I Don’t Have An Expiration Date and Neither Do You: How I Learned to Have the Best Day Ever

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I lived in a world seemingly devoid of any hope.

I’ve known I was gay since I was four years old and growing up in a conservative, religious Asian household in gay-friendly San Francisco was my version of a lonely post-apocalyptic world. I had been told in sermons week after week that there was no greater sin than being homosexual and that I’d go to hell for feeling these urges that I couldn’t understand as a four-year-old. I genuinely believed I had no chance at real happiness in this life and that my soul would be damned in the next.

I was so scared of letting my secret out that I went selectively mute from age four to twenty-four. I didn’t talk unless it was to request basic needs like food, water and toys. I lived in complete isolation and miserably trudged along through my young life. I thought happiness was an emotion I didn’t deserve to feel and never allowed it to take camp in my heart. At the ripe age of eight, I decided that the only solution was to take my life as soon as I graduated from college. Even though I was so miserable I could have ended it then and there, some part of my Asian genes wouldn’t let me die without affixing M.D., Ph.D. or some other string of letters to the end of my name. I settled on B.A.

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I lived my life truly believing I had an expiration date.

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I hoped for death and had no concern for my safety, which led me to make a lot of bad decisions. I’d buy drugs from homeless men off of Craigslist, drive at 120 mph with my eyes closed, stand on the ledge of any building I could sneak into and try any sort of drug and alcohol combination that would just let me feel… something, but nothing worked. I went 20 years living in this hopeless prison I had created for myself in my head.

Once I graduated from college and D-Day arrived, I was more than ready to plunge head first into the abyss. I reflected on my life as I counted down the minutes before I’d take the pills to end it.

For some reason in the midst of it all, I tried to remember the happiest day of my life. There wasn’t one. I made the decision then and there that I deserved one last day that would be the best day of my life. I figured I owed it to myself.

I decided to spend the day gallivanting around the city of San Francisco. I rode a cable car, explored different areas, went to three different bookstores and discovered a bench with the most peculiar writing scribbled on it.

“There’s beauty in everything, it’s up to you to see it.”

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The words were swimming through my head as I was walking towards the Montgomery St. Bart Station when I noticed a homeless man by the entrance. Growing up in a big city, you grow desensitized to this form of suffering as it’s a daily sight, but I saw him clearly that day. I decided to dare myself to get over my fear of talking to strangers and asked him if he wanted something to eat. He agreed to let me buy him a sandwich and as we were waiting in line, he shared his story with me as if it were payment for the meal.

His name was John. He was a veteran, a former musician, and had traveled to San Francisco in the nineties to follow Rob Zombie’s concert tour. He told me he got into drugs, fell on hard times and never managed to pull himself out of it. He then thanked me for treating him like another human being and we parted ways.

I began to reflect on my conversation with John. At first, I wasn’t able to understand how someone could let themselves live in squalor on the streets for almost twenty years without doing anything about it. And then it hit me, I had been letting myself live in utter misery for the same duration without ever trying to pull myself out of the dark hole I was living in. As these new thoughts began taking root in my brain, my phone rang and it seemed like I was listening to the lyrics of my ringtone, the song Across the Room by Fox Royal, for the first time.

I don’t care where it goes, just as long as it’s going.

In that moment of enlightenment, I realized I’ll never know the meaning of why I’m here but as long as the world keeps spinning, I have the power to make my life whatever I want it to be. We don’t have control of the events in our lives, but we have control over how we react to them. Life will run everyone down at some point, but you can choose to either let it consume you or rise above it.

I realized I had just had the best day of my life and none of the things I had done to make it the best day were out of the ordinary. All that changed was the way I approached the day in my mind. I wanted it to be the best day and so I approached it as if it were going to be. It led me to take risks, leave my comfort zone and do the things I’d normally never do out of fear.

As humans, we are most afraid of the unknown, and that makes us stick within certain boundaries that we know we can handle. We have volition, but if we consistently limit ourselves from pursuing certain avenues out of fear, we deprive ourselves of all the possibilities awaiting us.

Living my life in fear had deprived me of experiences, and most of all, happiness. I decided from that day on, I was going to live the exact kind of life I wanted to live, be the exact kind of person I wanted to be, and see the beauty of life by approaching every day as if it’s going to be the best.

This is my Best Day Project.

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I’ve written out 100 things I’ve always wanted to do. There’s everything from skydiving and performing random acts of kindness to basic things like hitting on a girl for the first time that my experience growing up a depressed, selectively-mute loner didn’t allow me to do. I draw one task at random before I leave my house each morning, force myself to do it and fall in love with life a little more every day. Wounds have been healing, courage has been gained, and every day has been the best day of my life.

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About the author
: When Grace Kim isn’t fighting the urge to rub her face all over her puppy, looking forward to A-camp or scaring the shit out of herself for Best Day Project, she is working on her sponsored web series for queer youth suicide prevention.

If you have similar experiences as Grace’s and would like to take on something you’ve always wanted to do as an episode of her web series, please email bestdayproject@gmail.com for more details. Must be 18+, in the United States, willing to be filmed talking about past experiences and sign a release.

Special Note: Autostraddle’s “First Person” personal essays do not necessarily reflect the ideals of Autostraddle or its editors, nor do any First Person writers intend to speak on behalf of anyone other than themselves. First Person writers are simply speaking honestly from their own hearts.

Grace has written 1 article for us.

118 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing this with us Grace. I’m glad you made it through, and that’s such a great idea for a project! Reading this has given me a new (and much needed) perspective on my own life right now, and I’m looking forward to following your progress. If “Be an inspiration to others” is in that jar, I think you’ve already accomplished it!

  2. Thank you Grace for taking the time to share, to care and to touch all these people including me. Your vulnerability moves me :)
    lots of love.

    Reminds of a beautiful segment on NPR I heard lately..

  3. Thank you, Grace. I was just thinking about how long I waited to come out, how I berated myself both for being queer AND for lying to everyone about it, how life seemed like a thing built for other people but not for me, how my life became this tiny box, how I felt I was living on inertia or not being dead purely by accident. But reading this, coupled with some other stuff, made me realize that it’s SO HARD to take risks and be vulnerable when you feel trapped. I gotta have compassion for myself. Suicidal people have tunnel vision. Believing that there’s a reason to keep living takes guts and stupid faith. I’m so glad you are alive, and I’m glad I’m alive to be here with you. I am glad we defied our tunnel vision and gave life a chance!!! Your project sounds amazing. I want to give 8-year old you a hug, but I will settle for giving current-you a hug at A CAMP!!! (If you’re into hugs, that is.)

    • “…how life seemed like a thing built for other people but not for me…”

      This.

      Those days when you wonder if everyone feels as isolated as you and how do “normal people” and what is wrong with me that I can’t figure it out. I put pressure on myself for a long time trying to be good enough for myself, just to deserve to be alive, with no self-compassion. I was so deeply in denial that I didn’t know myself, and when I came out to myself I felt like, this is life! What was it before?

    • I am so, so very excited for camp. I have a lot of hugs owed to me I plan to make good on. I already want to talk to you about a million things but I shall wait until camp. I’m sure there will be lots of laughter when we talk about how irrationally we go about life sometimes.

      Looking forward to it.

  4. Hello fellow Korean gay friend! I wanna give you a hug!! I also grew up in super religious household and listened to homophobic sermon every single week… life wasn’t easy so I closed my eyes, covered my ears and shut my mouth. I lived like I don’t exist so I just decided to kill myself so others could see how much they hurt me. Then I realized WHERE IS MY FCKING LIFE? I put “expiration date” on myself and decided to be the coolest kid I know until then. Well that date has passed years ago but I’m still living my AWESOME LIFE trying to figure out the coolest/most adventurous thing that I haven’t done!

    *btw I registered to leave this comment ;-)

    • It’s wonderful to meet someone who has similar experiences as you. You feel less weird and alone. I’m so glad you’re living up your life, too. It’s funny how we think everything is the end of the world when we’re kids. I’m glad you decided to register and speak up. It’s oh so very nice to meet you. The name’s Grace and it’s a pleasure.

  5. This is fantastic, and you are amazing. The best day project is such a great idea, I may have to steal it!

    Also, we should be friends when I move back to the bay (next month!).

  6. This was amazing and life affirming and inspiring. I loved it. Now I just need to work out how to apply it to my own life. For now, I’ve followed you on twitter so I get a daily reminder that I should be trying to make my own days the best ever.

  7. Okay, I’ve briefly skimmed 109 comments on here and I haven’t found a single one that asks the questions that I’m going to ask, so I know I’m going to sound like a critical a*hole, but I can’t help but feel, um, skeptical.

    – You knew you were gay when you were four?
    – As a four-year-old you remember sitting in church, you remember what the preachers talked about, you comprehended what homosexuality was, and you linked it to yourself?

    Forgive me, but when I was four, I was more concerned with, I dunno, crayons.

    – This knowledge was so traumatic that you really went selectively mute for 20 years?
    – Although desperately suicidal and intent on sampling every mind-altering substance available, you wouldn’t complete the act unless you had a college degree, first?
    – Your defining moment in life was talking to a homeless guy?
    – Were you guys passing notes, or what?
    – Life is worth living now because you have a bucket list?

    Okay, one or two of these things in isolation I could swallow, but the whole story just seems really implausible.

    • -She may have just been estimating ages. Sehe probably doesn’t “literally” remember sitting there, but she knows she was there and now as an adult can piece together what she was listening to.

      -She probably didn’t understand what homosexuality was, but she probably did at least feel that she was curious about girls instead of boys. I really relate to this article because I had to be about…idunno, six or seven when I “knew” I was gay? I didn’t actually call myself “gay” until I was 19, but I remember that when I was a kid, I would always play “make believe” games that involved girls being together instead of a girl and a boy, and I would always put my toys together in girl pairings instead of het pairings. Those sound like stupid examples, but now I realize that it was more that my *actions* were beginning to show that I was gay, not that I knew I was gay. At that age it never “occurred to me” to think about boys in a romantic way, or see them as “princes” like my other girl friends did, because of all the Disney movies we used to watch. It still doesn’t now.
      It’s not that unrealistic to realize that you were gay when you were a kid too, not just gay when you were old enough to label it.

      -I, too, turned in on myself throughout most of my elementary, middle, and high school years. Again, I couldn’t figure out the reason why that entire time, but now at 20 years old I know that it’s because I’ve been gay my whole life, and I always felt different. There was *something* about me that I was ashamed about, *something* about me that I was insecure about, *something* about me that kept driving a wedge between me and the girl friends that I just wanted to be close to, and whatever it was, it was scary, so I ignored it. I, too, selectively withdrew, not to the extent of being mute, but still. I didn’t make the choice because I knew 100% that I was a homosexual, because I was that self-aware (no one is at that age). I made the choice because I was a scared little kid. Maybe she felt this way too.

      -A lot of peoples’ defining moments in life are the ones that seem the smallest. Some of mine are, too.
      The thing that talked me off the edge–I, too, had a plan to kill myself after my college graduation because I was scared of coming out, scared of truly showing myself to the world–was a two minute conversation that I had with a friend of mine one Saturday morning. It wasn’t an exceptionally deep or meaningful conversation. To her it probably meant nothing. She’s probably forgotten it. But the best day of my life thusfar was telling my friend about how badly my anxiety has skewed my perception of myself, (how badly its come to make me hate myself), and all she said was, “Dude, nobody really thinks of you that way. Everybody loves you.”
      The sun’s been shining brighter ever since.

      Thank you, author, for writing this. And Jess, I think you missed the powerful punch that this story packed because you decided to pick out details and decide that they didn’t line up to “your reality,” instead of just believing that this person went through something truly scary and life-changing, and decided to share it with us.

  8. This is a beautiful piece. It is truly inspiring to me how you were able to move away from suicidal thoughts and learn to live an awesome life through the best day project. I am following you on Tumblr and I find your posts to be very inspiring.

  9. I can only start by saying that I found this article so on point with my own experiences that I had to sign u as a member. I’ve been reading this site for quite a while now and even though I have found many compelling stories I have never related to one like this. Thank you Grace for sharing your experience and I look forward to speaking with more members in future :)

  10. This really hits home for me. I too thought as a child that by the time I hit 21, I’d be dead. At 21 I did seriously consider doing it. I’d just taken myself out of a super unhealthy relationship, I was heartbroken and could barely get out of bed.
    It’s the small things that remind you why it’s so important to keep going. Warm summer sun on your skin, late nights with old friends, and trying new things. Volunteering gives me a lot of joy, and through that I’ve found what I’m really good at, and it gives me a reason to get up every day.
    I’m glad you’re still here, Grace. <3

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