Being Human Is Hard (& Other Thoughts): End-Of-September Reading List

This week’s reading list is a lot more ‘writer focused,’ if you will. As I’ve tried to re-center myself on what really matters in terms of my career and business, I’ve been taking intentional time to soak in others’ creativity, rather than being solely focused on cultivating my own.

Though I am a writer by trade, sometimes I grow the most when I’m reading, absorbing, and learning from others. That’s where my reading list stems from this week. (And as always, here’s where you can see other weeks.)

September reading list, painting on table
📷: Bundo Kim

1. First thing I loved and resonated with this week is this essay by Victoria Alejandra Garayalde on why she writes.

“If you were to ask me why I write, I would say it’s because I am bicultural, because I suffer from depression, because I felt alone for so long, because reading the vulnerable words so many authors have put into books taught me that I too belong to this world and to you and to myself. But mostly, I write because I need you and see you, and I write out of the desperate and fragile hope that you might see and need me too. I see writing as a way for me to create a path of connection to others, to this life, and to myself. It’s not easy to forge a path through all the debris of self-doubt, fear, self-hatred, and outside messages of selfishness and expectations. This is why I write in the mornings, because that is when anything and everything feels possible—or at least enough to warrant an attempt.”

I love this because it’s a reflection of why writing truly is so important. I also think it’s amazing to read other people’s “whys” and understand how vastly different (and beautiful) they all are. Victoria’s story is strong, too, because she talks about the differences of her two cultures and the struggle for identity and belonging within each of them.

2. Beautiful language is something I’ve noticed this week, as I’ve tried to take more me time and sit and just read. This week I stumbled across a beautiful excerpt by Jeannine Ouellette, “The Part That Burns”.

““Carl! Sugar!” Phoebe shouts whenever she sees a squirrel outside, as if Carl and Sugar are the only two squirrels in the world. As if they are entirely interchangeable with one another—and all other squirrels, for that matter. Just blurry bodies, running. Which they are, I suppose. Like the rest of us.”

I think the reason this section stood out to me so much was because how simple and universal Ouellette’s words are. She talks about squirrels, yes, but she says so much more than that about who we are as humans, how we’re all trying to find our purpose. Purpose is something I often wrestle with. Sure, I’m pursuing a life and career that’s truly aligned with what I love, but sometimes I really struggle trying to find my place with a new role as a ‘mother’ to my boyfriend’s son, in a new stage in life, in starting a business. Having a reminder that we’re all just running around trying to figure it out is a comfort.

3. I love this poignant poem by Julia Gari Weiss talking about sexism in the workplace in a profoundly beautiful and simple way.

“You’re so furious that you default
into autopilot they’ve forced.
A smoking volcano. You don’t respond.
You sit there as they wish
completely and utterly silent
wondering when you’ll erupt.”

I love this—it says so much in the last few lines. I also love that the poem both talks about the workplace and the speaker’s relationship. It makes a very strong statement about how sexism happens, often unconsciously, by the people closest to us, too.

4. Another striking poem is “A List Of Waters” by Bryce Emely that talks about abuse and the painful fabric it weaves in the lives of those it touches.

Poetry that talks about abuse fascinates me because it’s such a painful topic and needs to be handled with grace. Emely did just that, and I love not only the language, but the breaks in each of the lines, creating even more tension. This poem really struck a cord with me.

5. I subscribe to several poetry sites and since I don’t always have the pleasure of writing it on the daily anymore (life just gets busy!) I find that I am always soaking it up whenever I can. This poem by Shakthi Shrima about sexual identity was incredible.

Though I don’t necessarily relate to the content, the message of self-love and understanding is universal. I found myself really resonating with the speaker’s search for meaning and self, and trying to understand her own body in relation to the world—something I think needs to be discussed even more in our contemporary culture. So often we feel lost, confused, and unsure of who we are. This poem expresses that and reminds us that our search for identity—and sexual identity—isn’t supposed to be faced alone.