Things I would not trade

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Evening in Tampa

I read this really great article on elephantjournal today that I think is a good way to process how jealous I am. I’m going to put the thoughts it provokes here.

I’m in my first ever queer relationship with the most adorable non-binary human. We’ve lived very different lives. They’ve been out for almost ten years and have dated several women. I’ve been out for…well, it’s debatable, but I’d say about 4 months, even though I have known I was queer for ten years, and they’re the first person I’ve ever dated who wasn’t a cisgender man.

And I am always jealous. I feel it all the time. ALL. THE. TIME. I have never been jealous like this before. Every time it comes up, I feel every second of those ten years. I feel as though I wasted all that time.

I think the article asks this very important question, one that I have to remember in those moments when I’m blinded by my own anguish. Would I give up everything about me just for that one thing I am jealous of? Because that is what those feelings point to.

I can’t possibly name all the things about myself and my experiences that I wouldn’t give up, but I’ll try to name at least a few of the important ones.

I wouldn’t give up my mom, my dad, or my brother. I wouldn’t give up my grandmother and grandfather. I wouldn’t give up trips to India, not the blazing heat of summer or the damp cold of winter. I wouldn’t give up being able to speak Hindi and Assamese. I wouldn’t give up Kaziranga, the elephants, the rhinos. All my cousins. All my aunts. Gold earrings. Cheap trinkets. Mekhlas. Praying with my grandmother early in the morning, the ritual of it, the flowers, the incense, the water. The things she taught me. The lychees, the jackfruit, the jammu. The fruits which I don’t remember the names of. Running around in the garden with my brother and the young people who help in the house. The smells. The dust. The bats. The insane driving habits. The pouring rain, and sailing little paper boats in the gutter.

I wouldn’t give up my first bhangra team. How we didn’t have outfits yet, so we just wore whatever old salwars were lying around in the house. The cheesy choreography. The way Paradis would tell us not to flail and would then flail continuously himself. How Charles’s hair was always stupid. All of Aditi’s photographs.

I wouldn’t give up Dr. Barnet. I can’t remember the name of the class I took with her, but I remember how she loved when I talked in class. She loved that I wanted to go to graduate school, and she helped me get there. I will always be thankful to her for that.

I wouldn’t give up Leah, the first person I would ever consider a mentor. I remember how kind I thought she was to apologize when she made a mistake. She would make food for us at staff meetings. She used to wear such colorful things. And she was such a beautiful person. Supportive of every endeavor anyone wanted to undertake, even if it seemed outlandish. Helped me establish the APIA Affairs anthology. I miss her.

I wouldn’t give up Alex, another mentor. How deeply I fell in love with him, and how funny it is to me now that I even admitted it to him (after a long time). His beautiful speeches. I remember he was the person who taught me that our weaknesses are an opportunity to connect with other people. He put me in charge of a team, gave me responsibilities. Structure. I was so annoyed with him. I had no idea what I was doing. He took me to conferences. Asked me to plan events. Gave me the closing speech at the end-of-the-year ceremony. At the end of it all, I still cannot believe how much I accomplished. I could not have done it without Alex.

I wouldn’t give up all that crazy shit I got up to at the University of Florida. Poetry classes with Professor Logan. I felt he always chose my poems on either the days that they sucked, or the days they were stellar. And when they were good, he was so generous with praise. The residence halls. The days I spent as a resident and then a Resident Assistant. Duke and Chelsea and Nicole. Brandon. Taxidermy. Poop in the oven. The kid who didn’t know how to do laundry.

The dance teams, the dance teams! Punjab di Asli Pehchaan. I never actually got to perform but, goddamn! Did they teach me some good form. Gator Bhangra. So much fun. Huddling in the cold under the stadium. The insanity of coordinating for performances in other cities. Shumaila’s 21st birthday. Laal ghagra. VISA talent shows. Diwali. The Asian student assembly. Such pride. Then joining the Chinese American Student Association team. Practices that were also chaos, but so much fun. Mid-autumn festival. Garba for the very last VISA show.

My littles. My Alicia and Maria and Amy and Narayan. How fiercely, fiercely proud I am of all of them. How fondly I remember all of them. How I met them (APIA affairs or AASU, every last one). Lake Wauberg. Reading groups. Late night talks. Surprise visits after I graduated. Getting drunk and then hungover. ECAASU. Horrible bangs. Pretty dresses. Big plans. Bigger dreams.

All the things I love about Gainesville. Micanopy. The Devil’s Millhopper. Downtown. Flaco’s. Las Margaritas. Spanish moss. Foggy nights. Midtown. Casadega. Moonlight on the beach. Love. Loss. Gatorship. The courage of all these people who tell their stories.

I would not trade Eun. Or Will either, but I wouldn’t tell him that. I wouldn’t trade Oriental Flavor or Crazy Noodles or that house where Rob lived. I wouldn’t trade Rob. I wouldn’t trade Rick and Morty with Rob. Or Quarg.

I wouldn’t trade all of RC. Ya-Ping and Rebecca. Kara and Amy. Vivian. Maya and Sujata.

I wouldn’t trade Hinduism. I wouldn’t trade that car ride up here with Dad. Or helping Roktim move. I wouldn’t trade discovering my city by myself. Driving alone to beaches and parks. Discovering Western Massachusetts by myself. Walking down country lanes. Walking up green hills. Finding winding rivers and craggy rocks. Tall trees. Old bridges. Tiny towns. Farms. Icicles. Perfect snowflakes. Crunchy snow. The way snow coats tree branches. Watching it fall deep in the woods. The silence. Beauty.

Sunsets.

All of the love and laughter. I wouldn’t give it up.

I love my sweetheart. I am happy if they are happy. I will not be small when they are happy. I will try to be me for them.

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