For the last several months, the front wall of my home office has been emblazoned with a series of motivational quotes, ostensibly to remind myself that there is light at the end of the metaphorical and literal tunnel we all find ourselves in. For a recovering anxious person, though, these post-it stickies were there long before the pandemic started and will remain long after it ends. They are constant touchstones for the mental health recovery journey that I began in the fall of 2018 and that continues to this day.
The one that really stands out, and around which this editorial hinges, is taken from Elizabeth Gilbert’s magnificent ‘Big Magic’.
“Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.
The rest will take care of itself.”
Elizabeth Gilbert’s words found me at a time when my identity was so closely intertwined with this magazine that simply charting the possibility of who I’d be outside it was debilitating. Chance encounters with friends felt serendipitous–a lunch where a friend linked me to Gilbert’s TED talk and then, a few weeks later, finding the book open on another friend’s coffee table. It felt like her words were calling out to me or my soul was desperate to find an odd kind of kinship with another creative journeyperson. It was the kind of “big magic” at work that made reading the book itself an odd homecoming.
When you’ve been involved within the creative arts for a long time–I first started a small writers’ collective for South Asian writers at 19 and then, six years later, this magazine–you can’t help but form an identity around it. The seas I charted then were treacherous for a teenager who was desperate to find her people and fit in, channeling her go-getterness into something productive. So, when I saw an advert on Orkut, the little social media network that Google hoped would challenge Facebook, I knew I was on the right track. Four months later, we moved to our own website that I helped build, and that was it. I grew up in that place, staying until I was 25 before moving to the UK to pursue a master’s in creative writing, the other thing that kept me sane. What happens when you accomplish everything you ever wanted? You dream bigger. Or you allow yourself to fall in between the cracks. I did one and then the other.
Most of my twenties were spent creating frameworks for other people until I knocked against a moment, early in my thirties, when I had nothing more to give. I’d burnt out. Consider a flaming ball as it streaks across the sky before hurtling back to the ground, still alight. That was me. I consumed myself and everything around me. Until I had energy for only one thing: asking for help.
Much of my recovery was spent doing things that I’d always wanted to do but felt like they didn’t align with my “purpose”, a word that is bandied around so frivolously, forgetting the impact it can have on young minds. So, on a whim, and after holding onto the urge for 21 years, I signed myself up for drum lessons, bought an electronic drum kit, and have happily been playing the drums for three years. Fortunately, the conversations around mental health today suggest that there is more to life than what you do. And so, in an odd sort of way, I have come full circle. TMS is evolving, as life often does, morphing and shaping itself into a space that offers just such a reprieve.
The months ahead are busy and forward-looking, seeking collaborations with other digital spaces and outfits, to see how together, we can build a more accessible world for the creators of tomorrow. In ways that perhaps we weren’t afforded but that, by virtue of having been in the game for as long as we have, we now have the chance to extend to others.
As much as I wanted to push it away, TMS has, by the very act of subsisting for as long as it has, been the real revolution in my heart. For a person who has been writing since she was 11, that is not an easy declaration. In a lot of ways, writing saved me from myself, but that’s a lot of pressure to put on a creative art. The journey back to the magazine has shown me that I need not be any one thing. I can be an editor and a writer and a budding tennis player and a drummer and a communication professional and anything else that I want to do and accomplish in the future.
We are not just one thing. We are parts of a whole that we haven’t discovered yet and I, for one, can’t wait to weather the storms ahead and get on with the journey.
Maryam Piracha is the Editor-in-Chief of The Missing Slate. View our archives for past issues.
Marcos Guinoza is a Brazilian graphic designer and digital artist. His collages are inspired by human feelings like loneliness, melancholy, emotional disturbances, disorientation, and confusion in the face of a seemingly meaningless and increasingly absurd world. He has been influenced by minimalism, Russian suprematism, surrealism, and artists like René Magritte and Edward Hopper, among others.