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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Guest Post: At the Intersection by Sarah Chorn

 


Sometimes, I feel like I live my life parked at an intersection no one seems to notice. They just blast right through it, their windows down, music blaring. There and gone in a blink.
 
Our days are full of intersections, paths crossing, unexpected turns, bumps in the road. Sometimes there is no road, you just turn into a field somewhere and blaze your own trail.
 
Life, as they say, is a journey. It’s that journey that gives our writing a beating heart and throbbing pulse. We bring pieces of ourselves into our books. We are the sum of our experiences, and our experiences inform how we write. It is inevitable that no matter how hard the author tries to keep themselves separate from their work, a bit of their complex soul will end up in it, in one form or another.
 
In truth, we are all standing at our own intersections. Sometimes we get in our cars and drive down a certain road before we find another intersection to park ourselves at for a while. Our lives are a series of motion and decision interspersed with brief interludes, pauses, where we might catch our breath. Sometimes these pauses feel a lot like home. Sometimes, they are just respites before the next leg of our journey.
 
These roads we drive down are pieces of ourselves, and like ourselves, they are always evolving and expanding. No two roads are the same, and neither is any intersection. Robert Frost spoke of the road less traveled, but aren’t all roads less traveled? Our roads may run parallel for a time, but they are not the same.
 
I have learned, through the course of my life, that I am not just one thing. I am not disability given a name, or chronic illness given shape. My physical condition is not a moral in someone’s story, nor is it a plot device to further a protagonist’s understanding of mortality. It has taken me a long time to understand that I am not just one road, one condition, one box with a label that says “Sarah” taped to its top. I was born with this chronic illness. I live with chronic pain. There is no reason, aside from winning the genetic lottery, why I am the way I am. I am disabled. I am in pain. But these are merely parts of me. This is just one road that travels through my intersection.
 

The longer I stand at this intersection where different pieces of my identity come together, coalesce, the more I realize that I am the sum of an infinite number of things. I am disabled. I am a musician, a writer, an editor, a photographer, a cook, a mother, a cancer survivor, queer, a gardener, terrible at math… the list goes on. And yet, none of these fully define me. I am the sum of everything that makes me up. I am a complex interweaving of roads that all come together in an unexpected way. My intersection is named “Sarah” and here is where I have found myself.
 
So, I sit here, where all my roads meet, and I’m comfortable. I’ve made a bench out of a fallen oak tree, and I happily watch people drive by. It doesn’t bother me that no one else stops here. I don’t expect them to. However, the longer I sit and ponder the way all my roads connect, the more I realize I want to write characters that are all at their own intersections as well. The sum of their parts, yet defined completely by none of them.
 
When I talk about representation in literature, it’s more the intersections I’m looking for, and less the label. It’s a simple matter to pin a tag on a character and denote them one thing, or another. It is easy to thrust them into the world and say “Here he is, my character who is (insert label here)” but life is never that simple, and neither is diversity. It’s these intersections that matter, these places where so many roads converge, where the character thrives. Not defined by any one thing, but vibrant parts of all of them.
 
I want diverse characters who are the woven tapestry of many complex threads, and yet defined completely by none of them. I am not a disability named Sarah. I happened to be born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. No one told me I would be required to moralize my chronic illness, or define my pain to justify my existence in the world, and I don’t require that of my characters. It is an undue burden to foist that responsibility upon my shoulders.
 
We forget, sometimes, that not everything has to have a reason to exist. We are the sum of all our journeys, and so our characters should be as well. Never any one thing, but pieces and parts of so many. We are all intersections, where hundreds, thousands, more, aspects of ourselves converge in one place to thrive in a body with our names on it, and our characters should reflect that.
 
And so, here I stand at my intersection, creating characters who all stand at their own intersections. Sometimes I look up and watch people drive by. I wave. Maybe someday I’ll drive past you.
 
I know I’ll be looking for characters who are all standing at their own intersections. Never defined by one road, but pieces and parts of so many different paths that all add up to create…
 
Something truly unique.

                                               *---------------*---------------*---------------*


Official Author Information: Sarah has been a compulsive reader her whole life. At a young age, she found her reading niche in the fantastic genre of Speculative Fiction. She blames her active imagination for the hobbies that threaten to consume her life. She is a writer and editor, a semi-pro nature photographer, world traveler, three-time cancer survivor, and mom. In her ideal world, she'd do nothing but drink lots of tea and read from a never-ending pile of speculative fiction books.

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