So, You're Not a Superhero

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

So you’re not a superhero. You get frustrated when you mix up verb tenses. You can’t cross the street without saying a small prayer. You’re not conventionally attractive, by American or Bengali standards. You stall in your writing – and your reading and your half-made plans. You take off your kameez one shoulder at a time, hopping on one foot as you tug on the sweaty fabric. You jump at the tiniest tik tiki movement on the wall across from you. You burst out of your new shoes. None of this is possible without you.

I moved to Dhaka a little over 2 weeks ago with the intention to write. I was here 2 years ago on a research project about perceptions of mental health and mental illness, but felt like all of the stories I was collecting deserved a better home than just an academic paper that would be read by only a few people. It was then that the idea for my novel manifested – and now I finally get to pursue it.

I also moved here as a challenge. I needed to shake myself out of my skin, my NYC hustle, and the perfectionism that keeps me from doing the work that I really want to do. It’s an amazing opportunity, but I’m also struggling with it. In my head, I wanted to pick up where I left off in my Bangla study, meet with new friends, and build a community around things that I care about – particularly social justice work. But all of these things take time.

The greatest work is to adjust my expectations as a person with a Western sense of timeline and a tendency towards impatience. It’s hard for me – when sitting down to verb charts or a blank page – to remember that learning isn’t often linear. It’s equally hard to admit feeling lonely and frustrated. I feel sometimes that I have to front like I’m superhuman and don’t have off days. It feels very much like my traveling has come to an end, and I have to learn to be settled.

Recently I’ve turned to this well-worn advice for writers: Revel in the questions. Be less concerned with the answers. Answers are, after all, a matter of growth rather than destination. And even though the results are TBA, I’m cultivating some gratitude for these hard moments as a way to connect more deeply with myself and with others.

Have you ever hit this point? Had these kinds of experiences adjusting to a new lifestyle? I’d love to hear from you – Tweet me @thecowation.