“How are you?” a friend asked me.
“Sort of upset and happy and relaxed and sad and alive all at once” I answered.
It’s been less than an hour since I put the book down that created these feelings. I could tell you it was fiction, that it was a good story, but it wasn’t. It was a great book with lots of anecdotes, of truth and of authenticity. A book that spoke to me on so many levels, written by an author that in so many ways is just like me.
There’s the fear of alienating the pack, not wanting to be excluded that has driven me to try to conform, fit in the box, cover up my colours and vibrancy and fit in. Until I got in a relationship with someone who did their very best to keep me grey, and told me the colours were all a figment of my imagination. Now, I struggle to shed the mask, without pouring my heart out to every passing stranger. I’m recovering. I’m growing. And this book put it’s finger on all of these things.On how there is little room for deviation from the norm in my home country. How we’re all hustling to fit in and get the latest thing-a-ma-dong that will make us happy. That happy is an emotion and not a state of being.
So I don’t post here because I’m weirdly afraid that showing the person I’m inside will make everyone point and laugh. Even as I sit here behind a screen, in a country I’ve not disclosed, because it makes me feel safer and I need to feel safe. And the book showed me that I’m not alone. That other writers fear the same. That artists want to know they did good. I knew that from before of course. It isn’t the first time I read how shame builds up if you hide in your shell shutting the light out and the darkness in (for your protection of course), but it’s the first time it hit my heart and made it real for me.
So… I’ll be a little more open, and write a little more. And if anyone reads it that’s ok, and if noone does, that is ok too. Because ultimately the person I wrote this for is me.
I look at you and how you enjoy the world in books, the animals under the sky, and the computer games. I wish you could see how I’ve turned out. That life will turn out alright despite the way it feels right now. That you will be able to keep in touch with your family and that your parents really are the most awesome, open-minded parents, one might wish for. Even though they refuse to give you roller skates because the only place to use them is the asphalt on the county road, with its 60 mph speed limit and heavy transport, where you can see only a few hundred yards before the bend.
I wish I could tell you to stay true to who you are. You don’t mesh well with your class at school, and you are a loner, hiding out with your nose in a book, or occasionally playing with kids outside your grade. Who you end up going to school with is random, and when it comes down to it, none of them are in my life today. What they think of you doesn’t matter. I know you want to fit in, and you will. You will fit in with like-minded people, you just haven’t met them yet.
Yet what I wish the most that I could tell you: Being smart is a good foundation, but it is work that builds the house. I know math is a breeze, the numbers almost doing themselves. The logic of physics and chemistry indisputable. Easy. The creative stuff like essays aren’t as easy, they have fewer rules, but you consistently make good grades. All you have to do is listen to the teacher, and try not to be too bored while you wait for most of the class to catch up, while they claim you are the teacher’s pet, and the teacher ignores you because you will do well anyway. You get homework. You do it in the classroom or in ten minutes before the bell rings. It’s all easy. It will stay that way until you hit university. That’s when you will be grateful you don’t want to be a veterinarian anymore (after a bout of stillborn animals gone septic before birth), because you wouldn’t have the necessary grades to get in. They’re not bad, just not excellent, because why apply yourself? The grades will be good anyway.
I wish they hadn’t broken your desire to excel. I wish they had taught you that work will only make you better. Make your work better. In university, being smart was only the foundation. And kid, it is those grades that will matter when you hunt for a job.
Stay true to yourself kid, but work to become the best.
I’m not sure what it is about this picture that touched me so. But it did.
It might be the loneliness, or how the darkness is giving way to light over the peak.
It is inspiring in so many ways.
I would like to tell you a story, and ask you a few questions.
Recently you watched something on the news, or in a paper. Something that sparked your fury and annoyance. Maybe it included people of another religion. Maybe it was an article on people from a different culture, or that had another colour to their skin than your own. Maybe it was two girls loving each other, or the next door boy wanting to be seen as the girl she always felt she was.
And you lashed out. Saying something about how they will go to hell. How they are not a proper person. Saying something about them stealing all the jobs, your potential mate, or committing a crime.
And you were heard. You were heard by a friend, by a sister or a cousin. Maybe by a co-worker. And they nodded meekly, or they didn’t say anything at all. Because they respect you, and they want to be seen as something good in your life.
And they were hurt.
Have you considered that the people you love might be the people you lash out at?
What if your cousin that didn’t dare say anything felt gutted, because she happen to love a girl, and now can certainly not tell you?
What if your son cried when he got home, because the girl he fell for is not from your culture?
What if your best friend now feels like he can never tell you he’s really a she?
What if your co-worker is a convert?
Would it change anything?
Would you still say the same, if the people you lash out at are the people you love?