Gratitude is understatement. My darlings: my mother, my mother, my mother Ami; my father Abu; my sister Baji, my nephews Adam and Zane; my brother Kal; my growing audience of followers, friends, family* (I see y’all: salute). Shelter, food, water, clothing, security, education, citizenship, health, wealth, freedom, freedom, freedom. Basic necessities and unnecessary luxuries, creature comforts, known gifts and secret talents. Relationships I’m blessed with already and those I have yet to embark upon and nurture. I am grateful for each and every single ability, breath, faculty, memory, talent, instance, moment and second this grand, beautiful, priceless thing called life offers.
I’m grateful to have been born an American citizen, and better still, a native New Yorker, a lifelong Queens kid. I’m grateful to be a proud alumnus of Stuyvesant High School and Stony Brook University, to have been the first in my family to graduate college in America and earn three degrees while hustling four part-time jobs in five years, to have worked at Accenture, and to have consulted for Ralph Lauren, Pfizer and Moody’s.
I’m grateful to work for myself. Even though I *still* haven’t hard launched my new media startup PERENNIAL MILLENNIAL, nor published my first book, a memoir titled Brown Grass, I’ve come to truly accept, not merely tolerate, being a perfectionist, with all its dizzying highs and crippling lows. I’m grateful to celebrate a lifetime of successes. I’m grateful to *have* launched other small businesses and brands, like Rooq’s Resume Review and Burger Heaven, and I’m happy to know and share the rest of my dozen project plus portfolio (plug MEHRU EFZY Pakistani Pakwaan ROOQTube TRILL MILL /plug) is at the best it’s ever been, regardless where each piece is at in growth, scale and sale. Each and every single time I fall, I always bounce back higher.
I don’t want to brag, but I’d hate to be one of my competitors.
I am grateful to God most of all.
But the greatest blessing is the greatest failure of my life: surviving suicide. For every moment since the worst day of my life two years ago and sharing my own story through social media, public speaking and private coaching, I have had the distinct privilege of helping others who are struggling just as I struggled, usually suffering in total silence and isolation. It is my view that dialogue is what we need to spark the light of betterment and healing in the lives and times of friends, family and perfect strangers. I decided that isn’t enough. I have to share the whole story. You don’t really know anything.
I haven’t bled for you. I get asked quite often, “how does a quarter century merit a memoir?” I’m told I’m an old soul, born in the wrong generation. But that’s not what I mean. I have lived way beyond my years, seen far too much far too young, like many poor, hungry fat kids might. “My demeanor, thirty years my senior, my childhood didn’t mean much” word to Jay. How I lived many lives built on lies. Shame. Guilt. Poverty. Abuse. Denial.
How my parents lost everything, not once, but many times, in saddening, maddening cycles. How I lost my health. How I lost my best friend. How I lost my faith. How I lost loved ones. How I lost my mind. How I couldn’t think straight. How I lost the ability to speak and formulate basic coherent sentences, spoken and written. How I stopped eating, showering, grooming, emoting, getting out of bed, getting dressed, going outside, being whatever “normal functioning human being/productive member of society” means.
How I fell to rock bottom, which caved deeper into hell.
How I survived many attempts to kill myself. How I failed at that.
How I spent 37 hours in a psych ward arrest. How I overdosed more times than I care to count. How I shouldn’t be alive. How I made it through inpatient, outpatient and on my part, impatient therapy. How I lost my job, couldn’t make ends meet, tanked my credit score, bankrupt, lost my apartment, lived off food stamps and welfare, anxious and depressed, insomniac and anorexic, got evicted, became homeless, crashed anywhere I could, mastered the art of frugality and the science of survival on next to nothing. How I got back everything I lost, lost it again and got it back, I hope this time for good. Self-help. Not self-help as in quoting gurus and chanting mantras, but self-help as in helping myself. I have to write and publish my unadulterated, uncensored, unfiltered truth. It’s the only way I have found to really impact, motivate and touch people.
In a world of 140 characters, I need 140 pages.
Longform is the only way to do that, to lend my voice, one that can’t or won’t be muted, to those just like me, sitting in the shadows, waiting for what, I couldn’t tell you, much less them. I was there not too long ago, and the monster still creeps up on me sometimes. I’m still an introvert, addict, workaholic, homebody, loner. That’s on my best days. I get it. It’s hard. Worse than dying. Not enough expletives to describe it.
That’s why I never shut up about this issue, despite being often counseled to self-censor as if this modern scarlet letter is something to be ashamed of. For those I help and hope to reach in the future, I will never stop speaking and writing and sharing and working for as close to a storybook ending as one can reasonably hope to achieve.
Just like existence, all of this is a funny-ugly-weird-sexy-tough-cathartic-tragic-up-down cosmic fantasy. So you might as well be honest about it. Keep fighting so the rest of our lives might be the best of our lives. Who knows anything? I can tell you I know absolutely nothing.
I used to think I would live and die by the motto YOLO, but I’m living proof that “you only live once” isn’t always true. Whether or not you believe in a higher power or afterlife, rebirth, reincarnation or renaissance, reinvention is real. Proof: I’m legally changing my name back from Farooq Zafar to SF Ali but that’s another chapter.
This is my second act.
Thanks for reading. I know I wax poetic and can be too pedantic or irreverent at times, but I’m trying to be better: a better friend, a better person, and God help me, a better writer. I really meant every word.
Don’t hit publish unless and until you’ve pissed your pants.
I’m alive, and well-fed today.
Glory, praise, thanks to God.
Pass the stuffing. Take care. Be well. Eat pray love. I heart you.
*For my 12,670 strong Medium followers: You’re the family which chose me.
CALLS TO ACTION
1. Clap/applaud this story. It helps others see it, tells me my work is worth writing, reading and recommending, and makes me feel validated and fuzzy, because honestly, whose cold, dead heart isn’t instantly thawed and revived by the dizzying dopamine of notifications? Like, share, retweet, lather, rinse, repeat. Also, the doctors say if I don’t feel fuzzy, I’ll die, due to a rare deficiency in social currency triggered whenever my Klout score drops below 70. It’s 63 right now. Do you want me to die?! Didn’t think so.
2. Share this story: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email, etc.
3. Connect with me: Medium, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, Product Hunt, AngelList, Quora and Quibb. (I think that’s all of them!) Write me via email too! (email@example.com is my real personal email address.) Call or text if you want. (917) 982–3849. (Real digits. Don’t believe me? Call/text me now.) I’m always happy to make new friends, listen, support, and be helpful in any way I can. That’s why I’m Medium’s resident cheerleader, duh! :)