ten years. (this is the email i meant to write.)

i won't regret this i won't regret this i won't regret this

(i’m sorry for sending out two emails in one night, but apparently, i had to write that first email to write this second one, which is the one i’ve wanted to write but have been avoiding.)

i’ve been making a bigger thing of my birthday this year than i am typically wont to do. i usually hate birthday things and avoid mention of my birthday as much as i can, which, okay, maybe is also contradicted by the fact that i have posted a selca of myself on my birthday on instagram the last few years. there is a part of me that likes very much to be seen.

i’m actually doing things for my birthday this year, though. my family will be in town, so we’re going to dinner at kawi. i’m getting nine friends together to eat the bossam at ssam bar next weekend. i don’t know what i’ll be doing on my actual birthday (i was hoping to get a seat at atomix, but SOBS i missed the reservation window, and now i’m on the waitlist, and i don’t have $205 to spend on dinner right now, anyway, i guess), but i don’t know — who knows, maybe my obsessive self will take myself back to kawi.

(how many times have i been to kawi this year, anyway?)

trigger warning for a lot of talk about suicide. i’m so wary of writing this, of sending it out, because i’ve recently dealt with the professional effects of being open about living with this. this feels so foolish and stupid to me, but i guess here we go.

in december 2009, i sat in my parents’ kitchen and cried. it was a sunday, so they were at church, and it was one of those sunny california mornings where everything feels golden and crisp and full of life. i didn’t see any of it. i cried because i wanted to stop living, because i was so tired of the pain and hopelessness, because i was going to stop living — today was the day; this was going to be it.

i cried because i couldn’t do it. there was no deep reason for it, either. i couldn’t get past the pain required to deliver enough trauma to your body that it would stop living. i couldn’t get out of my head the fact that, if i died today, i would never be able to hear my favorite band live.

i’m alive today because of a band.

in june 2013, i dropped out of law school to save my life. i’d spent the first half of the year thinking about dying, about going up to the rooftop of my school building and jumping, but i was so aggrieved by the fact, then, that i would have died without having tried to do the thing i wanted to do. i dropped out of law school and started writing with deeper intention.

i only made it through most of 2015 and all of 2016 and part of 2017 because i had a giant, big, fat crush on kristen kish. i have never lived such a prolonged period in such acute danger. it was bad enough that my parents noticed, that they forcibly moved me back to los angeles in january 2017 so i could get the help i needed. i don’t thank them enough for that. i don’t think they really believe in psychiatry and meds and therapy, but they still supported me through it and still do, and that’s huge — that counts for so much.

in may 2018, i was caught off-guard with a fast spiral into another dangerously depressive and suicidal episode, but, then, i was browsing craigslist at work one day and found my puppy. technically, the puppy was for my dad because i’d been looking for a puppy to adopt for my dad for years. the puppy, though, became my puppy, and i’d be too busy over the summer taking care of him, training him, loving him to harm myself.

my therapist at the time told me that emotional support animals aren’t emotional support animals because they’re cute and lovable. yes, sure, that’s part of it, but emotional support animals are emotional support animals because we have to take care of them, and, in doing so, we are able to take care of ourselves.

and it’s true — no matter how depressed i was, i had to get out of bed to take my puppy out to pee. he had to be fed. he demanded to play. he needed to be taken to get his shots, to socialize with other puppies and humans, to go on walks to burn off his puppy energy. i could only care for him and love him if i also took care of myself.

by 2019, i’d realized i had a pattern and that summers were the worst. summers are hot and humid, and i’m always sweating and feeling bloated and disgusting, which means i’m always acutely aware that i exist in a body, and i hate my body. or, well, i hate it with less intensity than i did just a few years ago, but my best days are days i don’t think about my body at all. those days rarely, if ever, come.

the first time i went to kawi was june 2019, and i thought i’d love it, but i did not think i’d go on to eat at this restaurant so often. this past summer has been a blur; i was way overworked in a toxic work environment; and i was exhausted, just trying to get through my days to get to the weekend to get to the next time i’d go back to los angeles and see my dog again. i’d make reservations at kawi every so often because those meals, at least, were a bright spot to look forward to. i didn’t realize then, not explicitly, that i was leaning so much on this restaurant to feed me not only incredibly delicious food but also some kind of hope that there was still something in my brain to hold onto. i spent much of the summer working on a momofuku essay that became a different essay that opened up the idea of doing a whole series of essays. catapult is publishing the first of them. i’m hoping to finish revising the original, long essay before the end of the year and submit it to an editor. i already know what the next essay will be about (ko and money).

i don’t mean to place any kind of pressure on kawi and the team there — no one is responsible for carrying the burden of my broken brain but me — but i guess the whole point of this has been to say that it’s been ten years since that december morning in california. i feel like i’m living on borrowed time because i shouldn’t be here today — i should have died ten years ago.

and yet, against whatever odds, here i still am, and i figured that, maybe, that was worth acknowledging at least, and how better to do that than with meals i’ll love with people who mean a lot to me.

i have yet to feel grateful still to be alive, but i am grateful for all the things, all the people who have helped keep me here. it’s not easy to love someone who’s depressed and suicidal, and, yet, they have done it and continue to do it. and i suppose i will end this here with: there is nothing that is too small or too stupid to hold onto when your brain is trying to end you. the point of me sharing this isn’t anything big or grand; it’s to say that surviving is not about some giant, grandiose thing that’s full of profound meaning. surviving is about these little pricks of light we hold onto. surviving is a cup of coffee with someone who loves you, a long walk around the park, a band you love, a stupid crush on a stranger, an amazing meal that excites you. surviving is boring as shit. maybe in another ten years i’ll tell you i’m grateful for it.