Before I was a writer, among other things, I was a philosopher. I taught ethics, but before that, as a graduate student, I studied Existentialism and the works of Albert Camus and Friedrich Nietzsche. The epigraph to 13 VIEWS OF THE SUICIDE WOODS is a favorite quote of mine by the latter:
“And perhaps many will, like myself, recall how amid the dangers and terrors of dreams they have occasionally said to themselves in self-encouragement, and not without success: ‘It is a dream! I will dream on!’”
—Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy
I write and read and watch fiction because it allows me to dream. When I engage with fiction I can dream of being someone else for a little while. I get to be a person who isn’t afraid of drowning, who knows exactly what to do in the worst circumstances, who does the right thing even though it’s emotionally difficult. In fiction, I get to be young again, I get to be Black, I get to be a woman, I get to be gay, I get to be all the things I’m not but I wish I could understand just a little bit so that I can know better what it’s like to be fully human. When I read fiction, I get to dream. I can dream of being free and strong and unrestrained. I can dream of standing up and being better than I am.
Mostly though, I dream of not being afraid.
Because everything I’m afraid of is another view of my personal Suicide Woods. Everything I’m afraid of is the place where I will go to give up and die. And fiction is the force that holds on to me and says, you can weather this too. But still, I am afraid.
I am afraid of the water.
I am afraid of being weak.
I am afraid of not being liked by everyone.
I am afraid of losing my family.
I am afraid of not being able to cope with my feelings of inadequacy.
I am afraid of letting people down.
I am afraid of getting old.
I am afraid of being alone.
I am afraid of being with people.
I am afraid of how being a victim of sexual abuse has broken me.
I am afraid of destroying myself because I push down pain and sadness to appear strong.
I am afraid of myself.
I am afraid.
But still, I dream.
And I will dream on!