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The Carletonian

Let’s not get into specifics

My life feels like a balancing act in the worst way possible. Sometimes I feel like a Tumblr meme with the number of identities I carry with me, however true they are. In the style of Audre Lorde: I am a lesbian, woman, Persian and white, Bahá’í and a writer. I have depression and anxiety, asthma and fucked-up knees. I am an oldest daughter and sister to sisters. A cat lover. And so short that nearly everyone I’ve ever interacted with has joked about it.

When I’m with myself, or with the people who know me — all of me — I feel normal. I even like the specificity of who I am. In almost every other case, however, I walk around feeling like a fraud. Only this last term have I begun to embrace myself more wholly.

It scares me. I’m worried that one of these days I’m going to slip up and just — POOF. That’s it.

One parent doesn’t know I’m lesbian. Both of them don’t know just how much I struggle with my mental health. Unless they read this.

I don’t like to talk about my writing very openly, even though I love it. Sometimes I write and it feels as though I’m putting every tangible and intangible aspect of myself onto the page. I think I’m afraid of being known.

I have to explain to everyone the history and beliefs of Bahá’ís because no one knows what the hell I’m ever talking about. I used to hide my religion in elementary school — I was embarrassed because I didn’t go to church. In middle school, I realized that many white people are fascinated by my religion, just like Hinduism and Buddhism. I was embarrassed about that too.

Even though I have exactly zero family left in Iran because they were among the very first Bahá’ís in history and were persecuted, I was embarrassed.

In my Bahá’í community, I don’t pray enough. At least out loud; anxiety. I haven’t participated as much as I did in the past; I learned that some Bahá’ís are homophobic at the same time I realized I was gay. Sometimes I don’t fast perfectly; I struggle with my body image. At the same time, my faith has informed almost every aspect of how I approach life. I love that part of my life. I’m ashamed that I’m embarrassed of it.

I am ashamed of myself. I used to hide that I was Persian, too, and sit back while other middle schoolers would guess what exactly I was. I have brown skin. My dad experiences Islamophobia and racism in this country. I do too. An ACT proctor specifically checked mine and the other brown students’ exams to make sure we weren’t cheating. It was embarrassing.

In gay spaces I don’t feel quite gay enough. Maybe it’s my skin, maybe I appear to be straight. It’s something I can’t adequately put my finger on. In other spaces, I don’t feel like enough of a woman. I’m a lesbian, but I’ve been catcalled. I don’t take care of myself the way I should. I like how it feels to shave my legs, but most of the time I’m just too tired. And when I do, I miss entire patches of inch-long black hair because I can’t see without my glasses. It’s embarrassing.

Sometimes walking is hard. Sometimes it’s my old knee injury, sometimes it’s an asthma flare-up — how fucking embarrassing it is to tell people I have exercise-induced asthma. Most of the time, it’s just hard to get out of bed.

I don’t think I’ve ever been wholly myself, except maybe on my spam Instagram. But even that is curated with others in mind. I love cello and classical music, but I don’t practice enough. I love dancing, but I’m not comfortable in my own skin. I love my humanities classes more than words can express, but expressing words in the first place scares the fuck out of me. It’s embarrassing how much I struggle.

The past two terms, I’ve done a lot of reckoning. A combination of regular therapy and medication. It’s like the lights have begun to turn on. I’ve found a foothold academically, and am not only embracing what makes me happy, but sharing that as well. I like journalism and literature and writing poetry and stories. I like digging into Orientalism and feminism, post-colonialism and race. I talk more than I have before and share more than I ever have. It turns out I actually have thoughts, many of them, and maybe even worthwhile ones.

These past two terms have been utterly bizarre for me. I think I like myself; I’ve been expressing that in a few of my recent personal reflections, but it still shocks me. I think I do like myself though. It feels nice.

There are still so many moments where I am so afraid I’m too much. Maybe a creative work of mine didn’t land the way I expected it to, sometimes I say the wrong thing, or I mess up in orchestra. In moments like those, I often wish I could disappear. As much as it frustrates me in the instant, I push on and try again. A lot. I’m nowhere near assertive yet, but I do think I value what I have to offer. And as frustrating as it so often is, I don’t think that I would be who I am without my different experiences. I have empathy because of who I am and want to make some kind of connection with other people.

And, I think that in thinking and writing this I realize that I’ve internalized American individualism. I, and likely others, get so wrapped up in an uncertain sense of self, that it’s easy to lose sight of the things that we do share, like just being human. Thinking so purely about myself and where I fit in is an isolating activity. Even an egotistical one. In living fearfully and being embarrassed of who I am, I’m putting up a wall between myself and any possibility of making connections with someone else.

There are so many people in the world. No one will ever exactly know what it’s like to be me, but I won’t ever know what it’s like to be someone else. I do know that we all feel sadness, and inevitably will grieve. We all laugh and have blood that beats throughout our bodies. We have brains with thoughts and feelings. We all dream of something that’ll make us happy.

Sharing the specifics of our experiences is valuable. It’s necessary to be open about the things that we struggle with, and it’s OK not to have the same experiences as someone else. It’s why a lot of us value unique autobiographies or even creative works. Even if we can’t relate to every detail, or aspect of each others’ lives, everyone can relate to living and everyone can relate to struggling.

I don’t want to be embarrassed of myself. I’m embarrassed that I’m embarrassed of myself. I don’t want to be afraid of being known and being seen. I know it’s a continual process, but I’m willing to try. So, here’s a bit of myself. On a page for everyone to see.

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About the Contributor
Cecilia Samadani
Cecilia Samadani, Features Editor
I'm an English major with interests in Creative Writing and Middle East Studies minors. I love all things related to art whether that be writing, drawing, music or dance, and am an avid cat person. Cecilia '26 (she/her) was previously a Staff Writer.

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    Martin BebowMay 18, 2024 at 8:16 am

    It’s hard for everyone now. I’ve been a Baha’i since 1971 and it is more important to me than anything. But having social anxiety all my life my attempts to participate in the Baha’i community have all failed as have my attempts at relationships with women. And now the seeming disintegration of western culture. It’s just really hard right now