Thoughts from an almost college graduate: Things of which I am now certain (about myself, about others)

Emilia Malachowski/Staff
Emilia Malachowski/Staff
Emilia Malachowski/Staff

Notes to self from an almost college graduate: things of which I am now certain (about myself, about others)

For a long time, you were hung up on being beautiful and straight because you thought it made you a woman. You do not owe anyone beauty. Being beautiful does not make you a woman. Being beautiful is not your obligation.

We need to implement more creative and innovative ways to foster empathy in elementary schools.

It is entirely possible to make at least seven different (and satisfying) meals from the same seven ingredients.

 Is there such thing as a cynical optimist?

Anger is a healthy and natural response to oppression.

The ultimate act of love is giving without expecting anything in return.

Most politicians are ass-clowns and are hopefully not an accurate representation of society.

At this stage in your life, nothing is real until it’s on Google Calendar.

You are obsessed with making lists. You are less obsessed with crossing things off your lists.

Being beautiful does not make you a woman.

People who work in public service are some of the most caring humans you know to exist.

Don’t romanticize the idea of revolutionizing an institution from within it.

Behind every statistic, event or decision, there is probably an unpaid intern.

You are warming up to the idea of potentially long commutes. Long walks to work are great for listening to podcasts.

 The only way to get better at anything is to do a lot of it!!!!!!!!!!! Even if you think you suck!!!!!!!!!! You will try to remind yourself of this everyday!!!!!!!!!!!

You do not need to justify, defend or explain whom you love, how you love or why you love.

When given the opportunity, you will always choose to overwork yourself and take on multiple things at once. Maybe you find a twisted satisfaction in working too much? At the same time, you hate that you don’t know how to enjoy doing nothing.

There are people you miss whom you haven’t spoken with in a while.

 How to describe the magic of talking about a difficult circumstance with someone who you know cares about you; someone who was not present when it happened. It’s like seeing an alternate timeline. Actually, it’s like seeing the same timeline, but with a fresh set of eyes. A you before you were you. These conversations are heavy, and they leave you with headaches. But they help with healing.

How to describe the warmth that consumes you when a stranger decides you are worthy of their trust.

Apparently, people think you are weird.

 When society fails to tell your story, it is implied that your story is not worth telling. How much do we conveniently not know?

How to describe the magic of talking about a difficult circumstance with someone who you know cares about you; someone who was not present when it happened.

 For most of your life, you have felt out of place on either end of a spectrum — any spectrum. Instead, you have spent your life dangling somewhere in the middle. You are not Indian enough for the Indian community, but you are too Indian to be anything else. Many have said this to your face. You acknowledge in yourself the ability to love more than one gender. You are somewhere in between, and this is difficult to explain to people. You feel more Canadian with every day you spend living in the U.S., but really, you know you are neither Canadian nor American. What is a home, anyway? Every place you visit is beginning to feel like home, but this feels like betrayal somehow. Even Berkeley reminds you of home, in that half-hearted way that anything that isn’t Toronto reminds you of home. You are a first-generation immigrant, just like your parents, but you and your parents feel worlds apart. You are not liberal or conservative; you are neither Democrat nor Republican. You dislike binaries, you despise stereotypes and you hate generalizations. But sometimes you wish you could fit neatly in a box.

Every place you visit is beginning to feel like home, but this feels like betrayal somehow.

You are so goddamn lucky and privileged and loved. You are alive.

Sometimes those who wander are indeed totally fucking lost. But that’s cool, too.

in transit

Airports always make me want to reach, stretch back into the past. Not to change anything, even though there are so many moments I could wrap my fingers around and say here, this is where it all went wrong, or look, this was where I made a good choice. Instead, I’d like to poke around. I want to rummage through these moments, knowing what I know now, and try to understand how I got here.

Unlike meticulous flight plans, life often feels like it moves from point A to point B in slow jerks and drawn out sprints, spattered with long, leisurely layovers, unforeseen trade-winds and seemingly endless circles. The one thing the two have in common is that eventually, you are still going to end up somewhere. When you look back at the heart-stopping turbulence it felt almost ridiculous to think that was the scariest part.

Not to change anything, even though there are so many moments I could wrap my fingers around and say here, this is where it all went wrong, or look, this was where I made a good choice. 

You could dig your nails into the armrests and say all of the prayers you wanted, but most of the time, the plane will land safely no matter what. And it if doesn’t, well, at least then you’ll be dead. Because the hardest part isn’t these moments you thought you were going to fall out of the sky from 30,000 feet or making the choices that put you up there in the first place — the hardest part is planting your feet on the ground and going forward.

“There comes a time in everyone’s life when they must go west”

You’ve spent your life moving in a generally westward direction: Your perpetually bustling birth town on the Indian plains where everyone knew everybody’s business to the immigrant outskirts of Riyadh, where your only fond memories have nothing to do with people and everything to do with exploring the dunes in solitude. You ended up in Toronto, the white city you never quite warmed to, and you’ve reached across the wide Canadian emptiness to the Californian coast. You thought that west was the place to go toward, like the limit on a graph. You told me often. “There comes a time in everyone’s life when they must go west,” you would say on rainy nights, dragging your fingertips through my hair as I played with the canvas set you bought me. Sometimes, I would paint your skin the tropical colors you said you would have never seen in real life, referring, as I know you were, to grayer skies. I never believed we would go in different directions. I thought we could hold on to each other, run parallel, reaching westward together. But I am not as you are. You chose west for your direction. You’re the adventurer. I am the arrow on your compass, drawn northward without any discernable reason, away from where you’re traveling.

“There comes a time in everyone’s life when they must go west,” you would say on rainy nights, dragging your fingertips through my hair as I played with the canvas set you bought me.

I met a woman in Yellowknife the day after I left you crying in the airport, who had wandered here from Argentina. I still had your lipstick in my pocket. Under the northern winter sky, it was frozen, but I rubbed it on my skin until it stained red. She told me it was the color of the sand where she’d come from, the color of the rocks and the sun, even. Her hair was blonde. Her eyes were as bronze as her skin and warm like your hands.

Sometimes I wander out on the ice with the woman from Argentina, who still seems strange in the snow — a beacon of heat — and lie down to watch the stars.

I live in a house on stilts now, far above where the ice gathers on the tundra, as north as I can reach, the sun surrounding me constantly for months at a time. When the Long Night falls I like to think that the sun has gone to visit you. I watch its westward journey. Sometimes I wander out on the ice with the woman from Argentina, who still seems strange in the snow — a beacon of heat — and lie down to watch the stars. We used to talk about doing that. We never did, but I think of you anyway. The sun that lives in her skin reaches my hands, even through her leather gloves. You warned me, before I got on that plane, that I would miss the sun. I, being the kind of person who lived for the rare sunny days in Toronto, that I wouldn’t survive long without my sun. You were wrong about that. I have the sun. I only miss you.