a list of things dad taught me
- keeping promises
my dad taught me the importance of not making promises you don’t intend to keep by breaking every promise he ever made to me
he taught me the exact weight that a promise has and how that weight becomes crushing
because a broken promise never comes into fruition, it can never be completed or saw through to its end, it just lingers and over time the weight gets heavier as you contemplate what it is that broke it
he taught me to never say anything i didn’t truly mean by constantly smiling while he was lying to me.
the first time he lied – or the first time i realized it – was when i was seven and he’d told me he’d go get ice cream instead of admitting “baby girl, i had no business having another kid when i never had a single intention of caring for it. over the next few days you’ll hear from me less and less until your sixteenth birthday when i’ll show up unannounced and unapologetic. what flavor would you like?”
2. thinking instead of feeling
in high school i was told that i was a good writer. in middle school, i was told i was wise beyond my years. in elementary school, it was said that my imagination was grandiose and that if i should use it, i could truly prevail
in the arts, in science, whatever i decided to do because my mind didn’t move in accordance to the rules
for that, i thank my dad because if not for him, i would have focused on how sad i was never being good enough for him
instead my mind was ample with complex and philosophical questions like “if jellyfish had regular sex, how would look their erections?”
i was curious about things that didn’t really matter and i watched movies and wrote them to evade the disaster that would no doubt wreak havoc on my mind if i let it
if i felt too much, i think i would have died because my feelings ran rampant with all the things i wanted to hide and not consider. my friends had fathers and their fathers loved them, on sitcoms i saw nuclear families, one day my friend said a father isn’t someone who makes a child but someone who teaches one
the importance of love and peace and kindness and positivity
my father’s name is george, i thought it was funny because george my father never taught me any of those things but george harrison did, thank you quiet one
3. not thinking at all
sometimes all that i can see in my ideas and writings and in my day dreams is a facet of myself that i don’t really look at. sometimes if i stare in the mirror long enough, i freak out and shout “there’s a me!” which is a terrifying thought
it’s often easier to pretend i just don’t exist
i read somewhere that being a wallflower has its perks and it does. i can be a part of life without getting hurt. i can blend into the wall and never inconvenience anyone, make myself smaller so everyone else feels big,
an act that’s less about them and more about me
because if i really have to acknowledge that i am a human being, that i really exist, and am not a ghost floating through a mortal world unseen,
i would know that there’s nothing stopping me from breaking down and, even more terrifying, nothing stopping me from building up the person i know i really am
i often say my deepest fear is being buried alive and it is but i think my deepest fear is me
4. how to be angry
teenage angst is so universal, movies are made about it every year. teenage angst is the feeling of being helpless and frustrated and confused and hurt and it all coalescing into slammed doors and a biting tongue. teenage angst gives everyone the chance to be in a superhero movie but never the hero, always the villain. moody and destructive and misunderstood and violent.
i’ve met people in their fifties who miss their teenage years and recall it as a time of glory and fun and opportunities from every direction. for them, it can be remembered as a time of love and lust and freedom in bloom. no one i know feels that way.
for the people a little closer to their teenage years, it isn’t fun. we remember daunting high school and the stress and the cliques and rules and the immense discontent. we remember our anger never being justified, people said we were whining but no one wanted to listen and when we did try to reach out and get someone to understand, they said we were complaining and not to bother them again
my angst was bottled up for so long that when i hit fourteen, the soda pop exploded on everyone and it hissed and it popped and it stuck because even though my anger was bitter, it was still sticky. instead of talking it out (though i did try once), i held on to that anger because it was the first time in a long time that i allowed myself to feel
when i listen to the music i listened to at that time, i sometimes cry because i know i really wanted to die
during that time i wrote many suicide notes that never got used but i still keep to remember how much i abused myself over something that wasn’t my fault
that anger that wasn’t mine at all, i held onto until it burned, until it teared at my insides, until it ripped me a part because that anger remained whole when my world was falling a part
5. how to question self-worth
this is relatable: i don’t try to do things not because i’m afraid to fail but because i’m afraid to win
i don’t think i deserve to win anything
when i was around eleven, maybe twelve, i was asked if i wanted to be interviewed by a local news station to offer insight on a day in the life of a young muslimah and i said no
i refused and refused and shook and shook because i didn’t think there was anything i could offer
i wasn’t a good muslima and i didn’t do much of anything in the day aside from read books and watch movies and basically decay. i didn’t deserve to be televised or interviewed. i didn’t deserve the attention or the accolades.
i used to think i was shy but it wasn’t until writing this sort of poem that i realize i’m not afraid of speaking up because i’m shy. i’m afraid of speaking up because i don’t deserve to shine. when i flip through old notebooks of mine full of stories that i never entered into competitions because i didn’t want to win, i see great tales of nothing and everything and over the words written in black ink is a bold red sharpie scrawl that shouts “U PIECE OF SHIT”
a friend once told me that another girl in school didn’t like me and i shrugged. “there’s no one in the world,” i said, “who could possibly hate me more than i hate myself.”
6. how to not accept a compliment
back to the lesson of keeping promises and staying true, i don’t believe anyone who says anything good about me unless my eyebrows are on point and i’ve been feelin’ myself all day.
but mostly when people compliment me, my first reaction is to say “no” and “you’re wrong” because i don’t know how to just take the comment, put it in my pocket, and say “thank you”
and mostly because i never believe them.
it’s a defense mechanism that’s like my anxiety. i know it doesn’t make any sense, that it’s irrational and unlikely but i listen to the side that says “what if?” because it makes more sense that no one would be able to find anything admirable about me.
7. how to hide from affection
i crave relationships. i like the idea of having someone to trust, having a partner in crime to escape with, someone to laugh at bad tv with, and to share my darkest thoughts with without any inhibition
i like the idea of being close to someone and never fearing whether they like me or not, of being comforted, and of comforting. of being loved in a way that’s so real it almost feels tangible.
but again these are ideas.
because when it comes down to the thick of it, i can’t stand people and want them to leave me alone. when a friend of mine starts dating, i think it’s cute and show my support for that ship to sail infinitely but when anyone so much as smiles at me, i clam up.
i wish i clammed because it makes me nervous to be looked at in such a way but, really, it just grosses me out. when people hug me, i feel uncomfortable. if they put an arm around me, i cower. the only affection i’ll accept is from a baby because they don’t know any better.
this talent of ducking and diving away from every gesture of love was a skill my dad taught me because when you get used to having someone to hug, the moment you need an embrace, you’ll turn around and find no one in sight.
i used to say there was only one person i trust and that was myself but i’ve learned that she’s the one who cares about me the least so the person i trust with comforting me is my papa john, starbucks, and ben & jerry
8. how to grow
i never traveled as a child. i still haven’t been out of the country and a lot of my neighboring states remain an enigma to me. but when i graduated high school, the plan was always to head to new york because bob dylan had one of his transformations in new york.
but at the end of june, a month after graduation, a packet in the mail arrived for a college at another location and by the end of august i boarded my first plane and was on my way to san francisco.
i still don’t know why i chose san francisco at the very last moment, it was a world away from the life that i lead and the life that i planned, but it felt right.
san francisco was a beacon that i almost didn’t see, it was an opportunity to see life and the world in different means
for me the move to san francisco was when i began my metamorphoses, getting on the plane was getting into my cocoon but the transformation didn’t end when i landed the first time, it took until my sophomore year
when i started befriending people and going out and strolling through museums and eating at cellar restaurants and extending myself to a world i didn’t know existed
during my time there, i grew like never before. i learned how to be, how to live, how to see, and – number nine – how to forgive
forgiving isn’t forgetting, that’s what i never understood. forgiving is remembering and accepting what’s been misunderstood.
my dad shouldn’t have had kids if he didn’t want them, to me that was clear. but i’ve come to understand that the attempts he made to be there were sincere.
for whatever reason, the attempts never worked out. they didn’t become anything more than short visits and a day out
at the movies or amusement park — all the fun stuff with no substance but they were real and those memories are light spot in my conscience
that sophomore year of college a lot of things happened. my favorite band got really popular, a girl told me she was in love with me, and my dad called
we talked for hours a few days straight until we didn’t talk at all
he sent me a package of stuff i like and still use, a movie, some spider-man pajamas, and a bomb brand of shampoo
i know that he cares, i guess it’s a hard dime
for him to express that love over extended periods of time
i don’t consider him a father and after finding out things about him, i’m glad he wasn’t there
but my mother is not angry , i am no longer angry, and as a result we’re finally free
this is overly long and not what i meant to write but it’s what came out. if you made it this far, thank you. ♡