Elevator to the Twenty-Fourth

Ding

The elevator stops with a pleasant chime. I look down at my feet; they’re in two little shoes with pink bows.

There’s a whole world behind the doors that pull apart. In fact, there are two. One is filled to the brim with the laughter of kids and their mischief. I’m a good girl, I have always been, so I’ll keep to myself. In the other world I see home, and that one is brimming with my screams, because there are bad thoughts inside my head, and I am only as evil as they are, no matter how gentle the distraction of my mother’s perfume is. It is quiet at home, and I feel loved and cared for. But I am broken, and I deserve the unnaturally sinister sneers of little girls, as they look my way and whisper and laugh, and laugh and laugh, until I can bear it no longer, and I crumble and fall apart, and open my eyes back in that same box.

I look down at my feet again. This time, they’re in sneakers. My shoes are a little worn and tattered, but I’m bigger, and more grounded. The chime leads me to a dark place lit by tiny yellow lights and a carousel. Not unpleasant, but oddly comforting. It looked like a carnival, but it’s behind an invisible barrier beyond the doors. I muster up my courage, and cross over, and it’s bustling and warm, and the air carries the scent of candied apples in it. I hear my friends in the carousel, so I join. I spin along, savoring the carelessness, and laugh along with my friends, and there’s a world out there, and a life to be lived, but I can’t be bothered. I’m enjoying my time enough to spoil me rotten. But then, a call pulls me out; that I can’t go on like this. It’s a too-pleasant dream, and awareness draws your dreams to their end. There are struggles to overcome, and strength to be gained, and a life to be lived.

So this time, I find my way back on my own two feet, in the tattered sneakers that have become more worn. The elevator chimes, and behind the doors is the ocean, the very dark depths of it. I don’t find it threatening because I am ignorant. So I pass through the invisible barrier at the doors, first with my fingertips, then my hands, then my whole body.

It is not terrible at first. I suppose that I am still a little skewed, maybe not quite right. But it won’t get so bad. So I let the water consume me, bit by bit, grab hold of my fragile mind, and crush me inside out. It is deep, and I am suffocating and there’s no air in my lungs, and my voice can’t push anything out. I can’t say it because I’m drowning.

A hand pulls me back into the box this time, and I’m soaking and shivering and worn. My feet are bare, because I didn’t think I would escape, but that gentle perfume I can recognize. The elevator leads me back to the ocean sometimes, but I stand and resist when it happens, because I’m not falling again.

At least, I’m trying to.

The chime takes me to an all-white wall, and puts me in black kitten-heels. I trace my palms on that wall and walk along its side. I find a gap; the wall is a maze.

In the white maze I stumble and fall, and get lost more times that I can count. Others find their ways out easily, I think, and I have to remind myself that it is not always how it appears. But I can’t help it, and it eats me up, that comparison, and that desperate feeling of falling behind. I’m losing, and only pretending that I’m not, and I am clueless about the way out, or what sits at the very end. I’m dreading the next fall, or the next loss, and sometimes it’s not too bad because it really isn’t a race.

But today my eyes stung and my tears filled them all the way up, then they overflowed and burned down my cheeks. I can’t find the strength to fight them, but I think I’ve found something else. I’ve found the stairs, and I’ll kick these shoes off and run up and stumble and fall. There’s a purpose to be found, and a life to be lived, and I will soon learn not to fear any of it.


 

It’s ya girl’s birthday, and I cried out of existential dread, but had to write a little something here to celebrate (?) or to actually remind you guys to wish me a happy one. I hope someone takes the time to express what they’ve interpreted from all of this 🙂

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Still

I feel like I’ve been searching in me for something to write. I’ve tapped into what’s inside, trying to scribble it out into a poem or the like, just for the sake of writing something. Needless to say, I failed (several times over).

Then I considered that hey, that could be a good thing. There’s no grief for me to romanticize into pretty words and allusions to nature. But then I looked again, reflecting deeper, looking for anything.

I was empty.

It’s a haunting thing, to look back and notice that you’ve been caught up in a soul-deadening routine of willing your day to end and willing your week to end and forgetting that that’s your life running by. When your insides are carved out and hollow, there’s much room for you to sink into some depth of anxiety, one that forces you to look and see what a horrible person you’ve become, you and all that dwells inside you, you, and your dark, twisted envy.

I don’t know whether I’m able to snap out of this, or whether I’d grown accustomed to being constricted. It has been a while since I genuinely laughed, and far too long since I just had fun. It’s selfish, considering that I could be living my best life right now, with more blessings than I can count. But I’m longing for laughter and freedom and a new breath in my lungs. I long, and I can’t forgive myself for that.

There’s a lot I can’t seem to forgive myself for, wanting being the main thing. I never allow myself to want anything so much, because I can’t bear the thought of not getting it after that. This void inside me I carved out myself, digging out faults in every single thing that excites me, or that I long for, or that I aspire to be. I fear rejection dreadfully, and loss, so much that I want always to maintain things as they are, that I purposefully convince myself that I can’t do it, or that I don’t really want it. There are external restrictions, too, but I avoid defying them because I don’t really want it, or because I can’t really do it. It’s hard to fight for something you’re indifferent about.

There’s such a complexity in being human. Throughout this post, I’ve called my inside an empty void, but it also is a mess of thoughts and worries and gratitude and joy and brokenness. Being left with my thoughts is frightening, like a heavy, awkward meeting with a half-stranger. So I savor the emptiness when it comes, and I can’t tell if I love myself or if I hate her, but I want that emptiness to stop being an amplifier of my thoughts. I want it to transform into a stillness, into a symbol of peace within. I want it to give me room to ignite, to burn up and down with what I love should I find it.

I want peace and forgiveness, and a burning will to see all that life could offer.

Purpose

I spent the first 21 years and 9 months of my life trying to find my talent or a productive ability of some sorts. From graphic design to crafting, I found myself switching between smaller versions of activities my peers were exceptionally good at. But me? I’d never been the best at anything besides being a self-righteous little crap.

I remember the first piece of creative writing that I’d given to someone; I remember how easily the words tumbled down onto my keyboard and how much fun I had. It was a short piece, and a really bad one. It received a good reaction from the recipient, although I don’t think it was anything more than half-empty flattery.

For long after that, I didn’t write. It never particularly appealed to me, not when my friends were out there climbing up higher with their own work. What’s a bland hobby like writing compared to that? Anyone can string together a couple of words, right?

Writing is an art, and art is expression. That, friends, I was exceptionally bad at, always expressing too much or too little and overall just wrong. I think I still am a mess for no reason; no one’s ever forced me to grow so emotionally illiterate. I wouldn’t say I started to write to express things I otherwise couldn’t, but maybe it’s that creative energy that was building up and needed an outlet. I wanted something to be good at, something to work to improve; a fling to the future that I needed to compare my improvement to. I needed a craft, an art, as disrespectful as I’d been towards it. I pride myself in being a woman in STEM, and frankly, possibly because I am conceited and horrible, found other fields including the arts.. not as necessary.

But we crave it, don’t we? The luxury of art and beauty that comes after fulfilling all of your basic needs for survival. Maybe there is a truth that lies behind John Keating’s quote, “And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

(I’ve never seen that movie, just so you know. But I’ve grown to recognize the worth of the other half of the statement, although I’d only thoroughly believed in the first.)

I suppose my first naive conviction that my writing was good as soon as I started regularly practicing it was a blessing. But I don’t write for money, I don’t think I’ve even considered it until this very moment, and am not planning to. That’s not to undermine the efforts of people who do write for money, since my reason to write is a far more selfish thing. “Write for yourself,” some might say, but I’ve done enough for myself. There was a post on social media that said something along the lines of “when I’ve spent six hours baking a cake, I’d want people to eat it” to describe the creative process. I understand the importance of receiving an indication of people having spent time appreciating your work. I won’t write exclusively for myself, because I’ve done enough, watched shows and read books aimlessly, wallowed away in hobbies that produced nothing tangible (not directly, at least), or in ones whose products I was too embarrassed to share. It’s about time I put this out there for the world to see.

I write for attention. I write because I want people to read my work, to appreciate it; I write for feedback, to have people tell me that they relate, or that my writing’s put them on edge, or that it’s eased something in them, or dragged them through harder times. Maybe it’s a far-fetched hope of mine, but I really hope that one day, people will seek my writing to get their minds off of the harsher realities of their lives; maybe my writing is a little defiance, an insignificant effort to add a touch of beauty to this world.

nonexistent reads

The preteen me, on average, probably finished more books a year than the adult me does. I suppose it is a similar issue some others face, growing up an avid reader then managing to grow out of it. Books by Jacqueline Wilson were my favorite, because there was something so real about them, and although they were meant for a younger audience, they never completely treated their readers like kids. My life as an Arab child was far different from all of the main characters’ of Wilson’s books, but they still were so human, and I remember feeling that she didn’t really shy away from exploring the complexity of emotions and presenting them to children.

I grew, and the number of books I read on a yearly basis took a nosedive (let’s keep comics out of this now, shall we?) I only remember really enjoying murder mysteries during my teenage years, and even those I read very, very few of.

I grew, and tried to get back into reading. My cousin, (shoutout: theyoungdeer) a very, very active reader, especially compared to yours truly, has been lending me all of her favorite picks, and I enjoyed a number of them. But I still haven’t found a book that I’d give 5/5, and I wonder if I ever will.

For the most part, I try to stay away from the angry, all-caps reviews on Goodreads beforehand because I’d rather develop my own opinion (which eventually becomes that angry, all-caps review). I’m thoroughly disappointed by too many new releases, and although I struggle with plots and don’t even consider myself a writer in the first place, I’ve been finding most of my reads mundane and butchered and unworthy of the praise that I find on the back of their covers. Call me a pretentious prick, I deserve it.

But the books I love are very particular, I want them to unravel, to build up and then ease down, to entangle every word put into them and grow complex, then wrap up and conclude like a gift; I like uncomfortably real characters and complicated plots and simple, beautiful writing that flows and takes the reader along. I miss having a book that I don’t want to put down.

and her ongoing crisis

I’ve been using the term “quarter-life crisis” to sum up all of the confusion tumbling around my life. It had manifested itself in huge white-rimmed glasses, but I changed out of those into clear acrylic frames last week. They’re gorgeous and I love them, and I’ve been asking everyone to praise them. I don’t care what they really think.

But my crisis is a bigger one, although I’m at a stable phase. I am incredibly grateful, but it feels stagnant, and really, it’s no one’s fault if it’s not my own.

I think it’s called activation energy, the push you need to do something out of your routine. Reaching out, doing something new, and you don’t ever feel like doing it, but you have to force yourself. It’s that initial leap that’s hard, but I’m not taking it.

I can’t get myself to take it. I am so terribly demotivated, so I’m just sitting with panic building up inside me, watching as my life languidly passes by. I can’t get myself to take it because although I know what I want, I don’t know how to get it. The path branches into too many, and I am crippled by the fear of taking the wrong one and wasting my time and my effort, but what if the wrong one is the comfort I’m sitting in now? Maybe I have been pushing myself, but not hard enough, considering that there are half-done applications sitting around for weeks waiting to be sent. “They’re not good enough,” I tell myself, but will they ever be good enough? Will they just become good enough if I’ve got no drive to improve them? It seems to be a form of procrastination, a foreign concept to someone who tends to worry months ahead. But it’s a destructive one, procrastinating goals that do not have a deadline, milestones in your life that you want to achieve, but that aren’t scheduled out for you.

And I’ve been comparing myself to others, people of my age and younger. It really is a horrible thing to do to yourself, a reflection of a deeper problem and non-existent self-confidence. It does nothing to your motivation; if anything, it just demotivates you further. Your life is your own timeline, Maryam, and the only person you should compare yourself to is yourself. I know it, but the dread comes in waves, and sometimes you can’t help but take a step back and look at the time you could’ve put elsewhere. But I’ve taken it upon myself never to regret anything. I believe that everything does happen for a reason, and that there is a silver lining in it all, even the time that you might think you’ve wasted.

Am I sad? Maybe. It feels like a combination of sadness and indifference that laces my mornings. If any, it’s that blunt kind of pain, that mundane joyless laughter. I do feel bad for it, because I believe that I’ve got no right to be sad. The feeling of guilt that comes with being sad is wired in me, I guess, and I don’t really know whether that’s a healthy coping mechanism (probably not). I feel alone, too, and vulnerable when I talk about it, even when I’ve done so many times in this blog. There’s a lot that that comes down to, as I’ve said in other posts, but I’m just not willing to change to anything but the better anymore, and I’m tired of considering whether my ‘better’ will be catered by others. Take it or leave it. It’ll heal.

So this is a resolution (if anyone’s still reading this? Hello?). I’ll try my best and keep faith. I’ll do it.

(update: The applications were sent!)

The life and writing update you don’t really need

Hello!

So my family’s gone abroad for a vacation, and I decided to stay home. In a community where you’re expected to live with your parents until you’re married, that quiet is more daunting than I thought it would be. Home’s generally quiet anyway, and although I’m not explicitly lonely, it feels like this kind of change gives way to some unnecessary thoughts to barge in.

Work has been overwhelming, and I cannot believe that when I’m finally (legally) able to take a couple of weeks off, I can’t find the right time to do it until the end of APRIL. Yes, I am on the verge of tears.

(Emphasis on verge, since today’s payday)

But writing has been going well, although I don’t know how my pace slowed down this much compared to when I was writing my first little novella (undisclosed, that was cringy as heck ughh). I really need to think up a new title for Constellations if I want to extend it.

I wrote a character introduction piece for my sea witch who isn’t actually a sea witch, she’s just that well informed. There’s something about writing people of color that can serve as my main motivation to write.

(Yes, I am a person of color too, but the people I write are often from other races. There’s so much to learn when you research that, even if you’re not sticking to our real life cultures when you’re writing up your own world)

I think I’m gonna post that under character intro and a flower prompt series I’ve been thinking of doing, one that includes the meanings of flowers or what they signify.

Heck yeah, science people don’t play.

Thoughts on Constellations a thousand friends

To the thousand followers of this blog, and to everyone who took the time to comment or like, thank you! I hope my pieces, short and chopped as they are, continue to provide some value or inspiration to you.

Now, I’ve never been a fantasy gal (nervously looks back to obscene amounts of true crime content). I guess starting one shocked me into writing Constellations after a writing block that lasted too long. If you haven’t read it yet, give it a shot and let me know what you think about the Woodwose, about the story, and/or about Constance. I’ve considered expanding into an online novella if people showed interest in it, but still a bit reluctant.

I found myself exploring the Woodwose and his past, and Constance with her adventure and the world they live in, and the creatures in it. Hey, this might actually grow into a series of novellas, not just one, if I magically gain the commitment that beats how worn out I get by writing up 1500 words (and a beta-reader, I must magically gain a beta-reader). And yes, “Constellations” is only a placeholder title that I decided on before self-doubt managed to seep in and toss the story in the trash.

I’ve also been trying to find good online short stories, things to draw inspiration from (and to force myself to read outside my typical genres). If you’ve written one, feel free to post a link to the full story, a chapter, or an excerpt. Anything is fine as long as it isn’t NSFW.

Thank you all for the thoughts and encouragement again. I’ll be looking forward to receiving your feedback!