In the chaos of the pandemic, it was hard to imagine that ‘Homebound Heroes: Pop Culture, Self-Care and Writing’ would become such a loving family. Meeting every Friday night was the highlight of the week for many of us as we laughed, cried and shared stories together. I realized just how blessed I was to have such amazing company. This may be a self-isolating time, but with such heroic and brave people, I was never alone. Heroes aren’t just people with super strength or impossible speed, they are people who work together to survive the seemingly impossible. I didn’t know it in the beginning, but in this workshop, I met my favorite superheroes. It is an honor to share a selection of their stories here. From those featuring stunning imagery to humorous existentialism to self-realization and self-discovery, I adored every single story from my new family. We are a league of heroes born out of love.–Danielle Broadway, AFLW Assistant Editor
Surviving and Thriving in Quarantine
Ocean City, New Jersey, is a barrier island designed by Mother Nature to buffer the mainland from storm surges and wild winds. It creates naturally protected areas of wetlands where weakfish dart through the bay and great blue herons hunt in the marshes.
As my car rumbles across the bridge to this beach town, I roll down the windows to inhale the brackish air that has become my favorite medicine. A ferris wheel, a water tower, a line of buildings form a skyline. Past that, the Atlantic Ocean reigns.
This week, I get to shed my life on the mainland. I do what I want, when I want for the first time in months. One of my favorite times of day is just after my mom and I return from the beach, after I scrub sand from my scalp and put on a soft T-shirt and loose pants. With wet hair and a glass of ice water, I open the sliding glass doors from our bedroom and step onto the balcony facing the alley. I settle on the plastic lounge chair, ice clinking in the glass. Children whir past on bicycles, car doors slam, the smell of lighter fluid from the neighbor’s grill wafts past me. I have nothing else to do but listen, observe, breathe.
The sun drops behind the houses across the alley, but the heat still bakes me and an ocean breeze soothes me. Maybe I read, maybe I nap, maybe I put on a meditation. Maybe I do all of those things. Maybe I do none of them. On this balcony, I have created my own barrier island.
People often think of transformation as this process that just happens to you but this recent quarantine has me thinking differently. I have come to realize that the changes that occur in us are largely a reflection of the choices we make. The compilation of all our decisions, no matter how big or small, are what bring about our metamorphosis. I know that for me these recent events have forced me to confront some hard truths. The first being that I am still a work in progress. I think that all people are a work in progress. We strive to be better every day than we were the day before and even though being stuck at home has made this harder, we still actively seek to improve the things that we can. The second truth that I have learned is that there is nothing wrong with being a work in progress. Everything that has ever been has started out as a work in progress. From books to great works of art, making progress is what yields creativity and beauty.
When this quarantine ends, beauty and creativity are exactly what I think we all will have to look forward to. I know for myself that I am not expecting some magnificent change to just occur in me. I know that there will be pain and hardship through it all but that this will lead me to incremental growth. I look forward to learning and growing while being an active participant in the process, and I look forward to every step taken in the process until I am a more complete version of the person I hope to be.
Quarantine was like being dunked into an existential nightmare. Everything I pushed down into submission re-emerged, having grown 10 more snapping heads. I looked into myself in a way that made me uncomfortable. I asked myself if I was satisfied with the direction my life was going. I realized I took for granted being able to enjoy those days where I sat by a window at a coffee shop writing in my journal and listening to blue-haired girls with nose piercings talk about some upcoming local art show. One invited me to a party one day letting me in on the underground scene I wasn’t even aware of. There was a multitude of worlds orbiting me that I was cautious to peek into. I keep thinking of everything I said “no” to. It wasn’t until a global pandemic stuck a gun to my head that I realized I could have done anything I wanted. I had convinced myself that people like me live a life for others-I feared wanting an exciting life made me selfish. Now I consider a world where I move freely, where I run toward the life I’ve always wanted with a feverish need for liberation. The kind my mother never knew. The kind her mother never knew. I don’t fear my dreams anymore.
Ashley Nuckels Cuevas
The blanket of night had been pulled over the gardens, hills, houses and skyrises. The lights of homes began to illuminate blinking into existence like hundreds of lidded eyes that had awaken to their nocturnal dawn. The breeze was cool, tracing its fingers through my hair and along my neck numbing my ears and making me appreciate the layers of fuzzy socks, cozy oversized knit cardigan and fluffy yet dense throw I had wrapped around me. I waved my hand tracing an arcane symbol and whispered the incantation for levitating my cup of tea that I had left to steep in the kitchen. “Easy Breezy Lemon Squeezy,” I said to myself with a nod and prideful smirk. The couch in my patio garden was that perfect balance of soft yet sturdy and the tiny, ever-burning lights that I had strung around my various hibiscus, dahlias, ivies and fruit trees gave a soft, comforting, enchanting glow to the area. In that moment, as I inhaled the citrus and cool night air, I felt something that I had longed for these many anxious days; I felt content.