Bread Loaf Aftermath: The Hard Landing

It was a bit harder adjusting to regular life after Bread Loaf than I was expecting.

First, God, there are always sirens—ALWAYS SIRENS—going on CONSTANTLY in DC (see, just heard some in the distance as I typed that). Getting used to the noise took…some getting used to. Which is all the more ironic when I consider that we moved back to DC from NYC partly for the relative quiet in our nation’s capital.

Second, I find that writing conferences in which I focus on nonfiction dredge up some sort of emotions, likely because I shared intimate details of my life in whatever I wrote. Bread Loaf was no different in that regard; I shared the chapter of my memoir in which I slow time down and show what it was like seeing my father for the last time before he died. I wrote that chapter on the plane, the day after I saw him, so I’ve always found that piece both in-the-moment, but also emotionally distant. One of the participants noticed that, in it, I said I would have liked to spend some time alone with my father. “What would you have said if you could have gotten that time alone?” She asked. I hadn’t actually thought about that. Thinking about it in that moment, sitting on the porch of my instructor’s house, tears started to prickle my eyes, but I demanded that I not cry while sitting there. I just wrote the question down and thought about it later: I would have asked, “Who am I?” Which sounds selfish until you realize I’m actually saying, “Who are you? What does it mean to be a Young? Who are we?” I would have asked for some light to be shed on that part of my identity that I’ll likely never know, especially since I found out some time after he died that we’re not really Youngs.

Third, when I said in my previous post that I felt a sense of belonging, that emotion—the elation of feeling understood without having to explain oneself—didn’t really sink into my bones until last week. Therefore, last week, I cried a lot. A lot. I’m not a crier by any stretch of the imagination, but I cried so much. And at the dumbest things! I watched the delightful Netflix movie, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” an adorable Gen Z rom-com, and bawled my face off afterwards. I realized that my subconscious was looking for any excuse to express how much it missed being in an environment in which everything made sense.

On the brightside, the National Book Festival was this weekend, so I was able to surround myself with book people. Even better, Tayari Jones signed my books! And I even got in a little Bread Loaf reunion–Francisco Cantu was a speaker at the book festival!

The National Book Festival crowd; in line to buy books.

Tayari Jones signing my books and me looking at her a way I never even look at my spouse.


Paco speaking during the immigration talk at the National Book Festival

I told my therapist that I was trying to think of ways to hold onto that feeling of belonging, but I immediately felt it fall away when I got home (hence all the tears). I can’t live at Bread Loaf, so I have to think of something, not just a group of people to be around (I’m in great writers groups as it is), but a vocation that makes me feel some level of fulfilled, a job in which I fit. But over two years after I quit my job, I still wonder if there is such a thing.

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