I live in New York by way of Texas. I love sunlight, and small coffees, and days without schedules, and hours spent in parks. I grew up in a suburb near Dallas. I loved it there as a young teenager, in part because it was all that I really knew. As I grew older, I became increasingly aware of the whiteness and the material privilege that surrounded me. This context—and my corresponding awareness—traveled with me into my young adulthood, throughout my time at university.
From one perspective, it was challenging to feel out of place, to form a sense of identity in resistance to something else. From another perspective, I’ve grown to see these experiences as instrumental in teaching me to navigate social ecosystems that were not intended for me, which, as a queer black person, are almost everywhere.
When I was younger, I wish I had understood that success is mine to define. I’ve found myself focusing on the success metrics as defined by others. I used traditional benchmarks like grades, jobs, salaries, and the speed or alleged ease with which those things were obtained. I’ve since become much more honest with myself; more comfortable setting goals that are genuine and personally fulfilling.
Every day, I look forward to connection. Connection with my brilliant friends who begin each day with some sort of debate in our group text. Connection with my partner who is one of the most loving, gentle, and intelligent people I know. I look forward to connection with people on the street or inside of coffee shops or bodegas. Strangers. I used to joke that my favorite people were those who I didn’t yet know, my favorite conversations were those that lasted 90 seconds or less.
Something about that brevity and unspoken possibility has always felt so romantic to me. That was one of my favorite pieces of New York, the infinite people you could encounter on any given day. Over the past several months, it’s perhaps the piece of New York that I’ve missed the most.
"From one perspective, it was challenging to feel out of place, to form a sense of identity in resistance to something else. From another perspective, I’ve grown to see these experiences as instrumental in teaching me to navigate social ecosystems that were not intended for me, which, as a queer black person, are almost everywhere."
Writing is central to my life and allows me to make sense of everything around me—my emotions, my circumstance, my connections with the people I love. My relationship with writing has continued to evolve over the past several years and I’ve found it most authentic to let those waves ebb and flow organically. There are times when I tell myself that I’m working on a book in its entirety, a collection of sweet little essays, both fiction and otherwise.
There are other times, times that are often marked by elevated sadness or anxiety, when my writing becomes much shorter in form and lives almost exclusively in my phone’s notes app. Interspersed throughout, there are times when my writing exists largely inside of a journal, used to visualize and organize emotions that are otherwise difficult to understand.
Beyond writing, I’ve established stability through my closest friends, partners, and mentors. I’ve surrounded myself with people who challenge me, support me, and bring me joy. When I think about what my life will look like in five or ten years, this brilliant community is my first thought and my highest priority.
These intentions that I’ve outlined for myself are reflected in my hopes for society at large. I hope that we grow to decentralize the significance of career, of wealth, and focus more on taking care of each other’s material and emotional needs. For myself, I hope that I continue to follow the best, most simple advice that I know: Make good choices, be nice to people.
Find Langston here. Photography by Carolyne Lorée Teston.