hello, past self


Today is September 19th, meaning I’m another year older, and perhaps that’s gotten me thinking about what this day has been like in all the 20something years past. Something that’s particular salient this year is the multitude of things from both my past and present that have been melding lately, and I specifically refrain from using the word “colliding,” because I don’t think any of those things are at odds. In fact, similarly to what I’ve written about intermittently over the course of the last year, I think right now is one of the points in my life where I actually feel more whole than ever, the point where my 11-year old self is meeting my present self.

In that moment, I think there’s a mix of emotions. My present self feels heavy and protective of my 11-year old self, knowing so vividly all the things that are going to happen in the next decade or so that my 11-year old self could never know about or be prepared for. And at the same time, my present self almost feels more jealous of my 11-year old self because of how simple and clean things were during that stage of life, before realizing that despite all the things that have happened in the last five years or so, things are slowly starting to return to a similar simple state, sometimes through the oddest and most trivial things. But then again, that’s what simplicity is, isn’t it? And maybe that’s what feeling in this odd between place, this sensation of simultaneously feeling 20something and 11 at the same time, this sensation of returning to a simpler age.


I’ve routinely remarked in the past that if all the people in my life were to go back in time and meet me when I was 11-years old, they would recognize that person, but they would also recognize that little boy is very different from the person I was when they met me.

Many of my current close friends met me in college or just prior, and at that stage, they probably knew me for a handful of things: I was the person who was a little young for my year in school, I was the person who apparently knew everybody, I was the person who was participating in approximately a dozen activities on campus at a time, somehow without getting burnt out (spoiler: I was definitely getting burnt out, just hiding it really well), I was the person who nice outfits and was never caught dead in athleisure, I was the person who had a really well-curated Instagram and seemed to generally have everything together. That’s likely the version of myself that people met in college or a little before.

Needless to say, that was the version of myself that didn’t really talk about my mental breakdowns (at least until the summer before senior year of college), the version of myself that didn’t talk about how anxious or depressed I was, and certainly the version of myself before I started going to therapy.

This was also the version of myself that almost never spoke about the fact that the reason I had never watched The Office or Parks and Rec or Friends or any of those shows when I was younger was because my childhood and grade school years consisted of a steady diet of anime that people had probably never heard of. This was also the version of myself that played up the fact that I had been a worship leader for most of life, rather than the fact that between my brother and I, we owned every portable video game console up until about when I was 15-years old and that I had also perfected my personal level 100 Pokémon teams on everything from Pokémon Silver to Pokémon Diamond, aside from the fact that I had also played through several different Final Fantasy titles on almost every difficulty mode. This was the version of myself that didn’t mention all that much how I didn’t know how to play Phase 10 or Skip-Bo because I had spent my time playing Yu-Gi-Oh! instead (and actually, my brothers and I still play, and one of my brothers went to a regional tournament earlier this summer). I essentially pretended that who I was prior to college didn’t exist.

This is the version of myself I never talked about, because I figured that being the queer Asian kid in a relatively conservative skewing Christian university might already be too much for people, much less all this. So, I played along and pretended that my stylish Chelsea boots, skinny jeans, and worship leader scarves meant that I didn’t miss all those things.


These days, whether it’s going to therapy, being in school to be a therapist, or perhaps just growing up in general, I’m realizing that we enforce more binaries on our own lives and the lives of others than truly exist. My life doesn’t have to be an either or, and if people really care about you, they’ll see that, or perhaps more likely, not see it and just see you as a person.

In a way, I’m returning to a simpler age of existence, seeing the world and living my life the way my 11-year old self would when I’m in my early 20s, and I think that’s for the best. Because contrary to what I told myself in college, my life does not have to exist in these either-or boxes that we feel pressured to fitting into. We get to decide who we are, and I’m starting to wish that I had realized that sooner, because I probably would’ve been a lot happier and a lot less angsty. Popular people and society tell us that you need to be unique, but they also tell us that you need to conform to a mold, and I’m really over that entire idea, trying to be a slightly differentiated version of a mass-produced ideal.

These days I’m learning to accept that I’m going to be the person wearing suede boots with just a slight heel, skinny jeans, and a nice sweater with a drop necklace when I pick up my copy of Kingdom Hearts III in January, I’m going to be the person with walking in to lead worship at church in a similar outfit, knowing that my backpack of carefully sleeved Yu-Gi-Oh! decks are stowed away in my car so that my brother and I can play at a coffee shop after the service, and I’m going to be the person going on my queer friends’ popular podcasts to talk about my anime recommendations that nobody asked for (um, because Attack on Titan season 3 is WILD and because I’m desperately awaiting the Yuri!!! On Ice movie that we’re supposed to be getting), because that’s who I am as a person, and I no longer have the emotional capacity or desire to pretend like those are two different parts of my life. This is just my life, and everything is going to mesh somehow.


So, hello, past self. It’s nice to have you out in the open again. I’m sorry for ever hiding you because I thought that’s what I needed to do to “fit in,” whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean. You’re amazing, and it’s really good to have you back. I feel a lot more whole with your anime/video game-loving, nerdy self back. Life is more fun defying the status quo anyway, wouldn’t you agree?

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