Whenever I ask the kids at school “how are you?” they always answer back with “I am good” or “I am fine”. So, I’ve started rejecting that answer. Occasionally I force someone who is “good” to use a better word, perhaps “excellent” or “excited” or even “very good”, because at least it’s something different.
But I’ve committed the same crime I’m trying to enforce. Every day, people ask me how I’m doing. But it’s complicated. And I don’t want them to worry. But I also don’t want to lie and pretend everything is perfect. So I usually end up saying “I’m good”, but in that falsetto tone towards the end that suggests I’m not good. This usually prompts an “are you sure?” from the other party, wherein I reply:
“I mean, things here are hard, but other things are great. So, ya, I’m mostly good.” Which isn’t any better of an answer.
The problem is, most of those things are true. In the moment of talking to this person, I probably am good, since I’m talking to someone from home and have a momentary distraction from everything else going on. Like I said, some things are great and things are hard (although perhaps more than I’m alluding to or willing to admit). The problem I have is with the last, concluding remark “I’m mostly good”. Because I’m not mostly good. I’m mostly pretty bad – anxious mornings, lonely nights, and days filled with “I should have”. But in that one moment, when I was asked, I was feeling happy, loved, and a little homesick, which ends up, for the time being, as “mostly good”.
If I was asked a few seconds earlier, the answer would have changed. The answer changes all the time. Even second by second, “how I’m doing” cannot be boiled down into one word or even a short explanation. It’s hard to explain the feeling of my heart and lungs collapsing in my chest. I can’t explain the pure relaxation and almost joy of riding in a rickshaw late at night, with the cold air, welcome after the hot day, rushing across my legs. Or how hard it is to resist the urge to spend time with the other fellows because they make me feel so much better, but I know that they are comfort zone, which isn’t the point of being here.
If this post seems disjointed, just imagine what goes on inside my head. But, for your reading pleasure, and to finally answer the age old question, here is my honest answer.
“How are you?”
“Right now, I’m feeling really confused. I thought writing this blog post was going to give me more clarity, but all it’s made me do is get more worked up in trying to articulate my thoughts (which thusfar hasn’t been going well). I’m excited to talk to my family tonight, but I’m also hoping that today is busy and filled with activity so I don’t check the time every second waiting for 9pm when I call them. Right now I have a tear in the outside corner of each eye, as I do all of the time (I like to think of them as the one constant feature of my time in India). I’m trying to decide if I’m warm or cold because the fan is on and I’m wearing shorts, but I’m also wearing socks and the computer is hot on my stomach. And my host sister is watching ‘Mamma Mia’, which is an excellent film, so I’m trying to end this quickly so I can watch it with her. I can’t really identify any other feelings except the perpetual aimless thoughts swimming around in my head that I haven’t been able to identify yet. So, I’m confused, not really crying, excited, warm and cold, softly singing music from a movie masterpiece, and stressed that this is so incoherent and sloppy that it will just fluster people more. I love you, whoever is reading this, and can’t wait to talk to you soon.”