How do you describe nothing?

Nae Do
2 min readOct 5, 2023

My 21st birthday I spent crying in the bathroom. I couldn’t bear the realisation that I’d only just begun life, that I had the whole rest of it left and that I had to keep on existing. Well I suppose I did have a choice. But for it to be blameless, I would have had to be taken by sleep in the dead of the night, body wrung with exhaustion, ready to pass on to the next stage.

So I couldn’t, and I wouldn’t, take it into my own hands. Instead, I sat alone, tucked up against the bathroom wall, hugging the toilet roll. I managed to fill the bathtub with my tears and landfill with the tissues I’d collected, yet there was nothing inside me. I was drowning in emptiness. It was pouring out of me, overflowing, threatening to engulf me till I could no longer breathe…

I never did say much about that day. I didn’t share it with friends, didn’t seek out comfort. I just kept on, like I’d been taught to keep on, with that sadness strapped around me like a cradling baby.

Even now, I don’t know how to share it — the depth and breadth of that emptiness. How do you describe nothing? Its grating loneliness, the way it unravels in you, ghost-like and vacant? How do you explain the chill of those tendrils crawling up your throat, kidnapping your voice and leaving you helpless to your silent screams.

I’m much older now and I look on young me with compassion. I wish I could tend to her, find nourishing words to soothe her, rock her to sleep with a lullaby. But she’s me and I’m here. And I don’t know how to do those things for her. So I just keep on, keeping on, with that sadness strapped around me like a cradling baby.

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Nae Do

PhD candidate in Race, Podcasting and Social Media. Associate lecturer in sociology. Irritating know-it-all.