The other day I talked for two and a half hours with this really cute radical Asian guy from California. Over Zoom, we chatted about what got us into leftist frameworks, discrimination in the dating scene, and whether it felt possible to create meaningful justice-oriented change in academia. I liked our conversation a lot. While I tend to be outgoing and energetic in conversations, he had a chill and mellow vibe I found refreshing. The somewhat unfortunate news: he’s straight.
I am letting myself feel sad about his straightness. I recognize that even if he were not straight, we had literally one conversation which may not have turned into anything anyway. But this California guy stood out to me. One of my previous crushes was radical yet not emotionally available or mature, and another was more emotionally available yet not that radical. California guy seemed to have both, the radical social justice leaning and the emotional availability. I feel a little sad about not getting to know him in a romantic way.
Over the past few years, I have gotten a lot better about giving myself space to feel sadness. In the past I often minimized or deflected or redirected that emotion into anger because I perceived sadness as unproductive. But now I’m letting myself feel sad, like by listening to “Don’t Know What to Do” by BlackPink and “No Tears Left to Cry” by Ariana Grande on my jogs, as well as through blogging about my sadness and talking about it with friends. I’m giving myself some space to dream about the what ifs: what if California guy had actually played for my team? What if I grew up in an era where more men were both into social justice and emotionally available, an era without homophobia delaying queer men’s development and racism plaguing the queer community in general? What if I hadn’t been attracted to men in the first place, and didn’t have to write so many posts in which my 1.5 blog readers witness me wringing my hands in frustration over male romantic mediocrity?
Similar to Jude at the end of A Little Life, I also think about the reverse what ifs: what if I hadn’t read Appetites by Caroline Knapp six years ago, which launched my journey into greater self-reflection and passion for social justice, motivated me to go to therapy, and encouraged me to build my own happiness in life? What if I hadn’t encountered my amazing therapist in undergrad, who guided me to guide myself through my PTSD? What if I had started undergrad a year earlier or a year later and hadn’t met my two current closest friends, women who inspire me to be independent, loving, and oriented toward social justice? Even writing this all out, I feel my sadness intertwine with some joy, about having lived a life aligned with my values, full of connection to myself and with friends and community, including this blog.
So here I am, writing this post on a sunny Sunday morning right after a tennis match and right before a quick jog before I talk with friends throughout the day. Maybe in the future I’ll encounter the queer version of California guy – a more or less mellow man of color who’s into social justice and critical thinking and emotional availability. The fortunate news is that whether this man manifests or not, I’m great and my life is full and complete. I give myself space to honor the what ifs, the sadness and all. Then, I keep moving.
How do you cope or process the “what ifs” in your life, or what are some of those what ifs? How do you make space for sadness and other negative emotions without letting them overwhelm you? General reactions to this post? Hope y’all are doing well and until next time!