Bad Decision Brunch Club – it absolutely blew my mind in the best way possible. People were reading and commenting on and using my words and I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling in the past 365 days.
I honestly don’t think I’ve experienced a better feeling in the world that is better than having someone tell me that something I wrote made them laugh.
So every single day I thank my lucky stars – and the moon, too – that I get to be part of this wonderful community. There are plenty of other people who I SHOULD thank every day, but that might get obnoxious, so instead I’ll thank them here now:
I thank my family for supporting me because they know I’m doing what I love even though sometimes they mistakenly tell people I write for Ellen Degeneres, I thank my friends who read my recaps even if they don’t watch the show I’m recapping, I thank Christine for giving me the push I needed to go through with it, I thank Heather and Karman for giving me this opportunity and for their constant support and encouragement, I thank the other AfterEllen writers who inspire me to be better every day, I thank each and every AfterEllen reader and tweeter for making me laugh and smile and for only making fun of me a little bit when I start tweeting in all caps about anything from commercials to fandom.
I thank each and every one of you, from the bottom of my very full heart. I call myself a relentless optimist all the time – but can you blame me? I’m living proof that dreams really do come true. Just remember Heather’s advice: “If you want to go to the moon, go to the moon.”