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Everything’s the Best: Once More with Feeling

What happens when your dreams come true? Your heart shatters and remakes itself in myriad, beautiful ways.

FBL-EUR-C1-ENG-LIVERPOOL-TROPHY-PARADE Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

One of the common tropes in speculative fiction is the tale that cautions you on the meaning of receiving all that you wish for. It often plays on the idea that we could not possibly predict the various ways in which our lives would be upended. That we would, sure, receive that which we’d been pining for, but that we couldn’t possibly know the cost.

A great example of this is the iconic episode of the Twilight Zone starring Burgess Meredith, “Time Enough at Last.” In the episode, the iconic actor plays a man obsessed with reading every book possible. When the apocalypse happens and spares him, he realizes he will no longer have to contend with interruptions and heads straight for the library to raid its collection. When he settles in to read, he fumbles and is glasses fall to the floor. Broken, he can no longer read while trapped in this reality for the rest of his days.

The source of caution in a lot of these works is to teach us to be grateful for what we have and to appreciate the minor miracles that exist in our lives every day. The quiet moments of grace in a morning cup of coffee. The interior joy sparked from reading well-formed poem. The heartbeats in the people we love.

But there is also, I think, an expression of fear that rides just beneath the text. That the things we want might actually be harmful. That our dreams aren’t good for us.

Well, I’m here to testify as to what happens when your dreams come true. Because one small dream is coming to a close and I could not be more heartbroken to have it happen.

It’s hard to truly capture exactly how lonely life as a new fan of a Premier League club can be when you’re not in Europe or in any of the big cities in America. Doubly so if you’re, like me, an introvert.

Despite living in Los Angeles, I lived in a section of town that was a bit of a hike to make it to any of the pubs that hosted the local supporters groups. And even if I didn’t, my fandom was new, born out of the strong desire to hold onto the joy I’d built reconnecting with friends during the World Cup. I’d decided to jump in, like I generally do, with both feet into this new hobby.

I’d selected Liverpool Football Club because I’d been such a big fan of Fernando Torres. None of the friends in my immediate circle were fans of the Premier League clubs, but I decided to do it because access to Liverpool matches looked to grow - Fox Soccer held the broadcast rights at the time and, anecdotally, it seemed like Liverpool matches were on pretty regularly.

Turns out, I’d joined right when the club was falling apart. I didn’t know what to do with searching out Liverpool news and given that some of the boards I’d visited seemed to be filled with the type of sports fans that made me swear off of LA sports radio, I felt worried.

Then, I found The Liverpool Offside. This was before the migration over to SB Nation - in fact, I used to also visit Anfield Asylum which was part of the SBN family before TLO’s move over.

That group of people were funny, smart, and level-headed. There was a clarity in their analysis of the current situation. And then there was the kind of irreverent and absurd humor that you’ve come to love. There was also no brooking of stuff that would be seen as exclusionary - it was a place where people of marginalized backgrounds could find a respite from the sporting locations that would serve to dehumanize them in small ways.

In the early days, I found myself like an over-eager apprentice wanting to impress these smart and awesome people. Folks like Ed, Noel, Trev, Elizabeth, and Chuck. People I respected.

It was an oasis. It was wonderful. It was a space for me.

I don’t know when I began to build up the absolute moonshot that was me joining the masthead. I had spent no time in my professional life - between 5 and 7 years long by this point - committed to writing as a discipline. I’d always loved it and my own brother once predicted I’d be a writer, but I scoffed. I thought my path lay elsewhere.

But as the shape and tenor of the world began to change, and my own interior restlessness about my professional future happening to dovetail with that change, I found myself being pulled more and more towards expressing myself via writing. My comments on TLO became more and more frequent. They also became longer - which is funny to think of but, yes, there was a time when my comments on TLO were all rather short.

I became committed to expressing myself via the written word. And I re-committed myself to participating in the political process. Which may seem like the most random things that might lead me to trying out this whole writing lark, but that was my entry point.

I’d first tried to join up in 2014. I approached Ed and let him know I was interested in writing for the site after posting a few Fanposts. I was desperate for a shot to join this collection of minds I admired. I was also, not ready. (Sorry, Ed.)_

I flamed out. Ideas dried up. I felt like I’d let people down. I was also in the middle of some big changes in my own life, but I took this loss hard.

I thought my dream of joining the big leagues, permanently, was over.

In 2017, I decided to try again. To push reset on my writing career. I saw a prompt for The Rumpus - a literary magazine that counts Roxane Gay as among their founders - and drafted an essay. I turned to my friends from TLO - ELiz, MaxO, Chuck, and Audun for help in editing it. Their input shaped the piece that ended up being selected - my first paid piece of writing. It was also accepted with no major edits, which is wild to me.

Shortly after that, I pitched an essay to TLO - testing the water, maybe? I thought it was good. Chuck pushed me to do it and took the request to Noel. A few months after, I was asked to fill in and became a staff writer. I’d made my way back. And all of that was due to the friendship of so many TLO people who continued to believe in me when they had absolutely no right to.

The story of me and TLO is, in many ways, the story of people being absurdly kind and generous with themselves and their time. The story of me and TLO is also me hoping my work can, in some small measure, honor that kindness.

In December of 2019, I and my fellow TLO writer (and true sister) JJ received a letter from Vox indicating that we were being let go. It was a week before Christmas. I was crestfallen.

I’ve spent the past few months, then, working on various version of this post. What it was I wanted to say. What it was I hoped people knew and carried with them about my time here. What I might leave behind for anyone coming up to occupy this honestly wonderful space on the Internet - the best, as far as I’m concerned.

The biggest thing I’ve come up with is to allow yourself the grace to do what you love - and to love those whom you love - with your whole heart.

I know that I am sometimes passionate - to a fault - about the things I’ve cared about. You’ve endured missives about racism, immigration, social justice, and even the Backstreet Boys in my posts. I am nothing if not earnest.

I suppose the thing that I’d hope to leave behind is the permission to do that. Because there is nothing sophisticatedly cool in something like solidarity, but there is something unabashedly warm about it. And given that the world and times in which we live are sometimes determined to grind into us the nihilistic belief that nothing matters, let me be the encourage you all to use the presence of this blog and wonderful community as proof positive of the wonderful ways in which caring - and caring deeply - is worth it.

I’ve built friendships around the globe here. In fact, I remember waking up on the morning of my wedding to see messages of congratulations from TLO members from all over. Y’all were in my heart on one of the biggest days of my life! What a gift.

When I started stepping out and sharing my writing widely, members of this community were among my most ardent champions. It didn’t matter that the work was about my very specific immigration story, or that it was a poem about my tiny little corner of Los Angeles. You read it with care. You gave these creations consideration. What a grace.

During some of my most difficult times, when the prayers I’d levied were being answered but, in a bit of Twilight Zone-esque irony, not necessarily in the way I’d planned, you were there with messages of encouragement. Messages that helped to act as a stand-in for the confidence in myself I needed to get through early days working for justice. What love.

My entire time here has only ever been a labor of love. And even as the word counts mounted or the news stories dried up, I don’t think there were many days where I asked myself if this was all worth it. Not because the work and low pay weren’t grating; but because having my name sit in the same space as some of the best minds I’d ever known - and, if possible, they were even better people - was the ultimate prize for a new writer coming into their own.

What comes next is, a bit tough for me to answer. The lack of this paycheck - as small as it was - was still significant. The loss is even more pronounced after knowing I’ll be losing 40% of my salary in the immediate due to the pandemic that has gripped the world.

Which means I’ve been trying very hard to stay my purchase hand from buying things like the Nintendo Switch - luckily the Switch is sold out; unluckily, the Switch Lite is still available - to distract me or a midi controller under the guise that I’ll actually teach myself to make the electro-pop music I think I was destined to make.

I’m on Twitter if you want to keep in touch. I also have my personal website and a Patreon if you want more of my writing. But it’s all uncertain given the current state of things now.

What I’m really doing is trying to take it step by step, much like in 2016. Trusting that I’ve got skills that might be valuable, and accepting that maybe even my fourth or fifth choice options for writing work aren’t going to be available to me.

What I’m going to do, I guess, is just work.

But before I put the laptop away. Before I hit publish on Chorus. Before I turn off the light on my fake desk. I need to say a few thank you’s.

To Noel: First, let me say that I’m sorry for not understanding how to take critique at first. It wasn’t you; it was definitely me. That aside, please know that I’ve always benefited and appreciated from your direct guidance and skilled eye. You are such a phenomenal writer and editor, and the work I’ve been most proud of on this sight has absolutely sung because you’ve come in after me to clean it up. You don’t get enough credit, I think, for all you do. Please know that I’m aware.

Beyond all of that, though, I’ll never forget the way you championed us as a staff. Especially JJ and myself during the time of the Vox letters. I know you were incredibly disappointed in how all of that - and the ensuing work in ginning up support for us - turned out. But there wasn’t a moment in all of that time that I did not feel valued or cared for by you. Thank you for being a human space in what can sometimes feel like an in-human machine.

My hope is that if I am ever given the responsibility of guiding other writers, I do so with your clarity, wisdom, and empathy.

To Ed: I don’t know if you still frequent these boards and that’s totally ok. But I owe you a great big batch of thanks for saying yes all those years ago when I basically begged you to put me on. And I owe you a giant apology for not being able to find ways to keep it up. I’ve learned a lot in the time since, and I hope it shows. But your kindness and willingness to take a chance on me is something I’ll never forget.

To Audun and Chuck: Brothers. Brothers. Brothers. I cherish your knowledge, your confidence, and your damn fine writing. Always felt like the Alby Moreno to your Agger and Gerrard. But y’all consistently gas me up and just generally are among the best friends anyone can have. Thank you. And thank you for reminding me all those days ago: writers write. Yeah, they do. They do.

To ELiz: You’re the best of us. Thank you for the deep well of empathy that you always brought to your work. You managed to tackle some of the most difficult subjects with grace and have always held you as a writer to aspire to. I hope that doesn’t come off poor when I’ve missed the mark on such pieces under my craftsmanship, because the error in those are all mine.

To Trev: Your work broadened what I thought could be possible in this community. Maybe I took it a little too far in the ways I’d toss in all this fiction or go on rambles that were genuinely too long. But opening up my own imagination of what my work here could look like is something I’ll always be grateful for.

To Gabe: One of my best friends. Thank you for being such a great, great friend to me.

To the OT Wrecking Crew: Y’all are amazing. Keep being nice to each other. Unless you’re a billionaire or a bigot, in which case don’t be a ghoul.

One last thing before I go: thank you for reading and supporting all of the work I’ve put out. I’ve genuinely appreciate the kind words and reflections. My hope is that what I’ve done has somehow brought you closer to an understanding of solidarity.

May we all use this time to imagine a different world. One that maybe, finally, lives up to the ethos we say we believe in dearly: you’ll never walk alone.

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