S A R I S H A K U R U P
This is you at 18. Such a mythologized year in someone's life, and yet you spend most of your time waiting for other mythologized years. Twenty-six, when you will hopefully know a little bit more about the trajectory of your life, but still have room for the excitement of vast possibility. Thirty, when maybe you will have someone to share your life with, when you will live in New York City and see autumn in Central Park, snow-caked streets in late January, will have a favorite coffeeshop in each neighborhood and friends who make you smile. Forty, when you might looking behind your shoulder at a hard-fought career and smile from your perch at the top, when you will know the names and characters of your children, when you will still adamantly love New York City, but will have seen so much of the world. These are all daydreams, you know that, but at eighteen you love to build castles-in-the-air.
At eighteen you find yourself often nervous. The enormity and excitement of the future, you have found, is a blessing and a source of anxiety. In three days you leave for college. This dramatic life-change has only now hit you, and suddenly you are looking around at everything you have taken for granted and wondering what you will retain. You have never valued home as much as when you are preparing to leave it. You try to memorize your mother, your brother--their faces, their habits, the things about them that make you laugh and cry--because you will never live with them again. You think of all your friends, people whom you fear will become increasingly irrelevant in your life, but you know you cannot cling to yourself and your friends at eighteen, that there are more people in the world waiting for you.
At eighteen, the world is the most enticing thing you can think of. To travel, you believe, is the ultimate privilege. You believe that travel builds a person, and to travel without creating something from it--art, writing, ideas--is a waste. That is why you started writing here. You like that travel makes you feel older, empowered. You like the thrill of discovering new cafes, new streets, new music, new culture, and each new place feels like a goldmine. ("You are always discovering goldmines," is your favorite quote from your favorite childhood novel, Anne of the Island.) You find it amazing that your little place in the Bay Area can exist in the same world, at the same time, as places so different, like Marrakesh or Copenhagen or Damascus or Tokyo. You believe that if your life had one singular purpose, it would be to travel.
As you prepare to move out, and as America turns every which way, uncovering your identity has become important to you. You have never felt particularly Indian, because your parents were not particularly culturally Indian, and yet the color of your skin is tied to the way people will see you and you are still not sure how you feel about that. Often you are mistaken for races other than your own, and that, you think, has complicated your sense of identity even further. To be brown, but not brown enough, in Trump's America, you think, is its own conundrum.
Of all the things you love to do, you always call yourself a writer first. You feel this changing, however, and that is another source of confusion. You only recently decided that you do not want to have a career writing fiction, that you would rather work in broadcast political journalism. You feel that America is breaking, that she is calling you, that you have a responsibility. Generations before you have fought battles for this country, and you feel that this is your's. You will not be an English major. You will not be an Art History major. The arts, for so long, have been your identity, and now you are not sure where they fit into this body of yours. You are not so much concerned as you are curious, of where you will turn, what you will become. You think it is one of the great joys of being young--the ability to constantly reinvent.
You think of your father often. Everyday, actually, and you often wonder if there will every be a time when you don't. You are no longer unsettled by his passing, and your grief has turned into a sort of acceptance that now allows for the joy of remembering. You think it's odd, that one day, when you are almost thirty-six, you will have spent half of your life without him. You wonder if you will still be able to remember the sound of his voice, then. But you treasure your memories with him, write them down when they come to you so that they cannot be lost. Lately, you have been writing everything down, because your father didn't write down much and you want to leave some evidence of yourself behind when you go. You are not sure who will sift through all this evidence--these journals, photographs, paintings, memories--when you go, but you are satisfied in knowing that they are there.
You will not be eighteen forever, but each year feels slow--sometimes in a good way, sometimes not so good--and you are sometimes amazed at how many decades some people have lived. To have that much history is still unfathomable for you. When you are older, have years behind you, you might look at this letter and laugh. Some mixture of naiveté and earnestness that only an eighteen year old can contain. I hope that you do.