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11.17.2009

Things We Don't Apologize For: Showing Emotion

Yesterday: Never apologize for being successful. Only haters want to keep you at their level
Today: Never apologize for crying. Wear waterproof mascara and express yourself

I'm surely not an emotional person, so Lord knows I'm the last person to speak to the veracity of this statement. There are a lot of reasons I'm not very emotional, but I can pinpoint the moment I decided crying wasn't worth it.

It was the end of my Junior year in high school (IDK if you guys can tell, but high school especially the last 2 years were chock full of experiences and lessons for me) and I was stressed. I couldn't even begin to list all the things I had going on and happening in my space but I was super stressed and I'd been doing a good job of hiding it. This day, however, I cracked. I had taken all I could take and I was emotionally exhausted. I felt under-appreciated and overworked. the irony of my timing is that I had just left a meeting where I was re-elected President of the largest student organization (outside of Student Council, which, yes, I had already won the Vice Presidency for at this point). I came back downstairs with my friends -- they all shuffled into the then-bff's mom's office to hang out until class started. I went in, but I felt uncomfortable for some reason.

I came back out of the office into a busy student center. No classes were going on so a large portion of the student body was hanging out waiting on class to start as well. I sat down in a chair and suddenly the tears formed. I was shocked, but once I started crying, I couldn't stop. I know if anyone had asked me what was wrong I wouldn't have been able to say. I tried to hide it at first, but eventually I was too overwhelmed with emotion to care who noticed. I know a couple of people walked by and looked towards me curiously but nobody stopped.

I heard the office door open and briefly looked up to see my two closest friends standing in front of me. I put my head down, expecting one of them to ask me what was wrong, or someone to pat my back. A few momemts later, I heard the door open and close again. This time, I looked up and saw that one of them had gone back inside. As soon as I put my head down, the door open and closed again -- I didn't have to look up to know the other one had gone back in as well. I felt abandoned! Here I was crying, seemingly with no provocation, and my two closest friends just came out, stared at me and left. No one asked me if I was ok, no one tried to console me.

I jumped up, wiped my face, and rushed off to the Chapel. Of course the Chapel stayed mostly empty during the day except for the random student who wanted to play the piano. I prayed no one was in there as I pulled open the huge wooden doors. It was completely empty. I sat down on a pew and tried to figure out what had just happened. How could they leave me sitting there like that, I wondered. I didn't sit on it too long before I decided that I had learned an important lesson -- you can't trust people to know how to deal with your emotions. I also, though I don't think I realized it then, also decided this meant I didn't need to show emotion anymore.

As I left the chapel, my then-bff's mom was walking towards me. I could tell by the look on her face they had told her what was going on and she'd come looking for me. I don't know if she couldn't tell that I'd been crying (doubtful) or if she could tell I didn't want to talk about it, but she didn't ask me what was wrong. She asked me a generic question that I answered. I was hoping she wouldn't ask me what was wrong -- but in hindsight maybe she should've. My friends and I never, not once, not ever, spoke about that day. They never asked me what was wrong and I never offered to tell.

I hate emotion -- and that's not a good thing. I understand that. On the one hand, choosing to wait to get emotional helps me think through some things rationally -- but other times it can be harmful. Sometimes your friends just want you to be super happy for them or super mad with them. I have this wall I struggle to get over to do that. It was a major sticking point in my relationship, it typically rears it's ugly head in current relationships. I'm working on it -- the wall comes up to keep me from being hurt, but at what expense?

Just the other day a friend called me crying about something I didn't think was that serious, but I was glad she felt like she could call me and be honest about her emotions and trust me to handle it well. I let her cry, told her she had every right to be upset and let her cry a little more. I've never told her this, but I'm super jealous of her ability to be emotionally present. I once told her, "you are very emotionally aware."

Over the years this has resulted in people around me always expecting a stoic front from me. "You can't break down" I've been told, "or else, how will I stay strong?" I hold my emotion in for me, but also for some of the people around me and that is not healthy. This is definitely a lesson I need to take to heart (and get some pointers on!)

Tomorrow: Never apologize for ten pounds you need to lose. People who truly care about you will accept you as you are.

3 comments:

Jara said...

Wow, I can relate to this post a lot. I am an emotional person but I hate showing certain emotions around others: sadness, guilt, jealousy, etc. I'm very okay with letting people know that I'm angry or happy though.

I've heard people say they are unemotional before but I don't think that's true. Unless you're a sociopath, you're an emotional person. You just may not be as emotionally aware (love this phrase) and demonstrative as others. In other words, all of us FEEL but not all of us feel comfortable with our feelings. And we deal with our feelings differently.

Were you taught to be unemotional, show only certain emotions while hiding others or do you truly feel that you're an unemotional person?

A.Smith said...

Jara, you're right. I am an emotional person -- I just have taught myself to hold it in.

And you know, the other day I had a status that was something like "I don't know if I hold it in because I'm afraid of what you'll do or if it's because I'm afraid of what I'll say." At this point, I know better, and I think sometimes I don't let it out because I don't know how it'll come out -- you know? That may not make sense.

I've told people before that it really takes a lot to make me angry but when I get to that point it's no good and if I unleash... ::whew::

Anyway, point of that ramble is to reiterate that I agree with you. I feel, I just don't let it out.

Thanks for the comment and making me think on it some more -- I may need to revisit this one at the end of this.

Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

A. Smith, I can't speak for all the other cultures out there, but if there's one thing Americans are uncomfortable with, is pain - both physical and emotional, particularly in others and especially in males. We medicate our pain with prescriptions, alcohol or street drugs, and the popularity of this shows there is a lot of pain out there.

We are a culture which over-values youth and the strength that is perceived to come with it. Like adolescents, we chase immortality. Might makes right is the covert motto of our government.

With this Wild Wild West, survival of the fittest mentality, we more often respect angry outbursts and shun sadness and tears, especially in men and boys.

Call our sadder emotions as casualty of the culture...

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