In spite of what you think at this moment, the greatest gift your mom and dad can give you is not that guitar that you so desperately want and they can barely afford, but the ability to dream very big in a very small town in India. And the belief that you can become whoever you want to be, which sounds completely improbable to your 11-year-old self right now. But you do not know this right now and you will run away from home in protest for the guitar, only to be found by them just after sunset, all relieved and terrified.
Your world will change completely in about a decade and, without really having planned it, you will end up on this tiny island on the other side of the world called Manhattan -- a place full of people who are weird, crazy and sometimes totally unsure of themselves -- just like you.
You will find love, friendship and joy on this island, but not before you also find heartbreak, loneliness and courage. You will find friends who will love you for who you are -- gay, sometimes fucked-up and often insane, and not for who you will have spent a lot of time trying to become -- not gay, not fucked-up and totally sane. And it will take you almost another decade to really understand this.
You do not know what words like gay, or even heterosexual, mean right now, but you do know, with razor-sharp clarity, that somehow, you are not the same as everyone else around you. Except that one boy in school, two grades higher up. You suspect that he is somehow more like you than like everyone else. You will secretly have a crush on this boy, which will last for over a year -- a year that will feel like the longest year of your life. (It won't be.) You will never tell anyone about this boy, or this crush, and in a West Village apartment overlooking Jane Street twenty years later, you will try to reconstruct his face, and try to imagine what happened to him. You will be certain then that he was gay but you will not be certain that he ever managed to tell anyone. This will make you incredibly sad.
Even though you believe with heartbreaking certainty that everything depends on who people think you are, you are wrong. You will eventually come to realize that almost everything depends on who you think you are, but not before you spend an inordinately large amount of time worrying about people and what they think.
Know that the world is really large, even though it seems really small right now. Know that there are enough of all kinds of people in the world. All. Kinds. You will go on to meet many of them. Only if you hang in there long enough. You will go on to live in a time and a place where your rights -- your right to be you, and your right to choose who to love, or marry -- will be described by many as the "greatest civil rights battle of our time." And it will be a largely winning battle.
You will see all of this -- but only if you hang in there long enough.
And if you do, you will meet a man who will come from a tiny country in Northern Europe that you do not know the name of right now, and he will love you. More importantly, he will love the 11-year-old boy inside the 34-year-old you. The 11-year-old who decided to hang in there. This man will think that you are the greatest thing that ever happened to him. And he will say I love you. Many, many, many times over. And you will believe him.
Believe me. This will happen.
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