A while ago, someone I work with told me he had read my previous blog posts and they made him sad, made him “want to give me a hug.” But those sentiments clearly weren’t based on any kind of deep feeling of empathy. He didn’t relate to my words or my situation, didn’t try to see things from my perspective. I could immediately tell why he said what he said.
It’s because sharing your struggles, being really real about the hard truths and rough obstacles you face in life…that kind of honesty flat-out makes people uncomfortable. And they don’t want to deal with anything that makes them uncomfortable.
This is why I long ago abandoned any notion of “fitting in” with any large group – or small group, or any group. I’m incapable of being fake, of hiding how I really feel, and to say I “wear my heart on my sleeve” would really be a cute euphemism for “I make a face when I have a feeling.” Which is always. Every second of every day.
The truth is, I’m always fucking uncomfortable. My natural (waking) state is that of hyper-vigilance, of intricate attention to detail, of extreme effort to understand, to come to terms with and to master whatever is happening in my environment at the time. If I feel I’m failing in that pursuit, the chinks in my armor are laid bare – right there on my face – for all to see. When I speak in these situations, I’m less than articulate. I’m emotional. People immediately recoil. In a workplace, right or wrong, “being real” is a liability and will get you labeled a problem child before you can say “corporate culture.”
Trust me, because I’ve been one of these problem children pretty much everywhere I’ve been employed.
On the flip side, when I feel joy, whether it’s because I or people I care about have succeeded, you’ve never seen a more happy-to-know-ya attitude (Random “Best in Show” Winky reference to see if you’re paying attention.) I inherited the Joyful Tears Gene from my mom. The Wielgus women feel things deeply, good, bad or indifferent.
I’ve viewed my visceral investment in life as a blessing for so long. I’m a GENUINE PERSON WHO DOESN’T FOLLOW THE CROWD! I WANT TO DO A GOOD JOB, AND THAT’S WHY I GET SO WORKED UP WHEN I FEEL LIKE SOMETHING IS HOLDING ME BACK!
I’ll never lose that, but I’m 41 years old, and we do not grow as people and the world does not become a better place when we keep doing everything we’ve ever done without question or willingness to change.
Part of growing up is realizing that imposing your true self on every situation is childish. Part of growing up is learning how to pick your spots, keeping some of your true thoughts – no matter how much you want to express them – to yourself, because adults have to do that sometimes. Part of growing up is understanding when to rock the boat and when to chill the f*ck out, and that tempering your eagerness to prove your value to the world, or your eagerness to remedy what you think is an unjust situation, is actually the wisest option. Being quiet isn’t necessarily forfeiting your self-esteem; it’s just not reacting, because your reaction will not help the situation.
Part of growing up – and growing as a person – is realizing that just because you remain stoic or keep your mouth shut when you’re uncomfortable or disagree with the status quo does not mean you are being “fake” or betraying your true self. It means you’re not a feral animal.
Can you tell I’ve been doing nothing the past few weeks but binge-watching “Game of Thrones”? Call me a gigantic walking cliche, but that show, on top of four months working in the business world for the first time, has taught me the value of calculated strategy in how you approach a challenge. It’s taught me the value of evolution in the pursuit of survival.
I’ll always be 100 percent honest on this blog, because a) I can, and b) I know it’s a way to connect with kindred spirits who understand what I’m dealing with. Some people might feel uncomfortable reading about confusion, depression, mid-life crises – please tell me no one is uncomfortable talking about the Avengers or rabid sports fandom! – but I know from experience that most people appreciate real efforts by real people trying to make real progress and find real happiness.
However, “dishonesty” can be a good thing if it means thinking critically about your place in the world and remembering what’s really important. Sometimes, your place in the world is no place (“The girl is no one.” Haha.) Sometimes, you have to stand up for yourself or what you think is right. Sometimes, what others need must trump any of your deep thoughts and passionate feelings.
Knowing when is the right time for what means being a fully developed adult and a good citizen. I’m trying to do that. For real.