Date of Interview: November 18th, 2017
Name: Jennifer Chukwu
Location: Chicago, IL
How often do you bathe or shower?
I try to shower every day. Then take baths, maybe twice a month only when I’m feeling really stressed and overwhelmed. I like the feeling of just sitting in water.
If you were an underwater creature, what one would you be?
SpongeBob. He doesn’t make any sense. I’ve been rewatching a bunch of episodes of Sponge Bob recently [laughter], and there’s one episode where Sponge Bob is trying to be a lifeguard, but he can’t swim even though the entire world is under water [laughter]. So I want to be SpongeBob just to figure out the anatomy of him. Then also probably try to talk to Squidward more about mental health and everything. Because his stories are sad [laughter].
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about writing. I write short stories, novels, and lately, I’ve been doing some non-fiction. My writing is about my experience being a Black, queer writer, and feeling uncomfortable in different spaces. I attempt to replicate that feeling of isolation so that people can get a taste of what it’s like being surrounded but completely alone.
What drives you to write?
Survival. I’ve always struggled with depression, and so writing is my way to kind of explore what’s going on in a safe space. It’s kind of like engaging with a monster on a chain, and not getting too hurt by it. What do you feel accomplished with? I feel really accomplished about the development of my writing voice. A lot of my writing is rooted in painful experiences. Being able to go to a text and read that experience, and see what I learned and how I’ve grown makes me feel really happy.
What is something you still struggle with?
Oh, I still struggle with wanting/needing to be validated. I am always asking myself questions like, “Am I good enough? Do they like me? Are they secretly talking about me behind my back?” And then I still struggle with the idea, all the time, as to whether or not this thing I’m doing, pursuing a career in the arts is just a childhood dream or the real deal.
What are your thoughts on relationships? Platonic, sexual, and otherwise?
Who understands relationships? I understand really intense friendships. Because with me my friendships are very like, “We’re in this!” Also, I’ve never had a serious partner. If I am bringing you into my life as a potential partner it is really because I believe in our love and us. But also even after the love is gone, there’s still something there that we could work with. Honestly, I don’t know. My understanding of love is both practical and not practical. I always had the understanding growing up that love would not always be enough and that you’re going to need something else. Like, “Yes. I love you. But what’s next?”
How does your queerness play into romantic relationships?
It’s so hard because I just somewhat figured out who I am. I understand what I’m doing and the person I want to become. So now, when it comes to dating, I’m only 23, but I want the real deal. I don’t want to date around just for the pleasure of being next to someone. So it’s hard trying to explain that to people [laughter]. And I probably shouldn’t– I’m not good at having filters and knowing when to stop talking or explaining. And so I want to bring that up in the first date and they’re kind of like, “Uh. ” Basically it’s just all jumbled up and confusing, but it will figure itself out eventually.
At what point did you realize who you wanted to become and who you are?
Let’s see. So in terms of my writing, I wrote this personal essay about my childhood my senior year of college. I think that essay taught me how to write what I wanted to write. And then, in terms of learning who I wanted to be, I moved out of Chicago for three months and that was just a shit show. And so, coming back from that and having to start my life over showed me the things that I value. Somehow I keep coming back to the art and writing world and I’m getting some good feedback from it. So let’s keep at this.