**For more information on the prompt that inspired this piece please visit here**
Dear Owon (so, all my loved ones to whom I have been meaning to write but probably never will)
First off, an apology. For the past few years, I have probably vacillated between being completely absent from your life to being kind of present – either withholding about my troubles, or sharing so much that we never get to talk about your own troubles. For all these and more, I ask forgiveness.
Then, an accusation. Why have you not tried to help more? Don’t you realize how hard it is to navigate life alone? How equipped were you for life at nineteen?
Finally, an apology. I have no right to accuse you because we all deal with our respective troubles. It just never occurred to me that going to school a couple thousand miles away from home would mean that I was completely and irrevocably alone. My mistake.
In this letter, I hope to exorcise at least one or two of the demons that are causing me to feel extremely restless and discontent, really just by sharing with you, and hopefully we both find some kind of redemption at the end. I’m just as unsure of how this will end as you.
I’m a bit hesitant to go into this because I fear that my recent alienation from you has made me self-indulgent… at best. If so, I’d like that to not be the case, so I should probably ask: how are you? How have you been? I hope life is not treating you too badly, for that is really all that we can hope for; that our troubles not impede our survival.
I was feeling very malcontent last week, but thankfully, I have a little bit of peace of mind right now, because finally I have something eventful to share with you. This is a rare phenomenon, enjoy it. I hung out with someone for the first time this weekend and it was awful. I really messed up, mainly because they were trying to get to know me, and I was feeling like I didn’t quite exist, like all the learning and living I had done till that moment was for naught. As a struggling Economics pre-major, I often think about the cost and benefit of my actions. Lately, it’s been feeling like the payoff for my hardwork is really not-worth-it. I was in a state of ennui, and my inability to adequately express this severely limited the reaches of our conversation and made me apologize more than a hundred times for my awkwardness etc, and probably scared this person off. But it’s okay: if the meeting had gone well, I wouldn’t be me.
“Who are you?” my acquaintance had asked, exasperated. And I couldn’t answer because I have been feeling that I am mainly defined by my lack, or my problems. That all the good things in my life are coupled with the things that threaten my mental stability. For example, I love my family – but they are the ones whose unreasonable expectations have driven me to overextend and hurt myself, and they are the ones who make me feel bad about my consequent weight gain. Or, I love literature – but having to come up with a story every week for a predominantly white American audience about my black Nigerian experiences amidst my emotional turmoil has made me divorce the idea of ever being a professional writer; seeing the excluding nature of literary spaces (both academic and creative) has made me wary about joining the field. I could go on and on about the things I love that have in a sense betrayed me, but I won’t. Betrayal is ubiquitous; my problems are not unique; I have probably betrayed (you) my loved ones as well.
I think I am finally coming to terms with how small I am compared to the grand scheme of things, and I am completely fine with that… however, being in the university setting, you kind of have to be deluded about your self-importance. You have to believe that studying and working hard now will increase your chances of impacting the world in a meaningful way. But I don’t have this delusion, and I worry that maybe I’m giving up on being exceptional out of laziness. I’m losing my train of thought and will write you again when I have a better grasp on what I am trying to communicate to you. But for now, just know that I am asking forgiveness for not having been a good and cheerful friend/sibling; you see, it’s hard to be cheerful in isolation.
Darling Owon, (a bit redundant isn’t it? Calling you a darling in two languages)
You must be surprised at this letter coming so soon on the heels of the last one I sent you. I am surprised myself, but these days life is a little more doable, and I felt it right to keep my promise to write again.
I don’t even think I can accurately express what I was feeling earlier – with talk of demons and isolation etc. It all feels so far away from me now, as if in the past week I have undergone some sort of treatment. It feels like I am recovering. It might just be that the school year is coming to a close and several heavy weights are being lifted off my shoulders. Or it might be the fact that you (my loved ones) have been so compassionate towards me recently, giving me help when I have asked for it. I’m so glad I do that now: ask for help. It’s the only skill we need to survive.
Obviously I’m not all zen like the above paragraph makes it seem; any calm reflected in this letter is probably virtue of the fact that I am writing this in the library. I have also recognized that a cost-benefit analysis of my life will only serve to hurt me. I am taking life for what it is: a struggle, as Karl Ove Knausgaard (Norwegian writer guy) so nicely put it. It’s worth is in the process, not the result.
I am excited to continue working on my thesis, to study for my final exams, to travel and spend time with you (my darlings) this summer. I am excited because I am starting to remember what it is to feel affection.
This next week will be a difficult one so my warm and fuzzy feelings probably won’t last… but it has been a nice few days. Full of hugs, dancing, and tender conversations.
Yours now and forever,