You wanted words? Here you go. That last post (as warranted as it was) was such an excuse for me not to be honest. But I realized something: no one has ever stopped me to talk about how lovely my newsletter-like entries and touristy photos were. People have, however, taken the time to tell me that they really related to some vulnerable moment in my life that I’ve shared on my blog. Honesty, however uncomfortable, always leaves a deeper impression. So here’s what’s been on my mind and heart lately.
Being (relatively) alone in a new country puts one out of one’s comfort zone in lots of ways (obviously). But the one that keeps coming back (for me) is just the….aloneness of it all. When I first began to make friends here, the reality of no one knowing anything about my school, my previous experience, my personality, my weaknesses, etc. struck me, hard. I could be anything to these people. I could be anyone. There was a period where I felt like every time I talked to someone, I adopted a different persona to see what aspects of myself people would connect to. The fifth time someone asked me to remind them what my name was, I felt like saying, it’s okay- I don’t remember who I was yesterday either.
Sometimes I can still feel myself doing that. Sometimes I’ll be the cool, carefree tomboy hipster one day and the elegant, thoughtful and girly introvert the next. I always kick myself for it when it doesn’t work out the way I wanted. There are so many days where I’d rather be respected than loved; rather be admired than approached. What’s up with that? You don’t make connections that way. Why do I think that by being cooler than someone, it gives me a friendship edge?
Other people can always tell when you’re faking it, and by now I have friends here that know me well enough to know when I’m putting up a front. Sometimes they’ll break through my defenses for me (or in spite of me), and it’s usually uncomfortable, but I always breathe (and laugh) easier when I’ve said something that was hard to voice. How ironic that I’m spending literally every day working on vulnerability and truthfulness onstage, but when it comes to my own struggles, I do everything I can to hold onto my emotional “tension” and not let others see behind my own curtains.
For example (takes a nervous, honest breath). Yesterday evening into last night was incredibly hard for me. Pepper, my cat, my best friend, my companion for 15 years, is in his last days of life, and I’m not going to be there to say goodbye to him in person, so my mom set up a FaceTime call so I could say goodbye before he passes or they have to put him down. Think for a minute about having to say goodbye to a lifelong pet while not being able to touch them. It was absolutely horrible. I cried all night, so much that my eyes still hurt today in class. But nobody knew. Other than two people who I happened to tell last night (simply because they asked), I didn’t say anything to anyone, even though there were several moments it would have been natural to process it with someone or just ask for support. But I didn’t. I didn’t want to seem like I was making excuses for being tired, or throwing a pity party, or (heaven forbid) be visibly sad in front of someone. I was afraid that people wouldn’t understand why I was so upset, or that they would respond in a way I didn’t like. I could go on and on. I’ve had lovely conversations here where friends have begun to open up to me and share their struggles and hurts. But when it came to something that was (and still is)deeply painful within myself, I couldn’t bring myself to admit that I don’t have it all together. It’s hard, guys.
But I had a realization, when I was fretting (as usual) about some petty situation where some other girl had the edge on me, in terms of natural beauty, talent, charisma, humor, or wit, you name it. I don’t even remember exactly why I was insecure about it. (This is a bald faced lie. Girls always remember exactly what it was.)
The point was, I was ranting to Josh about it over the phone and I just blurted out, “there’s always gonna be someone cooler than me.” And I realized that was it. The point. There IS always someone cooler. Someone smarter, more talented, more attractive, etc. Try as I might, I cannot be the cream of every crop. And it’s arrogant to assume that or even to aim for it. So I do not gain points for appearing mysterious or carefree, in the same way that I do not lose points for showing my disappointments or imperfections. Perfect people do not make for good friends.
So perhaps this week, and maybe even next week too… I won’t try to be cool. I’ll just try to be a person, and see how others connect to that.