When I was a kid, my family took road trips. Although these car rides provided an opportunity to talk, laugh and argue over snacks, we mostly listened to audio recordings. This was before podcasts, so before we left, my sister and I would sit together in front of the CD drawer and select the lucky winners, sliding them into a compact black disc holder that fit into the side pocket of the front seat. One trip, however, my mother discovered an NPR series that ran from 2006 to 2009 called “This I Believe,” in which people would write a short essay about the core belief of their lives and then read it in a five minute segment on air. We listened to every CD all the way through. There were many celebrities who submitted and read their pieces, but the ones I remember the most vividly are those written by common people. They were often the most profound and insightful, perhaps because the stories of how they came to discover their greatest truths were grounded in routine events. One was about a woman who believed “going to the funeral” and supporting the bereaved was the kindest gesture a friend could make, another was from a first grader who listed the one hundred things for which he was most grateful. Whatever the subject matter, each segment ended with the individual’s basic truth and then the sentence “This I Believe.”
Ever since then, I have wondered what my truth is. Would it be something that hit me one day, out of the blue? Would I experience something traumatic that would lead me to my ultimate conclusion? Would I learn it from someone much older and wiser?
I was on the phone with my sister the other day, venting about something, and near the end of our call I apologized for my hysterics. “Please,” she said, “Do not apologize. The fact that you are verbalizing what is wrong makes me feel so much better. I couldn’t help you before because I couldn’t read your mind and you wouldn’t let me in.”
When I get upset or anxious, I retreat, curling into myself in a desperate attempt at self preservation. If my friends or my parents ask how I’m doing, I tell them that I am fine and everything is great and school is wonderful and I’m just thriving! Although it is not true, I put pressure on myself to maintain a facade of sanity, stability and control. Perhaps this is my way of self-soothing, like a baby who cries itself back to sleep; but it mainly just makes me feel alone and misunderstood, as though I’m waiting in the dark to be picked up by a loving parent and comforted in their warm embrace.
I’ve recently realized that I cannot expect people to come running if I haven’t
called. I was always afraid that I would drive people away if I was honest with them about how I was doing, but it has actually strengthened my relationships and allowed me to be more honest with myself. Instead of pushing away the part of myself that I don’t like, I’ve learned to embrace it. It may be ugly, but it matters and so do I.
This I believe.
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