In all probability you entered this scary world in tears, screaming and crying as feverishly as your tiny lungs would allow. You may have been trying to communicate something you needed at that moment, but it’s just as likely you were a little freaked out after being yanked into a room full of people wearing white, all staring at you, your mom seeming to have gone through some great trauma, and your dad either passed out or disappeared, forced into another room full of other men and uncharacteristically smoking a cigar for some reason.
We were all nice about it for awhile – we held you, patted you on the back, gave you soft, unrealistic-looking animals, smiled at you constantly, and even kissed your open wounds and put Band-Aids on them though it probably wasn’t medically necessary.
On your first day of school, it seemed like there was a universal hush as we waited to see how you managed. You were provided all the necessary supplies and, if things were going well financially, we even bought you some new trousers or a cute skirt. It was really important to us that you felt loved and protected then.
Even then you cried every once in awhile, and sometimes got angry and wore your displeasure on your sleeve. But hopefully there was a lot of giggling and tickling in those early years, too. No one thought any of it was weird. Actually, if you didn’t do those things we would have taken you to a specialist or given you some pills.
You gradually sought some independence, so we gave you space because your friends didn’t like that mushy stuff and the tough gentlemen in the movies (you weren’t supposed to be watching) almost never hung out with their moms. You got bold and quit using that “no more tears” shampoo because you thought you could handle things like shampoo on your own now.
And then at some point, we just lost it. Maybe it was after college, maybe when you started seriously dating. Hugs became reserved for special occasions or a traditional family greeting, but they lacked something. We left you alone and you started to feel that way.
We invented a thing call “personal space,” which can be great on the subway but makes you think twice about whether or not it’s acceptable to show a friend how you feel about them with your arms.
If you were to shed a tear in public now, people would walk to the other side of the street. And though Band-Aid technology has advanced, those things never seem to be handy when you really need them and people rarely volunteer to kiss your bleeding appendages.
True, you’ve experienced a lot more of the world so there are fewer surprises to catch you unaware or bring you to tears, but I would argue that life is equally as scary (if not more) as it was when you first entered that hospital room.
There are things like taxes, family reunions, mounted cameras that send you speeding tickets, open-casket visitations, and quarterly work reviews. And let’s be real: soap in your eyes still stings, man. That’s a bummer.
It could be that someone told you to suck it up once, or you found that your emotions get in the way of your work, your logic, or your focus. But we really lost it. We lost something so valuable. I feel compelled to communicate this:
Your feelings are still valid, adults of the world.
We’re trained to appear unaffected by the past, by that relationship that never quite went the way we hoped. It’s normal these days to live like you don’t feel anything, unless you’re watching Parenthood or a slideshow at a charity ball.
We all pretend we’re not paying attention to one another’s struggle on the train, at a red light, waiting alone at that café, or walking in a crowd downtown. But noticing people and circumstances makes us feel things sometimes, and that matters.
Something is real and right in those feelings.
From the very beginning we were designed to feel, and though you’ll get older and have to make difficult decisions and work hard and put other people ahead of yourself, you’re a real person and what’s going on inside you is important whether you’re three days old, three years old, or three decades old.
I’m well aware there are people in this world that have lived through dire circumstances and intense, suffocating pain, and may experience very real physical and emotional trauma on a regular basis. This is horrific and should move us to action. Undoubtedly, helping improve other people’s situations is a step in the right direction.
But I strongly believe that this reality should not diminish our emotional response to the ups and downs relative to our daily experience. Being relatively sad is still sad, and I recommend that we should strive to make everyone’s lives less painful, including ourselves.
If you don’t feel and act like a kid sometimes, this world has done you a great disservice, and I truly apologize because I don’t think we’re getting any better at this.
I’m going to make a few suggestions for all of us:
· If you are experiencing an emotion, the cause of it is should probably be addressed. This applies to joy, sorrow, pain, fear, anxiety, and hope.
· If you feel a good feeling, ask yourself what is good and find ways to chase after that good thing.
· If you’re sad, find out what makes you sad. It may compel you to live differently or help someone. Maybe you’re grieving and just need some time and a Band-Aid. That’s ok.
· If you’re anxious, afraid, or in pain you should probably talk to a professional – at a minimum, talk to a friend or family member who has your best interest in mind.
· Please, please don’t pretend that you’re not feeling, because we all go through rough seasons and we’re shaming each other into acting cool because feelings and vulnerability are associated with weakness for some reason.
I’m an adult man. And I would like to live in a world full of hugs, surrounded by people who care if my first day goes well, and to be free to share my real feelings and not apologize or feel shamed into hiding them.
We need each other’s help though, because this is a process and we don’t have much time to figure this out. We lose a little something everyday we spend holding it in.
And once we bury our feelings, it’s that much more messy and complicated to get at them later.
There are some things we gradually lose, and it starts in the delivery room on Day One. Let’s work to ensure that we’re always walking through this scary world together, holding hands, crying and hugging as necessary.
You’re still as important as you were on the first day of school, kid. Really.