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Do Not Touch (if you can)

I am standing in line at the Starbucks that is equidistance from work and home. I am praying they have the Hibiscus Passion Lemonade Iced Tea in stock while staring hard at the menu in front of me to try and figure out what I would order if they didn’t.

I turn around, feeling someone bump into me from behind. It’s a really tall guy. Now usually, I don’t use the word ‘guy’. I pretty much stick to the black and white descriptions of boy and man. But this one, this bumper, is a guy. He is sporting a pale blue t-shirt with a disturbingly deep V-neck and a smile that makes me cringe a little. Everything from his over-gelled hair to his broad and unnaturally tall frame takes me by surprise, and not the good kind. More like the kind you experience when you think you’re walking along a little alley at night by yourself and all of a sudden, you hear another pair of footsteps, in tune with yours. I stare at him for a second.

Apparently, a second too long because a short, long-haired creature magically appears right next to him. She gives me a look that makes me think that she would have absolutely loved, in that moment, to  grow horns just so she could lock me in them. I turn around gracefully and wait for my turn with the cashier.

The woman in front of me is wearing dry-fit clothes and spotted socks (Where were her shoes? Why wasn’t she wearing them? So many questions) and is presumably here post-workout. She is so short she has to tip-toe to speak to the cashier.

“Would you suggest that I purchase the Raw kiwi juice or the Grandine orange juice?” she asks as she walks toward the display shelves.

The stout cashier looks at me with helpless eyes. I rack my brain, trying to understand what exactly he is seeking from me. There is an awkward silence where our athlete patiently stares at the cashier, who in turn, looks at me.

“Umm…”, he starts. For some unknown reason, I am nervous for him because I know that he has no idea what either Raw or Grandine taste like. “… whichever one you like, Madam”.

I scold the side of his face with my eyes. She wouldn’t ask you if she knew which one she liked, now, would she, genius?

“I haven’t tried either. Tell me which one I should get”, the woman persists, her tone turning more and more passive aggressive by the second.

“Ummm…”, he stutters. Great, I think, here we go again. He casts a brief look in my direction before stating, “Raw”.

The woman’s face splits into a surprisingly pleasant smile. “Then Raw it is! Thank you”.

Phew, I mentally relay to the cashier. Now, it’s my turn. To my luck, they do have the Hibiscus Passion Lemonade Iced Tea. I tell the man that I was happy because they didn’t have it the last few times that I had come to this particular Starbucks outlet. You know, just making conversation.

The man frowns at this. “No, we have always had this”.

I laugh jovially. “You didn’t last time! Haha!”

The lines on his forehead burrow deeper into his skull as he looks at me and says, flatly, “No, ma’am, we have always had it”.

I hear a surprisingly masculine snort from behind me. Although I don’t think this is humorous situation, I let the girlfriend have this one.

I nod and hand the cashier my debit card. So much for thinking that we had bonded because of that little incident with the Raw juice. X is right, I expect too much from people. I head to the end of the counter to wait for my drink to be made.

I catch the guy looking in my direction and resolutely avoid eye contact. I feel grateful when my drink finally arrives. I grab it in a hurry and sit down at the first empty table I can find, despite the fact that the AC is directly blowing onto my face. I notice that instead of VEDI, the cashier has chosen to spell my name on the cup as VETI.

How lovely. I am only one black marker line away from being named after the abominable snowman.

Just as I am pondering this, the couple comes back into view. The guy sets his drink down on the table next to me. This action is not well-received.

“Do you want to sit with her or me?” the girlfriend asks in a not-so-subtle tone.

I am appalled at how loud she is and I look around to see if anyone else has noticed. Apparently, not. Everyone is merrily sipping away at their cappuccinos and Raw juices. Meanwhile, I am certain that my cheeks are turning an unflattering shade of pink.

The guy shoots me a quick look, as if trying to decide whether or not I was worth it. Thankfully, he decides that I am not and moves his drink to a table on the other side of the room. The girl follows him and only stops to glare at me over her shoulder once.

I wondered then, about trust and relationships. Here’s what I think. The more you try to preserve the relationship and the more worried you are, the more fragile you are setting up your relationship to be. Our doubts and insecurities stamp large, neon-green signs labelled, “DO NOT TOUCH”, on our relationships, until there isn’t anything you can do without upsetting the other person. Then, the choking starts.

I reflect on the perfect boyfriend and what we have. He lets me be who I am and that makes us stronger. I trust him with the ferocity of a mother lion whose cub has just told her that a predator hurt him.

In this moment, I feel extremely grateful, despite the goosebumps on my arms. For the perfect boyfriend. For the Hibiscus Passion Lemonade Iced Tea. For this uneventful day.

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Morning

The roommate wakes me up in her towel. I reach for my phone before letting her know that I did not plan to leave the bed for at least another 12 minutes, until it was exactly 8:30 am. “Okay, sleep then”. But those 12 minutes turn into 23 minutes of surfing Instagram for funny posts about twenty-somethings. I like starting my day with the knowledge that there are young adults all over the globe that are just as clueless and unmotivated as me.

Didi, our maid, hands me a mug of boiling water and waits for me to drink it. I ask her why she is intent on melting my insides and she claims that all she wants is to melt the fat off my body. Thank you, Didi. Really.

I play Karan Johar’s upcoming film’s soundtrack on repeat as I get ready. I hear roommate #2 mumble something about how there is no peace in the house, even in the mornings. I quietly turn down the volume on my iPhone and continue pulling my kurta over my head. Hmm… it definitely feels looser than the last time I wore it. I must be losing weight. I practically bounce onto the weighing scale in the corner of the room. 70 kgs. On the dot.

So … I guess not.

Didi hands me a bowl of Poha. My breakfast is what looks like softened yellow flakes with the occasional chili and curry leaf. I sit down on the chair and take a spoonful into my mouth. Didi is still standing in the doorway. “Well, how is it?”

“It tastes exactly like the last 10 times you made it”.

“Where are your clothes that need to be washed today?”

“Exactly where they always are, at the bottom of my cupboard”.

“Nobody in this house does anything except for me”.

With that, she is gone. Our morning interaction has been fulfilled. I am left alone for approximately 20 seconds before the roommate bursts in, no longer in her towel. “Tonight, let’s go to Marine Drive”.

“Kis khushi mein?” To celebrate what?

This question is not well-received. I am told that I have time for everyone else but her, and that I do not understand the meaning of friendship. I am pretty sure that at some point during her monologue, she accused me of plotting against her. I did not ask for details on this, although looking back now, I suppose I should have.

“Okay, deal, we will go after work”.

“You don’t sound excited”.

I sigh and split my lips into a huge grin.  “Aaaahhh! I cannot wait to go to Marine Drive with you!”

“Calm down, don’t be so chep. I’ll see you after work”.

I continue eating my poha. I wonder why every morning must be filled with sarcastic comments and existential crisis. One day, I tell myself, I must write a book to document these characters in my life. One day, I will publish that book and become famous and travel the world. Of course, these people will hate me because I will forever expose their weird traits to the rest of humanity, but I will have too much money by then. I will probably buy new friends and pay them to act exactly like these people. It will be a lovely change.

I leave the house with my work bag, gym bag and lunch bag. I wait 10 minutes for the rickety elevator and say Namaste to the operator. He looks at me like I am a walking, talking cockroach, here to infiltrate his lift. I finally hail a cab, after 15 minutes of being rejected because my office is not far enough away. Dear Kaali-Peeli taxi drivers, I hope Uber crushes you.

It takes me another 10 minutes to travel up to the 16th floor because the elevator in my office building is big enough to accommodate around 20 people, all of whom strategically plan to get off at different floors. I am convinced this is a consolidated effort to ensure that I never reach work on time.

My workplace, according to Google Maps, is a 4 minute drive from my house. Door to door, it should take me about 8 minutes. Instead, here I am, 40 minutes later, opening my laptop to start work for the day. Google Maps, you clearly don’t know anything about living in Mumbai.

On Missing Wine

I want to preface this piece by stating, loud and clear, that I am not an alcoholic. I do enjoy drinking, however. I grew up in an Indian household and so, needless to say, I was not permitted to consume alcohol, no matter what occasion. My mother, even today, will have an aneurysm if you tell her that I drink.

At the tender age of 18, I moved to America. I attended a business school just outside of Boston for 4 years. I would be a liar if I told you that the infamous American drinking culture did not permeate my life. I spent freshmen year navigating blackouts, 2 am puking sessions and next-day hangovers. Sophomore year wasn’t much different, except now I had a group of friends to experiment and explore with. We took care of each other; we sacrificed hair ties so our roommates wouldn’t get puke on their curls, we made sure there was a Poland Springs water bottle next to them when they woke up, and we took on the responsibility of ensuring that they didn’t make a complete fool of themselves in front of their crush. Junior year, we got smarter. We held our own because now we knew how many shots of tequila it would take us before we got sick, how many haircuts we could safely indulge in before we would ‘feel it’. Our struggle to ‘feel it’ and ‘get on a good level’ headlined many nights. I would find myself wondering what we were trying to ‘feel’, exactly. I think it was a sense of companionship mixed with a heady buzz brought on by youthful abandon.

Senior year came and we were 21. Suddenly, it was legal to drink. We went on pub crawls and spent too much money on that fruity cocktail. I started to taste what I was drinking. I decided I only liked Guinness on certain nights when I didn’t want to dance. I realized that Sex on the Beach tasted like a smoothie and that Long Island Iced Teas needed to be reserved for special tragedies. I also learnt about wine from a friend who had studied abroad in Italy one semester. I realized that I loved Chardonnay and Merlot, not so much Sauvignon Blanc. It was an interesting time. Experimenting with these different bottles and drink recipes left me and my friends, exhilarated, and drunk.

At the end of the 4 years, I found myself packing up all my things and heading back home, to India. I was all set to work in a non-profit startup in Mumbai. I had left behind all things familiar in search of meaning for myself. I was moving to a city I had never lived in before, away from my parents, away from Boston, in the hopes that I would, as cliché as it sounds, find my true calling. Graduation was a tiring and yet, incredible affair. I celebrated the last 4 years and proposed one final toast to the future, with my friends and companions, who were equally scared and excited for their prospects.

I came back to my parents’ house, in Delhi, and started to unpack, mentally. I looked at my salary package and the cost of living in Mumbai, and realized I would only have enough to scrape by. No more Faneuil Hall bars on the weekends. No more $10 shots of Grey Goose.

But I was going to do something bigger than that; I was going to work in a company with a mission I believed in, I was going to help it grow, I was going to grow.

I nostalgically shut down my Club W account. An online club that would send me 3 bottles of local and cheap wine every month based on my selected preferences.

But, I told myself, you are going to find time to write. It’s something I had always wanted to do and never found time for. And, I added, you are going to explore Mumbai as an adult.

I am good at reasoning with myself, but something heavy had settled in the put of my stomach. Remember how I said – I’m not an alcoholic? Well, this was when I started to question that for myself. Why did the wine and the drinking matter so much? Is this really how addiction begins? Did I need help?

Help came, and in the form of Jhumpa Lahiri’s most recent publication, In Other Words. She is one of my all-time favorite authors. Her stories are rooted in the Indian culture and often, are set near Boston. At the risk of sounding egocentric, I must admit that there are times when I believe she writes for me, to keep me company, to offer me solace. I was curious and apprehensive when I learnt that she had gone rogue, deciding to give up reading and writing in English to discover Italian. I was star struck enough to stay with her experimentation process, though.

As I read through the translated version of her book, written originally by her in Italian, I found lines that made me pause expectantly; I was waiting for her words to put my life into context, as always. Lahiri writes the following about how she felt when she arrived in Florence: “I am in an intimate, sober, joyful place”. She said sober. When I first read it, I wondered if there was an error in translation. Here is the most relevant meaning of sober, according to Dictionary.com –

“Marked by seriousness, gravity, solemnity, etc., as of demeanor, speech, etc.”

Seriousness and gravity, as opposed to drunk and light. Adulthood, as opposed to College. This is how I chose to make the distinction between the two separate periods of my life. I loved my days of carefree abandon and youthfulness, and I hope to never give that up. I want to always feel like a child, curious and open. But now, it is my turn to do things that have consequence, that have seriousness and gravity. Once I realized this, I kept reading because things were starting to make sense now.

Here is what Lahiri said about her linguistic pilgrimage: “I believe I have to leave behind something familiar, essential”. That is when it clicked for me.

This was not about the Merlot or the Jägermeister. It was about the people I drank with. It was about those achingly familiar conversations about our childhoods and dreams, our shared present. It was about opening a bottle of wine and spilling secrets to a long lost friend. It was about standing on the couch and popping a bottle of cheap champagne, because the music was loud and the lights were dim and we were in college. It was about taking shots to celebrate an A on that project or a two year relationship anniversary. I wasn’t sad about not being able to drink in Mumbai. I was sad about not being able to share those memories.

Having found the root of my troubles, I felt relieved. I thanked Jhumpa, for yet again, explaining myself to me. I let my thoughts rest in peace, knowing that even though there was a life I was leaving behind, I was hurling myself headfirst into a new, exciting one. I realized that I needed Mumbai in way that is still foreign to me. It’s a little like being addicted to a drug you haven’t yet tried.

To conclude, I would like to borrow words that express my sentiments infinitely better than I could phrase them.

“Why does this imperfect, spare new voice attract me? Why does poverty satisfy me? What does it mean to give up a palace to live practically on the street, in a shelter so fragile? Maybe because from the creative point of view there is nothing so dangerous as security”. – Jhumpa Lahiri

 

 

 

Perfect surfaces don’t exist 

I am made of fault lines,

Of old and tattered parchment, a map of the world

Fresh with tea stains and synthetic happiness

I am made of metaphors and heartbreaks,

Of being scared more than I admit

Of losing time and people and hair pins 

I am made of aged red wine,

The bold kind that leaves you in a stupor 

Of too-loud laughter and too-big dreams

I am made of peacock feathers and lotus stems

And constellations 

And never giving up. 

Sunrise

She believed in me in a way no one else ever has and no one else ever will, and I betrayed her. The worst part is she doesn’t know. She still thinks that I am the same person she met freshmen year; stumbling under the influence into her cramped dorm room, demanding something to eat. She thinks that I am the same girl who comforted her when the boy two floors below broke her heart, the same girl who would mark her present in class when she would skip to meet him behind the Miller parking lot. She thinks that I am her roommate from sophomore year, when we lived in that four person suite with the cramped kitchen and tattered, blue couches; the one who left her “Have a good day!” notes to find around the bedroom, the one who would always split the bottle of Jägermeister with her, the one who would raid her closet every morning before class.

To say that a boy came between us would be akin to saying that the hare took a nap, and never explaining the whole notion of ‘slow and steady wins the race’.

He was as handsome as he was aloof. He had golden hair and firm hands. He took me on a long drive, after an after-party that left us crossfaded and me, a little in love. We sat on the hood of his Cherokee and waited hours for the Sun to come up. We never checked our phones and so, we didn’t know that it was only 3 am. It was a clichéd night, but through it all, I saw his green eyes, staring at me longingly, hungrily. I saw the ocean relentlessly making love to the shore, despite being sent away a hundred times. I heard nothing, for silence was mangled with furious blood, thumping away at my temples. I felt heavy, and then… as soon as it had started … I felt light again.

The next morning, I looked into her tired and worrisome eyes, and lied, no trace of remorse. I brushed away her concern and scolded her for losing sleep over my whereabouts. I told her nothing of the Plan B, nothing of the beige cardigan I had borrowed from her, the one I had left in the backseat in my hurry to leave the vehicle, to leave him, to leave the smell of the ocean behind. I told her nothing of him. I made up one lie, and then another. Then, I said a third one to bring it all together. She doesn’t, will never know.

She will hold my sorority friends responsible for us drifting apart. She will tell our other friends that I have changed. She will room with someone else come junior year and register for classes alone, instead of with me. She will probably feel confused and blame herself, and then me, and then everyone else. Eventually, she will move on. But she will never, cannot ever know about the boy that she warned me against.

#crushingdoubt

This is one of my famous attempts to prove to myself that I am a decent writer. I’m participating in the Writers Crushing Doubt contest hosted by Positive Writer. More details here: http://positivewriter.com/writing-contest-2016/

Welcome to my entry.

I was born in a tiny village in the southern part of India. As a girl, I was sleepless and restless; stories consumed me. I would wake up my mother in the middle of the night and ask for a story so I could go back to bed. I learnt of mythical gods and courageous farmers from her. But I wanted more. At 10, my imagination was so full-fledged that I began to write. I wrote about girls who had fights with their best friends, and about younger siblings that craved attention. At 13, I wrote poems in cursive. At 15, I hastily etched prose paragraphs into the folds of beautiful notebooks. I researched top schools for Journalism. I felt like I was meant to write.

So, imagine my surprise when I found myself in an undergraduate business university at 18. Journalism was not, according to my parents, a “good” profession. Business, on the other hand, was stable. I nodded and moved to Waltham, Massachusetts and learnt about all sorts of accounting principles. Here’s what I was yet to learn, though. Journalism or no journalism, writing, to me, was therapeutic. Without it, I was lonely. Being in a business school meant that I was spending time in the trading room and in the economics lab. Being away at college meant that I was testing my limits and getting used to never being alone. All of a sudden, I had no time to stop and jot down my thoughts.

“Besides”, I told myself, “it’s a business school! You don’t need writing to survive here”.

But, I did. I was just making excuses because writing, even though I was in a business school, would mean one or both of the following things:

  1. I could be at the wrong school, trying to break into the wrong profession.
  2. I needed to be extraordinarily good, if I was going to go out of my way to write.

It is amazing to me, now looking back, that I did not just put myself out of my misery, grab a pen and let it all flow. It was the doubt that told me I could not write anymore, because there is no way I was good enough for me to rise above my circumstances. I was not studying literature or journalism like I had wanted to, so there was no real point in writing. I did not want to break my own heart. I did not want to understand what writing truly meant to me.

There was a drunk night freshmen year that ended me exchanging poems with a friend. I read out a few lines I had written years ago and her eyes widened.

You wrote that?”

I nodded.

“What are you doing in a business school?”

Ah. The dreaded question that I had been scared to ask myself. But I kept making her read more. It felt good to have an audience. It felt even better to hear words that were locked up inside of me, spewed out into the world. I do not claim that youthful drunkenness is the remedy to #crushingdoubt, but it might just be up there.

I sobered up and wrote more. I knew that I had received critical acclamation from my audience of one and frankly, it was the push I needed to get out of my head and into my writing. I was too focused on what my writing meant. I was too keen on the idea that if I was to go out of my way to write, I was going to have to be really good. But I don’t have to be anything other than the messy combinations of words and metaphors inside my head. My writing only has to mean something to me. It has to be good to me. An audience helps, no doubt. Critiques and re-writes are important. But what comes first, is putting that pen to the paper and writing.

A Kindergarten Lesson

I was taught, as many of us were I’m sure, that manners are the way to go. If you want something, say please. You want them to know you are polite. When they hand it to you on a silver platter, say thank you. You want them to know you appreciate their efforts. I was also taught that hard work yields results. You must be the wave that keeps kissing the shoreline with ferocity; because if you are, you will achieve all that you hope for. So when I entered college, I got to work.

I applied to things, attended classes and took notes. I updated my resume every other week. For a while, it seemed like the adults were right – my hard work paid off. In fact, during my first semester of my final year at Bentley University, I had 3 jobs. One was an off-campus internship and the remaining two were on-campus positions. On top of this, I was doing well in school and held a leadership position in an on-campus organization as well. Those were the glory days, if I might say so myself.

Then came spring semester. It was a different time. I stumbled upon Facebook posts and Instagram pictures of my peers who had signed offer letters or been accepted into a Masters program. I felt like being successful in college has garnered me a medallion, which was now choking me. I couldn’t casually chat with someone and not have them ask me what my plans after college were. Even friends, in low, morbid voices, would ask, “Do you know what you’re doing yet? I mean…after?” This was all done with the best of intentions, with well-meaning curiosity. That little fact, however, wasn’t enough to console me, because I always had the same answer. “No idea”.

All of a sudden, it felt like my days had to be spent researching jobs and writing cover letters, because unemployment after college felt like the imperial stigma. It felt like none of the achievements in the past mattered if I did not know what I was going to be doing with my life, before I had to walk across a stage in a cap, gown and tassel to collect a degree I wasn’t sure meant anything to me anymore. Besides, for someone who has, in the past, been eligible for 3 separate employment opportunities, how could finding one full-time job be so damn impossible? And yet, that is what it seemed like.

In the beginning, I would read the job description and try to imagine myself engaging in the responsibilities described. If the fantasy was an easy one to achieve, I would go ahead and start typing up a cover letter from scratch. I would outline my qualifications and summarize, in depth, the skills I would bring to the job. I used ‘collaborate’ and ‘diligent’ and ‘effective communication’. The subtext of all of this, however, was ‘please’.

Please reply back to my email. Please call me in for an interview, I won’t disappoint. Please think I have something that the others don’t. Please don’t ask me if I am a U.S. citizen. Please, please.

Eventually, when the rejections started rolling in and it seemed as though there was no point in much trying, I stopped the fantastical imaginative process. My eyes started to glaze as I read the job descriptions and my cover letter template proved most useful. Still, my words said please with resounding force.

Please give me a chance, I don’t want to graduate without a job. Please understand that I am actually a really good worker. Please look past my words and all the desperation, and see shiny beads of optimism that just won’t back down. Please.

January and February had slowly rolled in and out of my last semester. They bid farewell with pity in their eyes. March snuck up on me, making me more and more nervous. It forced me to allocate 3 hours a day to searching, researching and writing, and then, before I could blink, left in a hurry. April was a tornado. It left me in pieces. I found myself waking up in a frenzy that had nothing to do with the last few weeks of college and everything to do with the after. I shrugged off all words of encouragement at this point because none of them seemed tangible. None of them were going to get me a job.

These were thoughts I expressed to a friend one Tuesday night. I sat on his couch and cried. I let my un-employability whirl around the room and told him that I felt like a loser; for not knowing and for not being able to embrace the uncertainty. He listened to me without interrupting. Then, he spoke about a cousin he had. Someone who was accomplished in the field I wanted to break into. He asked me if I wanted to speak with her and apologized for not thinking of connecting me with her earlier. I nodded a small yes. I was broken but determined. I was ready to run down any path in the hopes that it would lead me to clarity.

Clarity came the week after, but not in the form of a job offer. Clarity came from a rejection email. I had applied to a job in Canada. The position fit everything I wanted and the interview was stimulating. I was certain of how much I wanted it. Around 4 pm, my phone buzzed. It was an email that clearly stated that though they had loved my candidacy, my visa status meant that they were going to pursue other options. Basically, a no like any other.

Except this one felt different. It came a few weeks before my last day on campus. It came as I was getting ready to say goodbye to the life I’d known for 4 years. Instead of disabling me, it gave me crutches to walk to the other side. I was not going to graduate with a job. I was going to have to be done with this chapter of my life before I find out anything about the next one… and that was okay. All of a sudden, I felt okay about not having it all figured out. I almost laughed when I thought about how old I was.

21.

And I had so much time to figure it out. Here I was, rushing, as if graduation was D-day. I could see beyond, now. Sure, the disappointments hurt but just like that, I was okay with them. I felt calm knowing that my life would continue to grow once May 21 had come and gone. Subconsciously, I proceeded to become excited about the next five-year window of my life. This was just as well, because I was getting tired of being the pessimist in the group. Negative thoughts, I had realized, could be exhausting.

But an hour before my final exam at Bentley, I got an offer letter with my name on it. A final, defining clarity. It was the cousin. I had interviewed with her a week prior to that. She wanted me to join her team. Just like that, all those months and days of stress and disappointment fell away. All that remained what a certain kind of optimism. It brought everything together for me. 6 hours and 2 parental phone calls later, I had accepted the offer. Now, I had the task of saying thank you to the person whose idea had catalyzed my employment. The please and thank yous, once again, were on my mind.

I walked into his room slowly. As I did, I saw a mental image of my flustered self, hurrying in with tears in her eyes, just weeks earlier. He was standing by the kitchen counter. I told him my news and he was happy for me. It was all very anti-climactic in the end. I tried to tell him what this meant to me but he didn’t want any part in it.

“This is all you. You deserve it. You worked for this”.

But I did hug him for a long time, and here’s what I wanted to say but didn’t:

Thank you for listening to me, for thinking of me, for trying to help me. Thank you for recommending me, for believing in me enough to vouch for me. You don’t know this yet, but you have given me the starting point that I am going to make my own. You tell me that you have not done anything hard in your life and that there are times you don’t respect yourself because of it. But I want you to know that I do. I respect you because you are wise and you care. You tell it like it is, even if the person you call out is yourself. So, thank you for being my Yoda, if you will. The one that always told me the truth. Thank you for this opportunity and for being part of my life. Thank you. Thank you.

V, I hope that this hug imprints my thoughts onto you. I hope that you know that through all the broken hearts and knees, the 4 am confessions about imperfect families and friendships, I am proud to call you my twin.

Saying thank you was immeasurably harder than saying please, because it meant so much. And now that I have started, I find that I cannot stop at just one thank you. I do ask that you bear with me because I must thank one more person. As I went through my journey of self-doubt, uncertainty and disappointment, this person stood by me every step of the way. I find that calling him my boyfriend takes away from the vigor with which I feel about him. I don’t want to confine our relationship to its romantic boundaries because that would be inaccurate. A is my best friend, mentor, therapist, cheerleader, food critic, drinking buddy and secret diary. He is the still water that consumes my waterfall. He can make me laugh on the darkest of days. I can only imagine how hard it must have been for him to watch me spiral into my darkest fears. But he was persistent. He held on for me when I gave up.

He supported me. He told me that my time would come, and then he spent an incredible amount of time trying to make me believe it. I think I almost did. He was the first person I told about the offer letter. As I lay next to you and told you the news, and you rubbed sleepy eyes to congratulate me, here’s what I was thinking.

Thank you for never giving up on me. Thank you for being my rock. Thank you for understanding me when I was being incoherent. Thank you helping me up, every day. You tell me that I have changed your life and I don’t know how to respond; because you didn’t change my life, you shaped it with your love, your kindness and your words. You are the very reason I am who I am. So, thank you for helping me morph into a person I am proud to be. Thank you. Thank you.

I guess what I am trying to say is that manners are tough in the real world. But they’re equally important. You have to be humble enough to say please and thank you, because you cannot make it out there, alone. You are going to need help. Don’t be afraid to ask for it, and don’t forget to be grateful after.