I’ve never been great at talking. OK, ask my dad or best friends or boyfriend, and they’d probably say otherwise, because to the right people, I can talk an ear off. I can drain on for hours about politics or philosophy or mental health; but ask me what I’ve been up to or how my day was, and I’ll stumble over my words. (Ask me to give a speech to a full room, and I’ll vomit — but that’s another issue for another day.)
Surface-level conversations are not enough for someone with a mind so chaotic they can’t even think straight. I often end up sounding illiterate, the other person wondering how I could possibly be a writer.
The truth is, I can write and speak for hours. But today, many people are too busy for that. They don’t really care how you’re feeling, what’s on your mind, the struggles you’re enduring. It’s sad. I don’t want to be like that, and I’ve realized I’m not — not at all. And for a while — most of my life, actually — I’ve shamed myself for it.
Why do I care so much about other people, people who don’t even care about me? Why am I so intrusive, so curious, about others’ lives and emotions? Why do I feel responsible for every person I meet? For their struggles, their actions, their walls or lack of boundaries?
Sure, I can blame my OCD and the fact that I’m an empath. Or I can simply accept that this is who I am: someone who cares.
Other people fascinate me. How they interact with their loved ones versus strangers. Their expressions and mannerisms. Their reactions to certain triggers. How little or how much they’re willing to share, and the content of their conversations. The thing is, there’s no right or wrong in being a human. What matters is how we treat others, how we respond to what’s out of our control, and how we choose to spend our time.
The other day, I was talking to my best friend from college about how lost I’ve been feeling. How I don’t even know who I am. How I hate who I am. But just a few short hours later, when she came to me about her conflicting emotions, I gave her this advice:
Let yourself feel it all. That’s the beauty in life. You can be and feel anything and everything at once. Embrace those emotions.
The truth is, no one really knows who they are, because there are so many different versions of ourselves. For me, there’s the quiet girl who keeps to herself in large crowds. There’s the writer living in her own fantasy world playing out scenes in her mind. There’s the introvert who isolates herself in her apartment on a Friday night to read. The emotional fan at a concert who dances dangerously close to the mosh pit. The coffee addict discussing her novel with the barista at her local cafe. The girlfriend who loves so deeply it hurts. The friend who would risk being invasive to make sure her loved ones know they aren’t alone. The daughter, granddaughter, sister, cousin who might seem a bit strange, but would take a bullet for any of her family members.
I can channel any of these people within me to relate to and connect with someone else. When I stopped holding myself back and let myself speak up (which, by the way, I’m still learning to do), I realized how beautiful and important it is to truly see someone — not physically, but emotionally. I don’t see skin color, body shape, age, gender, fashion choice; I see thoughts, fears, dreams, values, morals — and I identify with pieces of other people.
Each time I connect with someone, I feel a little less alone, and a little more fulfilled. And I think, I hope, maybe they do too.
You see, life is not black-and-white. It’s vibrant, if you allow it to be. If you live beyond your inner critique’s restrictions, you can both find and create yourself. In your own heart, in the midst of a storm, in a cheesy fiction story, and — most importantly — in others.