The other day, I changed my Facebook profile picture and header. And since I was on my phone, there is an option to swipe right on your header picture and it takes you to your other photos. And since I was just hanging out on the toilet, I decided to swipe through my photos, getting pretty deep into the last year.
Side bar, we all go on our phones on the toilet. Let’s not play coy.
And so I went through the photos of my sophomore year of college. And it made my heart hurt of happiness. Because I got to see all the fun moments again. Some were small, like eating fried ice cream with one of my best friends—Shelby—or bigger, like having a picnic with some of my friends who were graduating and being silly. It showed me the friends I made and lost over the year, and the person I was over this last year.
And as I was going through the photos, I thought about the person in the photos. What would other people think of the Danny that was in those photos? He was pictured with friends, eating ice cream, dancing, going to parties, snuggled up in pajamas, cozied up with friends, outside in the snow. He has a life, a smile on his face. Would they think he’s charming? Handsome? Outgoing?
On the outside, I’m sure that’s what they would see. But sophomore year was one of the hardest of my life, probably only on par with my sophomore year of high school, when I made the decision to come out of the closet.
But sophomore year of college was a little different. I don’t consider this to be a “secret”—because I don’t think it’s something shameful or meant to be kept a secret—but it’s just not something I often talk about. I think I’ve alluded to it in previous blog posts, but I struggle with depression and anxiety. The depression is something I’ve been dealing with—mostly unaware—for years, and the anxiety is something that developed in the last few years. This past year I decided to confront them both head-on.
Now, I don’t want this post to be about depression, because I think that’s deserving of its own time and love, but it did inspire this article, in a way. Depression warps your mind, your thinking. It tricks you into believing you are drowning, that you are alone. And for much of this past year, I’ve felt like that. I felt like I was trapped behind glass, preserved in static like a pressed flower.
But looking through those photos made me realize that that was not true. Over the past year, I lost friends and gained friends. I made connections and broke them. I tried for love—in all areas both platonic and romantic—and I stretched myself. And my depression makes me think that I am alone. But I know that I am not. Those photos—and my life—are populated with people. New friends. New connections. People that I went ice-skating with, people that I stayed up with late into the night. People I texted in tears. People whose names I screamed in joy in the dining hall. Not sorry for that, by the way.
And this morning I got a Facebook message from a friend I haven’t talked to in almost five years. It was just brief and small, but I got to apologize for something that had weighed on me in a small corner of my mind. And even that was beautiful. It was a reminder that my life brushes against someone else’s constantly, and that it’s not just my story. Our world is a multiverse and there’s that word—sonder—that might be fictitious but means “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.”
Objectively and distantly, my life looks good. But up close and personal, it is so much better. At times, it doesn’t feel like that, but those photos made me realize something. That while I can look at them and be thrown back into the visceral pain I might’ve been experiencing at that moment, or the bad week I’d had before, but it also shows that life went on outside of my hurricane. Life with people who cared about me enough to text me and ask if someone was wrong, people whom I hugged tightly as we said goodbye for the summer, people who accepted my loud, brash voice and my prickly insecurities and my weird head.
We are lucky and grateful and blessed a thousand-thousand times for the people in our lives. I am lucky and grateful and blessed a thousand-thousand times for the people in mine.
I heard this really beautiful quote from Ingrid Nilsen, who is a YouTuber, that she said in her coming out video. It was in the context of her coming out, but I want to write it down now, so it’s immortalized on my blog.
She said, “We all deserve our best chance.”
And that’s what I feel like looking back at these photos has reminded. That I deserve my best chance for happiness. I have a thousand reasons to be depressed. We all do. But I deserve my best chance. I deserve my best chance to grasp at happiness. And I have people who remind me of that wordlessly, effortlessly. Life is so short and if you’re not grabbing at it full-handedly, then what is the fucking point of any of this?
Some will be small, like curling up with your best friends on your carpet, like eating fried ice cream, like waiting for them at the airport and jumping into their arms. Some will be big, like holding them when they cry, like helping them hold together their broken heart. We deserve our best chance. Take it. Grab it. Seize it.
Life is unfair and hurricanic and wild and lost and soulful and all we can do is tear into it and live and feast and drink it up.
Take your best chance. Live it up. Revel. Scream.
P.S. This post is dedicated to every person who ever made me experience sonder. Thanks.
Things I’m Thinking About:
The oatmeal I had this morning. It was delicious and fancy but also exploded in the microwave while I was trying to be Pinterest-chic and cut up strawberries. I spent 10 minutes wiping down the inside of the microwave that’s probably been in our house since the ’80s.
Betty Halbreich. She is a personal shopper at Bergdorf Goodman’s, and I want to be her when I am old(er). She was in the documentary, Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s and I really find a soul sister in her.
This blogger/author who is my actual literary mother and inspiration. Her name is Jenny Lawson, and she runs The Bloggess, and she inspires me to be weird and authentic and creative and writerly and successful every time I read her posts. She also showed me that it was okay to write in your voice, even if your voice is rambling and sharp and different. I adore her.