I am now twenty. 20. Two decades in. According to estimations, I’ve lived a quarter of my life. I attend a university, but I have no idea what’s to come. When people ask the question, “What would you like to do?” I never know how to answer, being that life never heads in the direction you plan for. I could say, “Surely, I’ll write books,” or “Surely, I’ll become a reporter,” or even, “Surely, I’ll work in a publishing house,” but doing so limits my horizon into nothing short of tunnel vision. The truth is—through my twenty years of stepping afoot on this planet—what I wish more than anything is a sense of belongingness.
I am sociable. Some would call me gregarious. I like talking to people; I like finding out their stories. Many people feel comfortable in sharing their lives with me. I value truth and loyalty above anything else—probably a result of everything that others have done to me. I am not afraid of the past as some are. I am a pure result of everything that has happened to me. William Faulkner, in his masterpiece The Sound and the Fury, says:
“All men are just accumulations dolls stuffed with sawdust swept up from the trash heaps where all previous dolls had been thrown away the sawdust flowing from what wound in what side that not for me died not.”
A lot has happened to me. Like everyone else, I harbor my own traumas. People have done me wrong, people I truly cared about. I have struggled with mental illness, eating disorder, sexual orientation. I am of an oppressed minority. And I’m not relaying this for pity—it’s simply the truth of the matter. But it’s weird: I am a firm believer in individual liberty, of free will. I think the meaning of life is to be free. What that means, I have juggled. I have searched the literatures of feminism, philosophy, psychology, just to discover that. I don’t believe freedom is found through religion, nor the granting of civil liberties (which, trust me, I do want). Those only go so far as our social institutions do. But human beings are social creatures. Freedom is feeling like you belong. There’s only nihilism if you don’t feel you have a reason to being here. All I want is to listen, and to be listened to. I don’t think that’s much to ask. In The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck explains:
“Not only do self-love and love of others go hand-in-hand, but ultimately they are indistinguishable…Since I am human and you are human, to love humans means to love myself as well as you.”
I don’t think I’ll marry. Sometimes I think that I am the best company for myself, more than people could be or would be. Because of everything that has happened in my life. Maybe I’ll have kids, but I’m wary of devoting my life to another human being. What I’ve found, the most important aspect of daily life is friends. There are cons to that. Leaving yourself to friendship is leaving yourself susceptible to another. You never know what goes on in another person’s mind, and you never know what they’re capable of doing. I’ve found that out the hard way. But in friendship is beauty. I have had the luck to meet so, so many wonderful, talented people. However, I still feel misunderstood.
A side effect to existence is feeling alone. Maybe I’ll never get over that. Maybe I’ll reach the end of my life and find not once did I feel truly understood. Or maybe, that’s a fact of the queer lifestyle. Whatever it may be, I can’t help but feel desperately alone in life. This is separate from one’s own solitude, which I believe to be vital and, above all, a necessity. It’s the fact that I don’t think anybody gets the way I’m feeling. I’m sure everyone feels that way. To live is to feel isolated. Though it presses on me often, like two walls caving in on either side. I’ve tried to cure it, with books, with philosophy, with writing. Nothing seems to work. I believe that the quicker you learn that loneliness is a standard of life, the sooner it won’t matter. But I’m trying to reach that point. One of my favorite authors, Jean Rhys, wrote in her unfinished autobiography, Smile Please:
“I would never be a part of anything. I would never really belong anywhere, and I knew it, and all my life would be the same, trying to belong, and failing. Always something would go wrong. I am a stranger and I always will be, and after all I didn’t really care.”
I don’t relate well with others. Every day, I’m surrounded by folks dissimilar to me. Heterosexual people who’re able to smile real smiles, because they don’t know what it’s like to be a fraction of the population. When I talk to people, I feel the weight of being misunderstood. I wear the guise well that I enjoy being around others. Which I do—I really do—I think other people are fascinating, and intricate, and beautiful. A quality of which I pride myself is my ability to listen, to empathize. But I’ve never felt that anyone has wanted to listen to me in return. I’m not saying I don’t have friends—I have many that I am beyond thankful for. I’m saying that in a crowd of others just like me, I feel alone. I cannot find solace in others. The closest I’ve come is in the books I read (which could be unhealthy, reflecting on that). But that’s the case of these authors feeling just as alone in life as I do, which may just be a trait of writers everywhere.
I’ll conclude with this. My only philosophy to life is to be kind. Personally, I don’t think it matters a damn the person you are—what you have done, where you have been—as long as you can share compassion into the world. That’s the only rule of life. There’s no excuse not to be kind. Whatever unkindness has occurred in your life should only teach you to be more kind. Another thing to note: Being mentally ill is not an excuse to treat others poorly. My struggles have only taught what I am relaying now. In How to Be a Woman, Caitlin Moran states something of that I could not agree more:
“We must recall the most important of humanity guidelines: Be polite. Being polite is possibly the greatest daily contribution everyone can make to life on Earth.”
In my opinion, I find that if you dig at the core of humanity, there is strength and empathy. I do believe humankind is innately good. That is a characteristic I lacked at sixteen.