Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
August 16, 2022

It is hard to sit still enough to write. It is hard to be still. There is some nervous energy that runs through my body, making my heart beat faster than it should, my mind race faster than it should, and making me unable to write in a manner that would be of any value.

I think of my thoughts — scattered, tangled, so interwoven that unraveling one strand only creates more knots, more tangles. I think of my neurons and pathways, so muddled together that my brain does not know what to do anymore. I think of my therapy, almost useless because I’m unable to explain this ball of thoughts, unable to comprehend what is going on, what I’m going through, except that I would give anything for a moment of stillness.

I think of the mountain of work that lies ahead of me, and I think of the grey overcast sky. I’m not sure if the two are related. It does not seem like a working kind of day. The ground is wet from the rain of the night before; it seems like even the water cannot be in stasis. Things need to move, to get from one place to the other. I too try to reach from point A to B, but I’m not sure what point A is or where point B lies. There is no path for me to follow. I think of when I went on a hike and the trail got lost as the leaves rained down from the sky. No path was clear, and so I wandered aimlessly among the dappled trees. It seemed like the trail didn't even matter. There was a part of me, though, that wanted to get back — to clarity, to the neat, clean path cleared of bramble, to the path that everyone followed. Eventually, I found my way back to it.

Now I get on my knees and try to scrub the ground clean. I pick up all the hair tangled in the carpet, hair that the vacuum could not extract from the finely chopped bristles of thread. I rub my palm in circular motions, the carpet scratchy against my bare knees, and gather all the hair in a round ball. The more I rub, the more hair gathers, until it is one big confrontational black and brown globe. I throw it in the dustbin and start on another area. I don’t stop until the carpet is beige once more. I feel better. Things could be clean if only I would get down on my knees and scrub and scrub. I’m not sure if this could be applied to other areas in my life, but it gives me great satisfaction to know it works here. Cleaning carpets, then, is my domain.

I’m a passionate person, I have said to people. Passionate. They tell me I am too. This of me is true. “When we say never we don't mean never, we mean never in the age of the universe,” my physics professor professes over Zoom. I write it down. It’s a beautiful quote, and it is true in its truth. I get excited thinking about probability in physics. What is the probability that the probability is true? I make a mental note to ask my professor next time I see him.

I read books, and I pause at the beautiful parts. I underline them, take pictures and send mass messages to friends. I am so excited that something so beautiful could be written. I try to gather words into a string, each word a pearl that I try to make beautiful. My stories must seem coherent and round and complete like a necklace.

I am passionate about physics and literature, I have told people. For me, physics is literature of the world, written in the language of math. People, I think I understand better in English, I have laughingly said. I gather all of these thoughts, I let them out in the world, and I try to make them cement myself into a person with a definitive identity.

But I am just 22. I do not have a definitive identity. I am not in stasis. I am in a state of constant flux. I think of dynamic equilibrium — the equilibrium without stillness. It is full of movement but without any net movement. I wonder if I am in dynamic equilibrium or if this movement I feel inside of me is to return to my equilibrium. I cannot differentiate between the two. I write this down as yet another thing about myself that I do not yet know. It seems to me there are lots of things I do not know about myself. I feel like a newborn baby, discovering small facets of who I am, either delighted or upset by what I find. How strange to be a newborn at 22. 

I think of my relationship with my city, Karachi. At 20 it was heaven. Idealized, romanticized, poetry among boring prose, a jewel of a city among the dullness of America. At 22 I find refuge from Karachi in Baltimore. Sometimes even I need prose. Not everything can be expressed in poetry. I think to myself that this is true in life also.

Sometimes I just need words in sentences, not words in sentences that form necklaces. What is my relationship with Karachi now? What is my relationship with home? Where is home? What am I feeling today? What thought can I extract from this jumbled ball of consciousness? Only one thing comes back to me clear as day. I do not know. I do not know. I do not know.

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