My name is Saif Aslam (under the pen name, Ud Din), a CMD community member, and am the author of What I Could’ve Been, a children’s book that focuses on a grandfather telling his grandson about his regrets in life, and what he thinks he could’ve been if he’d been more studious, adventurous, creative, etc.
I’d always had dreams of becoming someone famous, rich, or important — dreams I’m fairly sure are common among many. It may sound like these are diseased delusions of grandeur, but I simply had a desire to be something greater than what I was, someone more than what I had been forced into being.
My CMD has always limited me, chained me to my chair, and prevented me from soaring toward the horizon that danced out in the distance. I could see it, and reach out for it, but was never able to grab hold of it, always finding that my arm could not fully extend (both literally and figuratively). I felt lesser, and to some extent still do. Whenever I dreamed of reaching that horizon, I was met with the constant and often disappointing reminder of my inescapable reality.
During quarantine, my dreams began to grow and become something different, as I became someone different. Quarantine for me was like many others, but my condition posed a higher risk to my health if I contracted COVID-19, so I remained indoors longer than others had to. Coupled with my lack of social media participation, COVID had me feeling disconnected from the rest of the world as I felt that my friends were moving on without me. Days dripped down the drain faster than I could keep count, yet the flow of time had never felt slower and more sluggish.
Writing and reading offered my only escape, as I imagined myself to be some fictitious character. I crafted my creations with love and care and found a skill that would allow me to pass the time in a way that did not make my brain feel as though it had been burnt away into a fizzling, fried mess. I spent this time writing and reading for a full year and a half, seldom doing anything else of import.
Looking back, I honestly cannot help but find it somewhat ironic that I had chosen writing of all things to fall into. I disliked writing. During freshman year (right before quarantine), I would groan—oftentimes in unison with the rest of the class—at every assigned essay.
Yet when I ultimately sat down on the final day of Spring Break in 2022, I wrote What I Could’ve Been in a single day. It took me from dawn to dusk and left me both physically and mentally exhausted by the time I had finished.
Yet when the moon had replaced the sun, I felt something strange. My hands began to tingle and tremble, as though there was something tangible within them. After having spent nearly two years watching my condition worsen and being unable to perform fewer and fewer physical tasks, I now felt as though I’d molded something from clay. Not ordinary clay, mind you—the kind that is an embodiment of creation, of toiling away and molding something from your mind until eventually it is realized physically before you.
I had spent so long losing my ability to leave an impact upon the physical world, to the point where I could barely make a dent in a soda can. But seeing how I had carved the blank page into something new with my words, shaped and pressed upon the paper until a story had been formed, I felt elation so foreign to me that it made my soul simmer.
At that moment, I was free.
That’s why I encourage you, and anyone who reads this post, to find what makes you feel free. Pursue what makes you feel fulfilled as if you have been set free of shackles you didn’t even know were binding you.
Eventually, if you look hard enough, you will find something that frees you. It may not pop out to you instantly or make itself out to be obvious to you, but if you open yourself up to doing things that you may not even have liked before, you’ll have a better chance at finding it.
I’ve spent my whole life sleeping through the motions, doing what I believed I needed to do or what I was told to do without any questioning, simply because I thought there was nothing else I could do. But when I pushed myself forward into something I didn’t even believe I had liked before, I was able to find that feeling of freedom that had eluded me for so long. It is what drove me to bring my book to life, searching for illustrators since my hands prevented me from drawing and taking six months to ensure that everything went right. It is what pushed me to learn how to self-publish, learning how to use different programs and applications I’d never even heard of before. It is what’s allowed me to use my book to help others, which has otherwise always been impossible for me since I always depend on everyone else, donating 40% of my book’s profits to charity.
It may be something entirely different for you than what it was for me, it may even be something you didn’t expect whatsoever. But when you find it, when you feel it, you’ll be free. Far away from CMD.
CMD Community Member, Saif Aslam (under the pen name, Ud Din), recently released the What I Could've Been children's book and is giving back to Cure CMD with every purchase! A simple, somewhat old-fashioned tale of regrets and dreaming of the many 'what ifs' that litter our lives, What I Could've Been holds a vital yet important lesson of taking advantage of the present and moving towards the future. Learn more and purchase the captivating short story.