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  • Kacen Callender

WIP: Gratitude

I’ve struggled, and in many ways still do struggle, with figuring out the line between the frustration of inequality—the expectation that, as a Black, queer, trans author, I receive the same as my non-Black/straight/cis counterparts—and the question of how I remain balanced and grateful for what I do have, which is so, so, so much. One thing that has helped has been not focusing so much on the inequality within publishing. Instead, focusing on the overall system, and the fact that the inequalities within publishing are only a symptom of this, has helped me see a little more clearly. There are people who, because of this same system, don’t have a home, access to food or any healthcare. I have food, and I have a home, and I’m being paid money to write. There’s still so much that needs to change, but God, I’m so grateful for what I do have, and should focus on changing this system so that everyone, everywhere, can have all of their needs met as well, not only within publishing.

It's valid to want to change the industry as well, as so many have done before just by speaking out against inequalities. I think this is something a lot of marginalized people probably struggle with, especially people with multiple intersecting marginalized identities: the frustration that we are not being given the same opportunities as our peers, the exhaustion in knowing that if we do, it’s only because we have worked so much harder and longer without end, without giving up.

Yes, frustration. Yes, exhaustion. These are real and valid feelings and reactions. But, also, yes—gratitude. It’s possible and maybe necessary to feel this all at once. I had an interview recently, and the final question the interviewer asked was, “So years ago when you pictured where you would be, is this everything you always imagined and dreamed?” The question immediately made me start to tear up. Years ago, I was desperate just to have a single book published. Now, I have five in the world and a sixth in December and more on the way. I’m an indie bestseller, have won multiple awards and most recently have been longlisted for the National Book Award, and one of my books is even going to be adapted into a TV series. Perspective. So much needs to change, but taking a moment to look back at the long road I’ve taken, I feel overwhelmed with gratitude.

My birthday was last week Saturday. I meant to post this on the day itself, but ended up giving myself the birthday gift of naps and zero tasks. I turned 31, and years ago my thirties were terrifying, knowing that I wasn’t on the track of life goals I’d given myself: a house, a family, “success.” Now, I see what everyone says is true: my thirties so far are better than I could’ve dreamed. I can see myself, the cycles of my life, more clearly. I can more easily find power in just existing, in sitting and breathing. I’m on this Earth for a reason, and I am succeeding just by waking up. Not everyone woke up today. Not everyone has that privilege, that gift, of still being here, and still having the opportunity to learn, to grow, to experience—to live. And I’m so grateful.

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