Finding connection in colorful Colorado

In the thin and cool air, adjacent to the mountains of Colorado, the Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society held its annual conference from March 28 to April 1.

Rooms of the conference tower echoed stories and research from students across the country. We gathered in halls to listen to the words of local authors, workshop with publishers and editors. This was heaven to English majors.

When my turn at the podium was over, I joined the milling crowd of writers and talked shop. We talked about inspiration, what we were working on, and the industry. We talked about the industry’s standards, the contempt we had for playing into popularity or for safe routes to publishing rather than challenging systems.

In these conversations, I hear my male professors’ voices old warnings of flirting with political opinion.

After, we wandered around Denver, Colorado, searching for memories to make. We stumbled into an interactive art exhibit, “Meow Wolf,” that promoted collaboration with strangers and the idea of the collective unconscious.

We wandered up the steps of the state’s capital, a mile above sea level, on the day of debate of reproductive rights by complete accident. I felt out of place in my blue jeans among the black and gray suits that were milling around.

The capital was in panopticon style, so when three English majors from South Carolina looked over the gold-painted balcony, we could see each of the marble floors below us in an oval shape.

On the third floor, there was a gallery of portraits of all the U.S presidents, from Washington to Trump, staring down the panopticon. It felt like they were staring down at me. It felt like they too were watching the debate of rights on the floor below. Everything that the men in those portraits had done in past led to this moment, this debate, unaware or uncaring of the effect it had on others.

It struck me as though you don’t realize there are walls of a room when you are always welcomed in it, always at the center, your voice the one that echoes, your face that gets painted or words that get published. You don’t even realize it’s a room, it’s just a part of your world, like an open field or clear sky. You don’t notice tornadoes or storm clouds.

I wonder what rooms I am in the center of that I don’t realize that me or my people have left out. At point did we all forget that we are all connected?

In a roundabout way, I think that is why I was called to submit to this conference. It is why we write, why we travel; It is a reminder that we are all connected. In politics, in art, in writing, we and the things we create are all connected.

Connection is what we are looking for, although sometimes we forget.