And I understand why everything has been so out of place, and why I can’t find solace in sleep or in prayer. Reflect my heart whispers. And don’t you dare leave out a single detail.
I plan not to.
College is both alike and different from what I expected. There is so much to do, so many options, so many resources, so many directions. Everything is big and wide, far and fast. I am an onlooker, dazed at the world around me. Everyone is loving at full speed, rushing to classes, bags on their backs and under their eyes. And their eyes? Glued to pixels on screens, furiously typing or scrolling, like the world is frozen.
Sometimes, I’ll look away from my own computer screen, searching for some sign of life. An awkward eye contact, a shy smile, an eye roll. Nothing.
And yes, it will get better and worse. No, I am not prepared for any of it.
On the first day of college, I woke up early, nervous and afraid. Nothing was good enough: not my outfit, not my breakfast, not my attitude. I didn’t know what to expect. Once the “good luck!” texts poured in from my dear friends, I was calm and collected but simultaneously overwhelmed. On the way there, I fumbled with my fingers in the passenger seat of my mother’s minivan. Silence, The Beatles, Mohammad Rafi... everything felt uncomfortable. To ease my nerves, I played Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement speech. I recited the words I knew along, and everything felt okay for a little while.
My first affair was a group meeting with some kids from my major. Our mentor was a perky brunette named Ashley who was too excited to see us. While most kids seemed uninterested, I was astounded by her radiance. She was warm and inviting, and promised that everything would get easier eventually. I didn’t know if I should believe her.
I remember the rest of the day’s academics in flashes of long walks across campus and big lecture halls. I remember the light bouncing off of my bald professor’s head as he made another dad joke only I found funny, and I remember sitting in music class with Mehdi as he hummed along to the jazz piece the professor played. I remember feeling out of place in my brother’s t-shirt and baggy jeans.
I also remember Hibah texting me to come over, eating grilled cheese sandwiches on the wooden floor of her apartment and ending up laughing at nothing in a thrift shop with her among many smelly sweaters. I remember buying two tops that were essentially the same but convincing myself they were different, and I recall meeting with friends who asked too many questions about my wellbeing I somehow didn’t know the answers to. I remember sitting in a conference study room surrounded by them, their smiles, notebooks, syllabi and an empty feeling. I remember soaking in my surroundings: black leather chairs, light bouncing off a Hibah’s headphones, peeking at my reflection in the laptop screen and noticing my peeling lipstick.
I recall ending back at Hibah’s home and sharing secrets and giggling on her black couch, and I recall making way to my sister’s new place shortly after. I recall her friends asking me how my day was, and I remember being honest about it. I remember the exhausted car ride home watching the city lights dance away to the beat of “Cheap Thrills”.
Most importantly, I remember watching the pearly moon hanging in the sky from my bed and telling myself, “Duriba Khan, this is your life and you will be both happy and sad and as long as you are never one without the other, it will all be okay”.