We know who our enemies are. We know. -Richard Siken, "Detail of the Fire"
This May has felt like a nexus, a grounding center not quite in the middle of the year (so it appears to be off-balance), but it's one in which gravity has stabilized for the first time in a while. I hope May has offered you direction or a candlelight or even a nameless love that tugs upward at your wings. Even if not, would you tell me about your May? I'm sure there is a little orb of light somewhere, hidden in the days.
I turned 26 on the 26th. I feel like that should mean something, but it doesn't. I think there's a name for it, but I can't quite remember. 26 is interesting. I thought I would be more by now, if that makes sense. But I have a lot to be thankful for.
(If you wanted to do something for my birthday, you totally don't have to, but you can donate to The Trevor Project. That's the charity I support. It's a suicide hotline especially for LGBTQA+ teens, a group with an especially high suicide rate. In the future, you'll be able to donate to a non-profit I'm working on starting, but for now, The Trevor Project is where you can donate, but again, only if you want!).
Did you know that Van Gogh didn't start painting until he was 27 or 28? You have time! I'm starting to get to that age, and it feels like I'm not getting anywhere, but in reality, it just means I have a head start on old Vincent. After all, I've been writing seriously since I was about 15! It's easy to get discouraged, though, especially when everyone is flexing on social media. I'll admit I get a little jealous when a teenager on Instagram gets a big book deal. But I try to channel that energy into honing my craft and writing better. My journey is my journey. Your journey is your journey. And that's good. Someone out there needs your light, that singular medicine only your poisonous pain can become, dearest. So don't give up. I want you to to know that I’m still figuring things out, even at 26. So don’t feel bad if you’re still figuring things out too. I think we’re lucky to have found each other here on the vastness of the internet. Now we can figure things out together.
25 was a wild year. That's what led me to write to you in the first place back in January. I've made more enemies in the past year than in all the years prior. I don't even think I had a single enemy before this. The strange thing is most of us started out as good friends. It's not that I became meaner or spiteful or anything like that. I'm not even sure I have a cohesive explanation. I just think people clash. We're all trying to be happy, and someone who starts out giving you great joy can one day become an impediment to that happiness. These people felt I was in their way, and that's fine. We are all broken and flawed, and maybe in truth I am "the bad guy" in all these stories.
I've been thinking about this idea a lot because I'm reflecting on 25 but also because I just rewatched an old favorite show of mine, Gundam Wing. If you know what it is, you're probably laughing at me right now. It's an old anime about a war fought with giant robots. That surface level is why I loved it so much as a kid, but watching it as an adult has given me a whole new perspective. It's not about giant robots at all. It's about the pilots inside, these young teenagers who are constantly trying to figure out what's worth fighting for, who their true enemies are and how to keep their humanity through it all.
And that's really what I wanted to say to you this month. We talk a lot about trying to be happy, and on the internet there's starting to be this ruthless undercurrent in how we're encouraged to chase our happiness. I'm not saying should keep toxic people in your life, but I am saying that how we achieve happiness is just as important as achieving it at all. Your happiness is not an excuse to hurt other people. Otherwise, you will lose the part of you that can really be happy. That goodness at your core that feels joy will decay and disintegrate from the toxins of bitterness and cruelty.
Here's why this is important. The world changes so fast. Friends become enemies, enemies become friends. There will always be new foes and obstacles to your happiness. How you persevere through these changes, how you handle them, makes all the difference. At the end of the day, it determines who you are. So promise me you won't lose your kindness as you fight. I want you to be happy, but I also want you to be kind and brave. I want that goodness in your heart to heal the whole world. I know you have it in you.
I didn't mean this letter to be so didactic or teach-y, but I feel like I learned something about the way the world works this year, and I wanted to share that with you.
I hope someone you admire embraced you this month, verbally and/or physically. I hope a good kisser with a pure heart came into your life this month. I hope you get to kiss them soon.