A strong desire to be loved.

Image from undraw

I think being honest and vulnerable is a hard thing to do. It’s hard to be introspective, to realize that at the end of the day, we are all humans making our way in this world. I guess I was feeling sentimental and a bit emotional, but in honor of National Coming Out Day, here’s an essay I wrote for a queer scholarship I applied to. Although I didn’t end up qualifying, it meant a lot for me to process these emotions and get them down. I hope it helps someone out there.

I flopped on my bed at 5pm that Sunday, exhausted, sweaty, delirious. It was the Sunday after we had just been kicked off campus for coronavirus protection procedures. I had spent the day moving boxes, driving between houses, and picking up various people. Given that Brown moved up the date that we had to leave by, I felt both emotionally and physically overwhelmed. Nevertheless, I remained steadfast and calm, dutifully carrying out the tasks that my friends had asked me to do.

Over the past couple of years, I constantly struggled with being okay with myself (and what being okay really meant). Growing up in a family that valued discipline and respect meant that I was constantly being beaten for any form of “backtalk” or conversations where I stood up for myself. In having these constant interactions where certain ideals were forcibly ingrained into my head, it resulted in me shifting towards the extreme opposite: supporting others to an extent that is detrimental to my own health. Or in other words, being taken advantage of.

Upon first glance, it should’ve been obvious. Constantly being physically, emotionally, and verbally abused resulted in a tendency towards doing actions that pleased other people. I first realized that I had this tendency during my time in high school when I was one of the first of my friends with a driver’s license. People frequently asked me for rides and I always replied that it was no big deal, that’s what friend are for. But as it became more of a recurring task, and as I realized that I was sacrificing hours of my time to drive to places far out of the way for me, I started feeling a bit undervalued and underappreciated. “Nonsense,” I thought to myself. These were things that friends do for each other. They help them out. But the notion still lingered.

Fast forward to my first couple years in college and I was determined to change myself from high school. Become a better person, a better friend, and a better student. I wanted to find lasting friendships, the kind where people push you to be better, inspire you to go further. And while I did find those, I also found myself constantly back in the same rut, lending clothes out, offering to bike to a nearby grocery store to get cake, hosting events in my room and cleaning up the next day. I cherished the time I spent with my friends (and also the memories we made), but it felt like the things that I did were sometimes out of my own scope. I would prioritize cake purchases over my homework, justifying that the delight my friend felt would be worth whatever points I missed. I lost hours of sleep because I was hanging out with friends, telling myself that these moments were important. And from these constant interactions, I finally confirmed a fear for myself: I desperately want to be loved.

Telling yourself this is pretty difficult. From a basic needs standpoint, everyone desires love and affection. Human beings are inherently social creatures. From our hunter-gatherer ancestors, we moved as a society and grew up with others. As a queer Asian, I find it extremely hard to fit in within a group. On one hand, I am the poster child, a hard-working student turned software engineer who’s making it in the world and acknowledging the sacrifices his parents had to face to get here. But constantly, I feel lost and alone. The amount of representation in the queer Asian community is tiny, and it’s hard to place yourself in a world with little to no role models. Sometimes, I wonder whether pursuing a relationship would help fill this need to be loved. But I’ve slowly learned that relationships aren’t necessarily a solution to this, it’s to find my own place in the world.

During this period of quarantine, I’ve been been able to come more to terms with my own self and my own identity. I’ve done a better job of accepting my place in the world, that I am worth being loved, and that I have this support system of friends who do care about me. While confronting my own deepest desire was painful and heartbreaking at first, it’s allowed me to be optimistic and reprioritize my life. I’ve been able to set goals on what accomplishments I want to hit, activities I want to do, memories I want to make. And maybe this loneliness will be satisfied by some man who decides to spend the rest of their life with me. Wherever it comes from, I want to be ready for it.

engineer | designer | baker | dog-lover | http://ivanzhao.me