Where the f&$# have you been?

In fall of 2016, I stopped talking to almost all of my friends.

The truth is, I didn’t really care about them.

It’s hard for me to say that now, because some of those people are so fucking important to me today, but the truth is everyone back then was just an acquaintance. None of my friendships had actually meant much to me. And it’s all because I didn’t know how to make meaningful connections.

There are a few reasons for this.

A. I moved a lot as a kid. I went to ten different schools throughout my life. I changed high schools three times. That means I graduated with people I didn’t know. Fuck sentiment.

B. I didn’t feel loved as a kid (and whether I actually was or wasn’t doesn’t matter). Kids search for unconditional love. And my parents are North African religious Muslim immigrants, so they had very specific expectations. That meant a B is for “beating.” And excommunication always seemed like a very real and likely threat.

I moved a lot and I didn’t feel loved, so I never learned how to love people. So when shit hit the fan, I suffered and I suffered alone. The truth is I was depressed during fall of 2016. And for the most part, no one knew.

But the feeling of loneliness wasn’t new. You see, I had always felt this sense of loneliness even when I was with my friends, and especially my family. That’s why I didn’t even consider reaching out to them and asking for help.

After climbing out of that deep, dark hole, I realized how much my absence had hurt everyone I had known.

I won’t forget the conversation I had with my best friend a few months after seeing the University therapist and getting my shit together. At first, she was so confused that I could just abandon her, after 9 years of friendship. But as soon as I explained to her what I had been going through, she immediately threw out her accusations and blame and anger, and embraced me in this life-changing hug. She cried and apologized. She was apologizing to me??? The same girl that I had ghosted for months, out of the blue. She had forgiven me so quickly. I was dumbfounded.

You see, my friend is this pure innocent soul who loves so deeply. And I didn’t know it then, but I learned something from her that day.

I haven’t yet reconciled with everyone I knew back then, but I’m sure they were all feeling a degree of betrayal. When I got back on the grid, all I got from people was “where have you been?” I couldn’t casually slip in “oh, just suffering from existential crisis, hbu?” So, there’s just been this big elephant in the room, and that elephant has been staring at me, waiting for me to explain myself.

But the thing is, I don’t feel the need to explain myself. I don’t regret cutting off every single person from my life. I did what I had to do. And if you took that personally, then I am truly sorry for hurting you in the process. It was not intentional and I hope you can forgive me and forgive anyone else who left your life without explanation. But I’m not writing this to apologize to anyone or explain myself. Instead, I want to share with you how I learned how to make meaningful connections and offer a new perspective.

After being forgiven so quickly by the people closest to me, I remember thinking this strange idea, “Do people actually love me?”

A lot has happened since then, and I can finally say that I’m better at accepting love from others. It’s still a new concept for me, but I recognize how crucial it is to see other people’s love for you.

Not quite so fast, though. I took almost two full years for myself. Before I can accept other people’s love, I had to learn how to love myself. If you’re on this journey, you know how hard it can be to recover from the trauma of other people’s expectations. And it’s a long journey, but it is worth it. In love, I have found meaning and purpose.

What that means is every second I choose to spend with another person, I am following through with a previously conscious decision to invest love into that person. That means I am constantly encouraging and reinforcing the beautiful qualities in each person I meet. That means I am a mirror for my friends, reflecting and reminding them of the reasons why they deserve to be loved.

I’m learning how to make meaningful connections by understanding my purpose in life. And if the word purpose doesn’t yet make sense to you, I beg you to think long and hard about your reason for being on this earth.

I think we all have one ultimate purpose. To connect. And in that connection, is acceptance and love.

Along my journey, I have also found a deeper connection to god. And my understanding of god has shifted from a “powerful, singular entity” to the life source that inhibits each living body. I don’t know if god is sitting on a throne somewhere in heaven (maybe?), but I think it’s likely that god is the life source in every single person and animal and plant. And that’s how we’re all connected. We’re all carrying a piece of god within us. And when I connect with you, the god in me is seeing his reflection in you.

After all, the universe was created by the big bang, which means there must have been one source of life energy. And when we are connected, we bridge the separation and become one again.

My connection with people has become so much more meaningful, but I’ve also found a deeper connection with kids and animals and plants too. I’m around three different cats, and each day I try to connect to the god within them. I try to get my mind out of the way and let our souls connect. And I seek to learn from their higher divinity.

There’s this beautiful lake behind my apartment, and every time I visit the trees and the ducks, I feel humbled and more connected to god through nature’s wisdom. After all, nature is where an apple fell on Newton’s head. And where Moses heard God’s voice.

When you feel connected to someone, you lose all your judgments of them. You have accepted that person exactly how they exist. And then, and only then, within true acceptance can you give and receive love.

My sister was the only person who I talked about my depression with, and her acceptance of me exactly as I was, broken and damaged, taught me love for the first time in my life.

My friend, with her acceptance of me exactly as I was, inconsiderate and neglectful, taught me how to love others with that unconditional love she showed me.

The truth is, that bullshit story they taught us in school about seeing the “real world” someday only blinded us from being present in the moments we were already experiencing. That day you are looking forward to when you become rich may never come. But what has come is this very second. And you get to choose how meaningful each second means to you.

I’ve decided to hunt for depth, scavenging through connection. I am ruthlessly burning down all my expectations in order to be as open as possible to feel god through each connection I make. I want to live fiercely, and love is the most powerful reminder of our existence. “Sawubona” is a lovely greeting in South Africa that means I see you, and by seeing you, I bring you into being. I’ll leave you with this quote by Alain de Botton:

Perhaps it is true that we do not really exist until there is someone there to see us existing, we cannot properly speak until there is someone who can understand what we are saying, in essence, we are not wholly alive until we are loved.

Thank you for seeing me.

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