Dear Younger Self,
Remember all those times that people would ask you what you wanted to be when you grew up and you’d say, “Alive?”
Remember how it would make people really uncomfortable? They’d laugh skittishly and say, “No, really?” And you’d grow serious and say, “No, but really.”
Well, it’s been a while and you’re still alive.
It hasn’t been easy, it isn’t easy still. But you’re less likely to say that these days, you’re less likely to shoot for being alive as a goal. Which feels huge for how little it actually is, this act of surviving. But here are some things that saved you:
Community. First and foremost, it is community that saved you. You found your people. Queers, Muslims, people at the intersection of both these identities, people who care about living through these lenses that have always been important to you. They showed you how to live. How to exist outside of these pre-set ways that people told you to live, outside of these pre-set ways that people tried to tell you that you couldn’t live. They lived their truths, these people, they lived their lives, and it was all imperfect and messy and weird as fuck, but it changed how you thought about living. It expanded your imagination. It made you less afraid.
God. You always had a complicated relationship with each other. You realized though that not everything had to be perfect, you could question and rave and flat out disagree with God, but also seek comfort from Them at the same time. You could imagine Them as the embodiment of your values: justice, love, kindness. You could find Them in the small things of everyday life, as well as the spectacles. You could use God and your love for Them and Their creation as the basis of your organizing, your activism, your quest to leave the world a better place.
Work. You found meaning in work. Not just the kind that covered rent, but also the everyday things. The makings of beds and folding of laundries and babysitting for your friends and feeding of yourself and feeding of others. You strove to be present, you strove to find pleasure in these things by doing them often and doing them well. It worked.
Art. You took time to do this, and you took yourself seriously. Not at first, at first you dabbled and hedged but then you wanted others to take you seriously so you took yourself seriously. You wrote and you rewrote and you put yourself out there, laid yourself bare in your writing and didn’t care what others thought. It made you feel lighter, it made you feel heavier. But it gave you an avenue through which to feel deeply, to connect with others, to tease out the intricacies of this whole act of living.
Don’t get me wrong, younger self. It didn’t get better, easier, it didn’t get any number of those things you’ve always found cheesy-ier. But you figured out how to live, how to keep living.
And these days, it feels kind of... lovely.
Lamya H is a queer, Muslim writer based in NYC. Her work has appeared in places such as VICE, Vox, Salon, and Autostraddle. Writing bios feeds her existential crises. Follow her on Twitter @lamyaisangry