personal growth

How Not to Die Inside

I dated a girl I went to high school with years after high school was a dark black streak of a memory. One evening, we got to talking about those days. I found out she’d had a crush on me back then. I also found out people I thought were too cool for me at the time had thought highly of me. While I was sitting at home, pining over not fitting in with the cool crowd, some of the cool crowd was kind of hoping I’d show up. Who knew? Rather than taking a chance and perhaps failing, I’d just run away. I never said what I really felt, so I never got a chance at what I really wanted.

The thing is, we hardly ever just say what we’re thinking, or act on our perfectly acceptable desires either. We’re more afraid of failing than we are of the regret we’ll have later for not trying at all. It’s like when we’re scared of looking stupid, so we don’t study for an upcoming test, so when we fail it we can say, “well, it’s because I didn’t study.” We don’t look stupid in our eyes, but we also committed a serious act of self-destruction. That’s neurotic and self-defeating stuff, but it feels better than failure to most of us. So we keep on keeping our feelings hidden, or pretending we don’t really feel them, rather than taking a chance.

I went a long time without knowing myself. So, I ended up defining myself by what others thought of me, rather than realizing I’m a person worthy of love and the right to have my own personality and opinions. I have things to say not everyone is going to like, and that’s okay. I’m wrong about some of those things, and that’s okay. I make mistakes, and that’s okay. But I’m also right sometimes, and don’t make mistakes sometimes, and that’s okay, too. I know I’d rather be honest about my opinions, and maybe have someone not like me for their own reasons, than be ‘nice’ and hold it in to ‘keep the peace.’ I’d rather be misunderstood than remain silent. Because being yourself, and expressing the healthy positive things you think in as loving a way as you can, are normal. Being your distinct you is normal. Hardly anyone is themselves though, and I want to be myself. Not in a selfish, self-centered, or even bitter way, but in the way that all my energy isn’t expended on pretending, or keeping that peace, so I have enough energy left to give those I deeply love.

It’s scary to be honest. It’s scary to be human. That’s the thing. We don’t let ourselves be human enough. We either let everyone get away with taking and taking and taking from us, or we swing the other way and shut people out because someone once took and took and took from us. And we almost always end up punishing the wrong people in the process. We don’t bother to find that middle place where we’re as wise as serpents and gentle as doves. Where we take calculated chances. Where we extravagantly forgive and continue with a relationship, or forgive and draw healthy boundaries against unhealthy people.

I don’t want to hide my Chad-ness under a barrel anymore. I want to be me. Letting you, be you. And enjoying our us-ness together.

To do that, I have to be willing to make mistakes, be willing to fall face-first into the mud, willing to feel both the pain and the joy without boarding up my heart, and willing to love so deeply it might kill me. That may sound a skosh melodramatic, and maybe it is, but I’ve seen firsthand what death on the other end looks like, and all that flashes before your eyes as you lie dying at its hands is regret.