Remember how growing up, people would always ask the age-old question: what would YOU do if (like in the Syrian folktale of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp, popularized in the 1992 Disney movie), an all-powerful genie that lived inside a magic lamp (a lamp that always looked more like a brass tea kettle to me) granted YOU three wishes?
My answer as a kid was always a version of unlimited toys/money/candy, and that whatever flavor of the day boy would “like me back” (please god) and of course, more wishes. It never dawned on me back then to wish for world peace or economic equity or gun control or anything that might help anyone besides myself. Now as an adult, I’m not sure much has changed except now I’ll just take the money.
I wish money wasn’t so important to me. I wish I could live more minimally but at the same time I wish I owned ten more closets of deadstock vintage clothes that no one else could ever walk by me on Mission Street wearing. I wish I could quit my job and sell my possessions and burn my car in a movie-made explosion and live out of a camper van in the high desert wrangling rattlesnakes, but also I wish I had a higher paying job where I could work less but still fill my apartment with even more luxurious possessions and afford to fix all the dents in my car.
I wish I had my life a little more figured out. I wish I had a retirement plan or a family business to fall back on or a career path that sounded cool enough to talk about in casual conversation. I wish I had a life coach and a fitness coach and a financial advisor and a personal intern and a Daddy and a sponsor for every single 12 step group. I wish it didn’t feel like time was always running out. I wish I was as evolved as Jim Carrey and didn’t believe in things like “time” and “personalities” and the “Self”, and only believed in dancing fields of energy and clusters of tetrahedrons moving around together. Also, I wish I drank more water.
I wish I was writing more and writing better. I wish I wrote novels instead of narcissistic little essays about my narcissistic little life. I wish I could speak better Spanish, and also I wish I could write better in Spanish. I wish I could write novels in Spanish. I wish I had more cultural heritage and didn’t feel like such a goddamn white girl. I wish I knew anything about where I come from, besides alcoholism and diabetes and dysfunction.
I’ve been to six countries so far this year, but I wish I’d traveled to more. I wish I could travel constantly and still feel grounded instead of disconnected and scattered and like a perpetual outsider who will never belong anywhere, not even in my own heart. I’ve gotten tattooed seven times this year, but I wish I could get tattooed more. I wish I could get tattooed every day for the rest of my life instead of whenever my heart feels broken and I don’t know how to get past the pain.
I wish my ankles were skinnier and my boobs were bigger but not less perky and my stomach could be flat while still eating simple carbs. I wish I had a trendy but effortless haircut and knew how to wear eyeliner and had a daily skincare regimen. I wish I knew how bangs worked. I wish that getting my period every 28 days after 15 years wasn’t still such a blindsided betrayal. I wish I wore Lululemon yoga pants instead of ones from Target. I wish the tall dark handsome guy I saw last week at Target didn’t mistake me for an employee because I was wearing a red shirt and loitering in the electronics department.
I wish I could be at ease all the time, 24/7, NO MATTER WHAT. I wish I never had to feel any feelings at all, unless they were good feelings that I was specifically choosing in that very moment to feel and also controlling how long I got to feel them. I wish it was always quiet and the only noise that existed was my own noise and any other noises I’d specifically choose in that very moment to hear, like the sound of windchimes and the sound of thunderstorms and the way you whispered my name into my ear when you were still you. I wish everything wasn’t so fleeting and happening without my permission. I wish I was in charge of reality because then I wouldn’t have to deal with uncertainty, and then you would still be you.
I wish my childhood traumas were easier to get rid of, like lice or scabies or chlamydia. I wish I wasn’t so disgusted by the human race most of the time and instead could be “awe-struck” which is a word I so rarely use to describe my feelings about anything human. I wish my attitude didn’t suck so bad and that my brain had more channels besides “existentially turnt” and “escape-of-the-day” and “betrayal narrative”.
I wish my dad didn’t abandon me for jail and bottles of booze. I wish he wasn’t dead now or at least I wish I had said something more kind than what I actually said the last time we spoke or at least I wish I had his ashes to spread somewhere special, somewhere we maybe would have enjoyed together if he hadn’t abandoned me for jail and bottles of booze and then died. I wish there was more space between grief and relief. I wish healing was linear. I wish thoughts were linear too, instead of happening all at once and in ways that made writing them coherently a task that required a lot of effort and relentless second-guessing.
I wish dating wasn’t forever grasping for love that is inconsistent and elusive and superficial. I wish the most charming guys weren’t always the sickest and most unavailable choices to attempt intimacy with. I wish I never had to date again and could just already be married to my soul mate. I wish I was still naive enough to believe in soul mates. I wish I’d “put myself out there” more. I wish my heart didn’t have to be “under construction”. I wish I was asexual. I wish I could be in relationship with anyone without needing to dominate or feel dominated. Also, I wish vulnerability didn’t feel so gross.
I wish the world was ending because I feel like at least there’d be a period of time between finding out the world is ending and the world actually ending where we didn’t have to have jobs and could do whatever we wanted and maybe then I’d drive aimlessly around the country and write epic books that no one would ever read. Maybe I’d start smoking cigarettes again and weed and meth because the world was ending soon and nothing mattered anymore, not sobriety, not showering, not showing up, not becoming a better person. I wish it were that easy.
I wish people used words like “easygoing” and “elegant” and “courteous” to describe me instead of “loud and intense” and “a lot”. I wish I didn’t pay attention to how you describe me and that my feelings about myself didn’t fluctuate based on what I think you think of me. I wish I didn’t need to wish for anything because my life was already fulfilling. I mean, I know my life is fulfilling but I wish I could always feel like my life is fulfilling.
I’ve been trapped in “wishful thinking” for as long as I can remember. We’d be driving home from a sports practice or a school event or CVS or the goddamn Blockbuster and the just-as-dramatic kid version of me would be whining about something I wanted that I didn’t have, something I felt I deserved, and my mom would look over at me with her deep Scorpio eyes and say:
“wish in one hand and shit in the other, see which one fills up faster”
I think she wanted to instill in me that it’s better to just be grateful for what I have, without needing it to be different, but I can still remember the way my face would fall like an avalanche with the harsh realization that the world is a disappointing place where wishes didn’t come true like in Disney movies, and magic didn’t exist.
Thanks Mom, my hands are full of shit.
Read More: The Tragedy of Words