Mylo Choy’s creativity finds its outlet in a range of media: music, graphic stories, and comics. Their forthcoming book, Middle Distance, is a graphic memoir chronicling their relationship with running. As they say in the book, “Running was the foundation of my relationship with myself.”
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Over a decade ago, Mylo decided that they wanted to create a graphic novel. They had a subject in mind, and started to develop an illustrating style. But, they say, “By the time I kind of got the style going, I was busy with other things. And I thought, ‘Okay, when I’m 50, I’m gonna do this book.’ But then I saw the opportunity with Tracksmith. And it made me think, ‘I do have something to say about running that is important to me.’ And so I proposed like a 30-page story.”
The opportunity with Tracksmith was their Fellowship program. “Tracksmith, if you don’t know, they make running clothes, but they do a lot in the community outside of that,” Mylo explains. “And one of the things is this fellowship to support projects that exist at the intersection between running and creativity, I think the core idea being that when you’re running, you have a lot of time to think your best thoughts and there often is a connection. The grants vary in amounts, I think based on what your project is and what you need, but I will say that the grant that they gave me as part of the fellowship has been totally instrumental in me being able to produce a graphic novel.”
The Fellowship isn’t currently accepting applications, but Mylo encourages anyone with a creative idea to apply. “I feel like it’s opened so many doors for me. And I’ve noticed their goal is to kind of shine a light on people who haven’t had that opportunity yet. And so it really could be for you, especially if you think it’s not for you. I mean, I almost didn’t submit my application because I thought, ‘Surely, this is not for me.’
“If you have an inclination to submit, it’s certainly worth it. And something that I’ve learned because previous to this, I applied for a grant for something else that I didn’t get, and I felt like I was able to use a lot of the thought process that I had to develop. So actually applying to things is its own muscle. It makes you have to clarify it yourself, why you’re doing what you’re doing and what it is that you want to say. And the clearer you get in what you want to say, the easier time other people have hearing you, which is kind of what you’re trying to do through an application.
“And at the same time, if you are doing something and you don’t feel like you want to get it out there, that’s okay too. I think there’s so much value in spending time in creativity, no matter what the audience is. And if the audience is yourself, that is also fine and I encourage that. And in fact, I think that creativity is a human right and that we should be allowed to do it no matter what’s happening externally.”
After obtaining the fellowship, Mylo found a publisher and expanded upon their initial story. They still want to do their original book idea, but they say, “This was such a good experience and I think that the topic of running, which has been a common thread throughout my life, was the perfect first book topic in a sense for me. I wanted to do a topic that I was excited about because I always create art for the inner child of the adult. And so by addressing something that I started when I was very young or even had an interest in from very, very young, I’m able to connect the adult to the child, which I’m always searching for, I guess.”
Mylo believes that the inner child is a vital, but often neglected, part of our psyche. “I think that the inner child maybe wouldn’t be called the inner child if the world didn’t do so much to beat it down because I think it really is a part of our humanity. To me, the inner child is at the core. It’s love and love that doesn’t depend on an outcome, so things that we value without them having to do work for us or really have a function. I think art is that. There’s not a reason why we need it that you could explain to someone who doesn’t feel a way about art, but there’s something about expressing yourself, and expressing joy in something, and feeling like your heart can live on the outside of your body instead of only in the inside, that is connected to that inner child.”
A connection with nature is another essential part of Mylo’s sense of well-being. “When I’ve spent a lot of time outside, I have so much more acceptance of the challenges of life and so much more capacity for joy because I feel like I’m really living. And I’m always trying to find ways to connect more with nature because I think another thing about nature, and maybe this is also especially true for me as a transgender and non-binary person, nature makes you feel like you are natural as you are. There’s no mirrors out there. And I find the more I see mirrors, the more I have stress, and the less I see mirrors, the better I feel. And, you know, after a week in the woods, you forget what you even look like, but you’re very connected to your being.”
Running was a way for Mylo to be in nature, and it was also a way for them to process their emotions. That was fine until they got injured, couldn’t run, and realized that they had no other tools to handle their feelings and didn’t know how to talk to anybody about them. “What I came to realize is that to connect to people outside of myself, I had to let people in. And I think on some level, I felt like I was self-contained because running allowed me to handle my emotions without anybody else. I didn’t lean on anybody.
“After the injury, I started to lean on the people around me. And if you’re going to lean on people, you have to show them who you are. I didn’t feel like I was hiding, but what I realized is that my assumption is always like, ‘No one’s really gonna understand me, so why bother to explain? I know who I am. That’s all that matters.’ And then I realized that’s really not giving other people the benefit of the doubt, and it helped me get over that, I guess.”
Being injured proved to be a transformative experience for Mylo, and so did writing about their running journey. “It made me realize all the things I was kind of brushing by in my own thought process and that I was doing that partly because I didn’t know the answers for myself or the answers were a little hard to look at. And so what I realized when I was working on it is, I can’t put this because I know it’s not the truth. And I refuse to lie in my book, but I don’t know what the truth is. And so having to kind of go internal and really find those answers, that was the hardest part.”
Hard, but ultimately worthwhile. Mylo was heartened to realize that they really did enjoy the work that went into writing and illustrating their book. “I think when you have to keep a day job in addition to trying to get all your creative projects done, you feel scared like, ‘Well, if I actually get a chance to do this full time, maybe I’ll hate it. Maybe my dream isn’t real.’ And so I did feel like this is my dream, and it is real that I really love doing this, and if in the future I could always do this, I would do this.”
Thank you to Precision Fuel and Hydration, 2before, and Tracksmith for sponsoring this episode.
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