the sex lives of african girls//taiye selasi

we spoke first by phone. back then, she went by taiye tuakli-wosornu and wrote an article in which she coined the now popular term afropolitan. at the time i was online editor of brooklyn-based the african magazine and called asking her to contribute. she laughed a lot, like me, and loved to talk, so we spent over an hour on the phone discussing a range of things--africa, writing, fashion (she worked on a clothing line with her sis), and how difficult it was to do what one loved for money.

it turned out we had a lot of friends in common as is typical among african graduates of ivy league schools. and at the end of the call, i felt like i'd made a new friend or, at least, had found another kindred spirit to momentarily quell the loneliness i sometimes feel on this spinning orb. we never did work together on the magazine, but we spoke again years later when taiye worked for news anchor carlos watson. he was looking for editors and writers for a fledgling website, the stimulist, and i was interested. at the time, i was a freelance editor looking for my next gig.

when taiye and i met in person, on the pent floor of carlos's building in midtown manhattan, she was much the same person i'd met on the phone--talkative, creative, brilliant, with a sharp wit and ready smile. and she was also gorgeous. stunning. so much so that i was convinced we were destined to forever inhabit different worlds. although clearly basking in the shadow of another man's glory, she seemed so sure of herself, so purposeful. and when we parted ways with a promise to touch bases once the project moved forward, i sincerely hoped we would.

it didn't materialize in that way. though carlos started the stimulist, it ultimately folded, and i heard taiye was off doing something else creative somewhere else while i got a job at a film company, and began a two-year stint of my own professional basking. and now to see/hear of the sex lives of african girls, her debut work of fiction in the summer edition of granta, and to meet her again in an interview (see clip below), i am happy for her. sincerely. but i also get that nagging feeling in my chest that i should have reached there too, by now.

it isn't good to compare oneself with others, and i rarely do it at all, let alone in public, but i just can't help it right now. having recently finished the fidelity workshop, i feel a fire in my belly to finish something. anything. and to publish it. if only so that my words need not be relegated to my notebook or this blog forever. i have been writing for at least eight years, and in earnest for the last five. but it is only recently, within the last year, that i have begun owning my own time and mind and have been writing like mad. so i'm still not done. not done. and it can be hard, at times, to plod on and on with no end in sight.

there was something helon said that stuck in my brain, which was, 'you have to really want it.' it's the same thing one of my friends told me when i said i was leaving film school (for the second time). you have to really want it. and i do now--all of it. life, love, work, writing, film. and i'm not waiting anymore. will simply keep moving, writing, until fatigue or death claims me. --AL.

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