My father was an officer in the Navy, a fighter pilot, and by the time I reached the age of 18, I had followed him and his career to 5 countries and 17 cities.
Growing up on military bases gave me a skewed impression of my role in the world. I thought of myself as an ambassador; it was my job to demonstrate to the people of Italy, or Singapore, or Bahrain what an ideal American child looked like. By the time I moved to Japan at the age of 8, I knew there were thoughts and experiences that I should not express, that it was important to stick to a script of strength in order to support my father and, in turn, America.
I carried two stories of myself. One I told the world: a story of excitement and adventure, cultural exchange, strength and resilience, even at such a young age. The other I kept to myself: the story of watching my mother embrace a sobbing spouse whose husband died in flight training. The story of living with the knowledge that one day my own father might not come home. The story of leaving friends just as we started to connect deeply, of spending almost every birthday in a new city, of not getting to know my relatives outside of my immediate family.
But even though I knew the first story wasn’t the whole story, I also knew it wasn’t false. Both of my stories were true. I was brave and bold and terrified; I both felt part of a large American family abroad, and utterly alone in a land where I knew neither the customs nor language.
In this way, I learned from a young age how to hold nuance, to live with contradiction. I’ve always been fascinated by the complexities of every human being, how people I might have been taught to dismiss at first glance have just the same astonishing range of emotion, experience, hardship, and joy. As a poet, I’ve set out to excavate the complexities of underestimated populations, to acknowledge the story the world already knows, but also offer an equally true story, the one pulsing beneath the surface. I believe knowing all the different stories a person contains leads to empathy and compassion.
My voracity for nuance had led me to a number of achievements: I hold an MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and received my undergraduate degree in English from UC Berkeley. I am the poetry editor of Storyscape Journal, and my poetry has been published in a number of nationally ranked journals, including Lana Turner Journal, Nat. Brut, and Berkeley Poetry Review. I currently teach creative writing at the University of Iowa, and hope to begin pursuing my PhD in creative writing in the coming year. I’m a passionate teacher; one of my greatest joys is teaching students of all ages how to express themselves, how to present their entire self to the world, contradictions and all. And I see that as my purpose as a writer: to be a guide through nuance and contradiction, to find understanding on the other side.