I am that person capable of tears when I see two stray dogs running in tandem on a street side by side, when my friends exchange marriage vows, when strangers smile at each other on a busy street, when a street busker performs in a trance-like joy, when a homeless person is haunted by a look of despair, when a young kid is driven to suicide because of bullying, when thousands of innocent people are displaced by war.
Life for me can be exuberantly joyful, and also a perpetual nightmare.
I started writing about the experiences I am now having. I write as starkly and as honestly as I can about my existential thoughts, the chronic pain I am struggling with, the inner demons I am fighting. I post some of them publicly on Facebook, others on my personal blog. I have written a whole ton about my past experiences very candidly on various similar topics most people are unwilling to share privately, much less publicly, but writing about the past is significantly different about writing about the present. The past represents a capacity to transcend previous difficulties, but the present is an unknown reality. There is not yet an outcome of the battle I am facing. It feels extremely vulnerable to expose myself this way.
But I am tired of people only posting celebratory statuses. I am driven by a newfound incessant desire to be as real as I can possibly be. I want to be the same person online, offline, publicly, privately. The reality we perceive is very distorting — that life is easy, successful people have no flaws, everyone is smiling and everything is chill. I refuse to be part of perpetuating that distortion any longer.
A friend reached out to me because of the recent spate of morbid statuses I have been posting. He appreciated my candour, and I wrote back:
Writing is my way of coping. I wish I was stronger to keep it all inside me.
I dismissed the message thread, and went back to face my own demons. Except something kept bugging me.
There in my response, it became clear to me. My emotions and my will to open myself up publicly was a source of pride to me, yet it also carried a very deep-rooted shame. I was ashamed that I felt so weak that I had to write it all out in order to keep myself alive.
Our psyches are complex. Intellectually I believed I was doing the right thing, but some part of my psyche wished that I could be stoic and unfeeling. It was a huge part — conditioned by society that cold-blooded rationalism should be prided over vulnerable emotions. Being professional means being able to keep emotions in check, as though they are a shameful aspect of us, meant to be caged, disciplined and restrained.
(Ironically, research has shown that the capacity to have emotions is necessary to decision making. I miss Medium’s public notes.)
My entire life, I have been told by countless people, that I feel too much, think too much, react too much, cry too much. I am just too much. It didn’t matter that it is the same intensity that propels my work forward, that makes me immensely passionate about everything I care about, that drives me to take a strong stand on my values and philosophy. People who have interacted or worked with me know I don’t have a care moderately mechanism. I am all in, or out.
My emotional intensity, has shaped my entire life, it has not only made me who I am, but it is who I am. Subconsciously, I have been trying to kill the part of myself that is the most natural aspect of me. Why?
We worship people who are assholes. People who seem powerful, but have to bully, manipulate, assert and coerce their way through in the name of changing the world. Perhaps in the most non-judgmental manner I could contemplate accepting that we do need different qualities in humanity to have progress, but what I cannot accept is how harsh we are to people who are capable of loving and feeling deeply.
I want out. I refuse to continue to be defined by society’s definitions of what is socially acceptable. I will keep on celebrating people who are capable of facing their most intense, deepest emotions and they are not afraid to be who they truly are, without the need to put on a thousand-layered mask.
And perhaps one day, I may learn to celebrate myself. For wanting to honour the deepest, truest part of me: a part of me I have known as old as time, a part of me that never goes away no matter how great or how hard life gets, a part of me that wants to exist even if it meant giving up everything else.
I cannot count how many times I was encouraged to kill my emotional sensitivity and intensity, just so I can belong, negotiate, sell, hustle, conflict, win. When push really came to shove, I chose to keep that part of me in exchange for the career wins, because — how screwed up it is we are asking of people to give up their capacity to feel for a capacity to amass self-interested power?
This may be the world people choose to belong to, but it is definitely not the world I want to belong to, neither can I continue to keep on living, if I have to annihilate what I know is the core of me, just so I can belong to a world incapable of self-love.
What is the point of all the wins, when we lose our selves?