Dear John

Design by Sara Offer

You are not at home in your body. You may not realize it yet, but there is a rift slowly opening between the person that you are and the person you wish you were. That rift is going to widen in the next few months as you start your freshman year of college. This rift is going to rip itself wider, wider, until it becomes an unfathomable chasm of all your worst days. And, my dear boy, you are going to fall into the endlessness of it, and it will force you to reckon with all the swirling, intersectional identities and spaces that you occupy and exist within. I won’t sugarcoat it—it will be the worst few months of your life. You’ll spend the entire first semester constantly riddled with paralyzing anxiety, never quite losing the feeling of being an alien in an environment that doesn’t want you. You’ll barely go out. You’ll form toxic and hurtful relationships. You’ll relapse into self-harm. And you’ll only seek professional help after you attempt suicide and end up in the emergency room’s psychiatric ward.

As terrible as all this sounds, this chasm will ultimately be good for you. It’ll help you to understand your diasporic and transnational Asian identity way better than you ever thought you would. You’ll learn to celebrate your heritage, instead of constantly trying to hide and conceal it like you’ve done your whole life. You’ll also come to terms with how inevitably your sexuality and gender coalesce, and you’ll finally understand why you’ve never felt happy to be “one of the boys.” The best part about it is you’ll learn to subvert the feeling of being an alien into your greatest strength.  The chasm will teach you to love yourself and properly take care of yourself for the first time. It’ll cleanse you of the nagging neurosis eating away at your brain since you were sixteen. You’ll feel clean and free—a new person.

And you’ll start the next semester as yourself. You’ll feel stable and safe enough to remove yourself from spaces that make you feel uncomfortable and anxious. You’ll start dressing the way you’ve always wanted. You’ll throw on skirts and dresses, going thrifting every chance you get. You’ll change your pronouns and name to something that affirms you and makes you feel much happier. You’ll deconstruct the internal racism and homophobia that once prevented you from being friends with other Asians, queers, and people just like you—and it will allow you to start building communities of love and care, instead of things as trite and vapid as “coolness” or status. And best of all, you’ll meet your partner. The most beautiful and wonderful person in the world. Someone that nourishes and strengthens you and is infinitely supportive of everything you do. Your relationship will make you want to be a better, more accommodating, and more communicative person. It will make you complete in ways you never knew you needed to be.

I know it’s scary. You’ve just finished two years of mandatory national service, during which you never talked about your feelings and instead spent all your time storming trenches and shooting at the rifle range. This journey will be so much more difficult and taxing than any physical stress could be. But it will nourish you, help you grow. It’ll help you find that ever-elusive thing that is happiness: not the fleeting kind, but the warm glow that stays within you. And you’ll finally, finally be at home in your body again.

I know you’ve got this.


Leave a Reply