Everyone has so much struggle in their life. Everyone has a backstory you can’t possibly know. Acknowledging that makes it both easier and harder to deal with my personal struggles.
Struggling has become a kind of sick, twisted form of competitiveness. Like, Oh, look how much I’ve overcome, look how well I’m dealing with this. There is a pride in silent suffering.
I’m fairly open about my emotions with my friends and peers, but at the same time I do my best not to display them. I’ve learned very recently that I’m OK talking about unpleasant stuff about myself, as long as that is the only way I let people know about it. I will talk about my sadness, but only in a light voice, so people know it’s chill, I’ve got it under control.
This isn’t to say I’m some broken human being. And clearly, even if I was, I wouldn’t admit it. I’m not one to go for the pity points. I think I just like to get it out there as a disclaimer: “Hey, I’m a sad person. If I’m a douchebag, just attribute it to that, please.” But I never really feel like I’m getting my message across. I’m sure I don’t cover my emotions as well as I think I do, but at the same time, I feel I cover them enough for people to not believe me.
I feel a need to get everything out there, to head off any assumptions people might make about my emotional state. I’ve established a rule for myself: Never write or text when you’re sad, because I will write these massive paragraphs trying to compress my entire essence into words. (That’s what a column is for.) I assume that people assume the worst of me, and that I need to make up for every tiny little misstep by over-explaining everything. I jump straight to the worst-case scenario. Who wants people to view you that way?
For the entirety of middle school, I simply didn’t speak to anyone who wasn’t one of my close friends, so there was no possibility of embarrassing myself. As I’ve grown, I’ve gotten better about that. I talk to people now, I smile in the halls and wave. I really do present very well now. One of my prouder moments of the past few years was when somebody told me I came off as cool and chill. I felt like a fraud, because on the inside I was still four different people: one hiding in a corner, one feeling self-righteous, one just wanting some attention and validation, and one over-analyzing all the others. But I also loved it. It felt like all my hard work was paying off. Fake it till you make it.
In the junior year at Casco Bay High School we do this thing called Junior Journey. This year, my class travelled to Millinocket. It is supposed to be an experience that brings the class together and brings different communities together. At the end of the week we have a closing circle. One of the veteran teachers on this trip told us at the beginning that it was a tipping point for classes. I was skeptical. One night isn’t going to magically bring us all together. And, I mean, it didn’t. As the night progressed, and as more and more tears were shed, I sat there, dry eyed. I have deep love for my classmates. I felt empathy for the struggles they were sharing. But I couldn’t cry. I wanted to. I was actively trying to. But I couldn’t.
I think maybe it was because I felt kind of happy. I knew these people. I knew that they were good people. I could hear their struggles and reconcile them with the people I knew them to be. I could hear their hopes and realize how similar we all are. I was never going to be best friends with most of them. But I knew that at their core they were doing the same thing I was: just trying to make our way through this world. I genuinely believe everyone has good intentions. The world and our personal struggles muddle our intentions and distort our perspectives, and I fight my struggles everyday, but I can hold onto good intentions as an almost universal truth.
Or maybe I didn’t cry because of my pride. Because as much progress as I’ve made, I will always be fighting that battle, as well. But I’m done playing the mind games. I will have to learn to live with contradictions. I can love and feel above it at the same time, and that doesn’t make me some monster. Flawed, yes. But in the same way everybody else is.