The Reality of Being Real

“Regret is much more powerful than momentary shame or fear.”

I’m an expressive person. I mean, I write a blog about what I think. But part of the reason I write this blog is because events in my life inspire my thinking and make me want to say certain things to certain people. But the problem is that in this era, honesty isn’t common. People would rather keep things under the surface than address a problem out of fear of being judged. In the last year, I made it my goal to be more honest with myself and others and just say how I feel because I figured that most of the time, even if it doesn’t make things better, it won’t make them worse.

But it wasn’t easy. I was judged. I was judged a lot. But what I found out was I was judged less by the people I was honest with, and judged mostly by those around me that didn’t have the maturity to have an important conversation, that couldn’t understand how people that weren’t getting along could actually overcome an obstacle.

Why did this happen? Because the reality is that we don’t know how to be real anymore. We don’t know how to be honest with others or even with ourselves. We give up on people when things get rough or awkward or difficult. When someone doesn’t know how to handle a person or situation, they don’t ask, but instead just disappear on you or talk about you instead of talking to you.

In this last year, I was called a lot of things. I was called selfish. I was called dramatic and overly-attached. Naive. Childish. My words were twisted. And the worst part? I was called all of these things behind my back because the people who judged me, the people who laughed at me for my honesty, didn’t even have the courage to speak honestly to me.

But the thing that I came to realize is, I am sure I was called those things even before I decided to speak my mind. We will always have critics. But more often than not the critics are just jealous that they cannot do what you do or have what you have. So I have learned to let the judgements go. I decided I would rather have critics of my honesty than people who judge me for the things I don’t say. Because when you leave things unsaid, people too often take it upon themselves to fill in the blanks.

This year, I almost lost my best friend because of a culture that teaches us to give up. She had the courage to be honest with me and admit that she hurt me. We didn’t talk for a month. But that time was enough for us to calm down, to realize we needed each other, and to realize that as much as the secrets hurt, they would only hurt more if we had to heal by ourselves.

So we talked and it was hard, but it was important. We learned that friendship goes two ways. We shared the pain of our broken friendship, hated it equally, and that was enough for us to decide it was time to be happy again. We found a way to move on.

And we have been honest with each other ever since. When we do something that upsets the other, we tell each other, even if it is difficult. These conversations almost always begin with “I know you might not want to hear this but we are being honest, so I wanted you to know.” They sometimes lead to hurt feelings, but they always end in some kind of apology, a solution, and a chance to make our friendship stronger.

Sometimes people don’t know how much they hurt you, or how much they mean to you, if you don’t tell them.

Forgiveness only comes from honesty. Because of the forgiveness, and the openness, our relationship is the most important in our lives. We have learned that a relationship is so much more valuable when you fight for it, when you stay and work it out, when you tell the truth. I honestly don’t know what I would do without her. But imagine if I had listened to society and just given up? I would have learned nothing and lost one of the most important people in my life.

And that’s what made me most upset in all this: throughout this experience, throughout this last year, I was told over and over again to give up on my friendship. I was told to let it go. I was told that she wasn’t worth it. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that at first, I agreed. But while there does come a time to move on and leave people and places behind, she was definitely worth a conversation. You don’t just feel things strongly towards someone, whether it be anger or love or maybe both, and then just give up and let it go. That provides no closure. I have learned in this past year that it is impossible to just give up on someone or something, without closure, without knowing for sure.

But that’s the problem with our culture. We give up. We “let go” without truly letting go. We give up before things have even started because we make assumptions instead of having a conversation. We don’t have relationships with significant others, but instead we have “things” with people, because we are too afraid to have conversations that define those relationships. We don’t go on dates, we just hang out, because a date assumes a commitment that we are too afraid to talk about. And when we get annoyed with people, or when we decide we are done with someone, we don’t talk about it. Often times people don’t even let you know they are done with you or how you upset them, but instead just disappear or become distant and hope you will figure it out yourself, because it’s less awkward or difficult for them. But what does that do? That just leaves you feeling as if you meant so little to them that you weren’t even worth an explanation.

But let me tell you something: you deserve an explanation. You deserve a conversation. You deserve truth and honesty and you deserve it right from the mouth of the other person involved, not behind your back in someone else’s gossip.

But in order to receive honesty, you have to be honest.

So this year, when everyone told me to give up, I didn’t. I went back to my friend, and to this day some people still don’t understand why. Some people still try to tear us apart, asking me how I can be friends with someone who hurt me. But these people just don’t understand. These people don’t fight for things. These people see us say things to each other like “why did you say that? That was rude,” and they say “I can’t believe she called you rude. That was mean.” But these people don’t stick around long enough to hear the other one of us say, “I’m sorry. I’ll be more careful what I say next time.”

See, most people my age don’t know how to have, or even start, a valuable conversation. We are used to instant gratification. We are spoiled with lightning fast internet speeds, fast food, and even movies and books that preach consistent happy endings where people just realize their feelings or their faults and turn around and apologize. These things cause us to postpone our feelings, our discussions, our relationships. We say, “It wasn’t the right time.” I know because I was the queen of that. I was, and still am on occasion, the queen of excuses.

But life isn’t a movie and relationships don’t perfect themselves with the speed and precision of our computers. We hide behind our phones. We hide behind other people and reasons. We even hide behind a facade of being nice, of not telling the truth because it will hurt someone or skmetnjnf and it’s better if they find out later.

But we have to stop being so selfish. There is never a good time to keep secrets and if you really care about someone, tell them the truth, because the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be.

I want to know. If someone has a problem with me, I want to know. If I annoyed you, tell me. It’s the only way it gets fixed. And on the other hand, if I made you smile, tell me. If I did something you liked, let me know. That’s how you get along. That’s how you communicate and create lasting relationships and friendships. And that’s a lesson that our world greatly needs to learn.

So what is the reality of being real? It’s very, very hard. Being the person that doesn’t give up in a culture where giving up is the norm is very discouraging. And sometimes it feels easier to give up. But we shouldn’t, because honesty is the best way to live without regrets. I have often heard it said that the things we will most regret when we look back on our lives are the things we didn’t do, not the things we did. I couldn’t agree more. The people you are honest with will appreciated it, if not at first, then later down the line. You won’t always get what you want out of honesty. You won’t always get an apology, you won’t always get the boy or the girl, and you most definitely won’t change people. People only change when they want to change. But no matter what, you won’t spend your life wondering, “what if?”

Regret is much more powerful than momentary shame or fear.

So tell that boy that he hurt you and don’t let him tell you otherwise. You are worth a conversation.

Tell that girl how you feel. Chances are she feels the same way. If she does, make a commitment, and take her on a real date.

Tell the people you love that you love them while you have the chance, even if they can’t say it back, even if they judge you for it. Those who judge you for it are only judging you because you chose to live differently than they do, because you chose to live with a level of confidence and maturity that they don’t yet have.

And most importantly, respect those who have the courage to be real with you, even if it’s not what you want to hear.

Make being real a reality.

“If somebody likes me, I want them to like the real me, not what they think I am. And I don’t want them to carry it around inside. I want them to show me, so I can feel it, too. I want them to be able to do whatever they want around me. And if they do something I don’t like, I’ll tell them…I’m not going to let that happen again with anyone else. I’m going to do what I want to do. I’m going to be who I really am. And I’m going to figure out what that is. But right now, I’m here with you. And I want to know where you are, what you need, and what you want to do.” – Peter Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

 

 

A Letter To the Boy Who Couldn’t Love Me…With Love, The Girl You Took For Granted

Someone can hardly know you and love you more than you’ve ever been loved. But the flip side? The person who knows you the best can not love you at all. That’s what hurts the most: when someone knows you better than anyone else and chooses not to care about you. When a person knows your biggest weaknesses and chooses to use them against you.

“We’ll be like best friends.”

You said that and I believed it. I believed it because it used to be true and I hoped that after we broke up we could get that back.

But I was wrong. Because friendship requires a kind of love. And you didn’t love me. You couldn’t because you don’t even know what that means.

Over and over again you invite me into your life. You share your favorite movies and music. You invite me to do things with you. You are one of the only people who will sit silently with me and just listen to music, look out over the town, and think. And so I continued to come back when you asked me to, again and again, as your friend, because I thought we were connected. Even though we didn’t always get along, we had shared history, and I think that is one of the most powerful forces between people.

But every time you invite me in, it is only to push me away again when something better comes along. You never stand up for me the way I stand up for you. You are so busy trying to find your place and purpose in life, so busy not knowing who you want to be, that you will throw me under the bus to find it.

And you think I would learn, but I didn’t. Because that’s who I am. I don’t give up on people. It’s one of my best traits. And also one of my biggest flaws. I am terrible at letting things go.

And you know that. You know my flaws and weaknesses. And that’s what hurts.

The problem we have in life is that we expect that the people who know us best are the ones who will care about us the most. But that’s the wrong assumption to make. Someone can hardly know you and love you more than you’ve ever been loved. But the flip side? Someone who knows you so well can not love you at all. That’s what hurts the most: when someone knows you better than anyone else and chooses not to care. When a person knows your biggest weaknesses and uses them against you.

You know I am loyal to a fault. You know I’m a perfectionist with a fear of being not good enough, of being replaced. Yet you continually replace me in your life, thinking that you can come back anytime you want to. You know I don’t give up on the people I care about and you take advantage of that and of me.

Over and over again, I would pick you up when you were down. When we were upset, we talked. Sometimes you showed up at my house with a movie. And sometimes we didn’t have much to say because we had already discussed important things and had lived through a lot of them together, as friends for years.

I thought that meant something to you. I thought you cared about me, too.

But I was wrong.

Every time, everything was just about you. It has always been about you.

You can’t love anyone else because you don’t love yourself. You can’t make other people happy because you can’t even make yourself happy. You are trapped in a mind that tells you no one cares, so you take affection wherever you find it. You find temporary happiness in the excitement of something or someone new. Until that new thing loses its excitement, until that person leaves you or changes. And only then do you come crawling back to me, when you are hurt or frustrated or bored.

But no more. I’m done.

Because all those times that I tried to be there for you and stand up for you, it broke me. And not in the way that you like to think. I wasn’t so devastated when you left, that I broke. You broke me because you broke my faith in you and in the people I care about to care about me as much as I care about them. You increased my fear of being replaced by consistently replacing me, trying to prove that you didn’t need me, and making me look like the needy, desperate one in the eyes of everyone else. And you don’t even know how much all of that hurt me because you don’t even give things or people a second thought.

But did you ever tell anyone you were the one that called me? Of course not. You have to look like the one that is needed, not the one that needs someone else. You have to convince your mind that you don’t want or need anyone else so that if people give up on you, it is that much easier to say you never cared.

I hoped that deep down you cared, that you were grateful, that you wanted me in your life like I thought I needed you. And I didn’t even want anything from you. I just wanted a friend who understood. Someone I didn’t have to explain myself to because they were already a part of a lot of the things that made me who I was. Someone I could just have fun with.

But if you can’t love someone, at least tell them the truth. You owe them that much.

And the truth is, you just needed to feel needed. You just needed a cushion to fall back on, someone you thought you could throw aside again and again because she was too nice and too desperate to give up on you.

Well she’s not.

I did it because I cared and it’s against my nature to let the people I care about suffer alone. When she hurt you, I wanted you to know that even when people leave you, it’s not the end of the world and that you can’t believe everything people say about you.

You taught me that.

You taught me a lot of things. And the craziest part is that you didn’t even mean to.

You taught me to stand up for myself. It’s best to say what I want to say and be honest with people, even when it’s scary or painful. Long term regret is worse than temporary shame.

You taught me patience, with myself and with others.

You taught me that I can’t control everything. The perfectionist in me had a very hard time with this one, but you made me just sit and breathe in the times when I was freaking out over the tiniest details. You told me to stop writing letters, because life isn’t letters (yet here I am still writing another one that I probably will never send, because some things never change).

You taught me the beauty of silence. It’s nice to have someone you can talk to all the time, but it’s sometimes even better to spend time with people you are so comfortable with that you don’t have to say anything.

You taught me I was beautiful and worth something, even when I felt like I wasn’t. When I had crazy hair and makeup down my face you told me not to worry about it. It didn’t matter.

You taught me that it’s okay to be alone, when we chose each other over the parties we didn’t really want to go to or people we didn’t really like spending time with. But then you left, and I also realized that it is okay to say no and take time for myself. Standing alone is what makes you stronger than anything.

You taught me that I am much stronger than I thought I was.

However, you also taught me that despite my own strength, I can’t change people. People only change if and when they are ready.

Most importantly, you taught me what love is. You taught me that love isn’t just being there for someone. Love is doing things. Love is standing up for that person when they aren’t there to do it themselves. Love is taking their hand and holding them when they are broken, at their lowest, and hardest to love, because that’s usually when they most need a reminder. Love is all the things I waited for you to do, as my boyfriend or my friend.

So I am giving up. Because now that I have learned these things, I refuse to be treated as anything less. I always thought there was strength in not giving up on people, but I realize now that there is a lot of strength in letting go, too. And it’s time that you taught yourself all the lessons you taught me. Because you can’t truly love someone else until you love yourself.

And you deserve to love and be loved. I still believe that.

And I don’t blame you for anything, really. I understand. And I don’t think you really meant to do half of what you did. Just because you couldn’t love me or her or the other one that broke your heart, doesn’t mean that you won’t one day learn what love really means to you. Sometimes you have to have your heart broken to find what makes it whole. I found what makes me whole and I didn’t find it in a relationship. I found it in the people and things around me that I took for granted when I was busy trying to find myself, when I was busy trying to find you.

I hope one day you find the strength to dismantle your pride, apologize, and then say thank you to those who have loved you, those that you took for granted. Because there are a lot more than you even realize. And I hope one day you learn to love them.

But most of all, I hope that you learn to love yourself, because I didn’t fall for a fool. There’s so much of goodness in you. There’s so many things you do right, too. You are amazing and I hope that one day you can see it, too.

But I know now that I can’t be the one to show you.

So now, I will care from afar and I will wish you the best. But I can no longer afford to answer every half-hearted, one-sided invitation into your life. I will no longer be led to the belief that you care only to be replaced or left behind. If you ever needed me, I would probably be the first one at your door, but that doesn’t mean I will let you control how I feel.

If I could go back, would I do it again? Yes. Because, the truth is, I wouldn’t be who I am today without you. Because of you, I learned a lot of things about myself. But not everyone that comes into your life is meant to stay. So, as Stephen Chbosky wrote in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, “I would die for you. But I won’t live for you.” Not anymore.

Love,

The Girl You Took For Granted

Why I don’t want to be the generation of acceptance…

I am a proud member of my generation. A generation named the Millennials, we are characterized by more confidence, education, and acceptance than those who came before us. Sounds perfect. Sounds as if we would be intelligent, open-mided, active citizens, working to make our world a better place. But not all that glitters is gold, and we know that is far from the truth. We millennials have some major downfalls which are creating massive problems in our world. Our so-called confidence and our belief that everyone should be accepted has lead us to possess an enlarged sense of entitlement and strong narcissistic attitudes that we never quite grew out of. It’s an unfortunate cycle, as we strive to accept everyone, but also feel entitled enough to think we are the only ones who know best, leaving us close minded to any idea that might differ from ours, and therefore not accepting anyone who disagrees with us. Meanwhile, we strive to avoid confrontation altogether out of fear of not being accepted ourselves in a generation where the group often supercedes the individual. These are dangerous traits, especially in this fast-paced, constantly-changing world that is in need of our leadership. So, I thought I might point out the hypocrisy our generation is so full of, since a majority of us are too full of ourselves or too accepting to see it and admit that we might be at fault.

If we look throughout history, the word acceptance doesn’t usually lead to positive change. The modern world has created a new positive connotation for the word acceptance. I mean, what if the women of America had simply accepted that they weren’t allowed to vote? Or if we had continued accept segregation? Or what if I walked into a store and was charged twice the price of an item and someone told me I had to just accept it because it’s the way things are? And I want to be liked by the group of people who are ok with the new prices, so I don’t say anything. Well, this sort of thing is happening on a daily basis. We are learning to accept things around us even if we disagree with them just because we want to avoid confrontation and look good in the eyes of a group.

And we are supposedly the educated generation. Well, we might have the highest college graduation rate, but does a degree really mark your intelligence? In my opinion, true intelligence lies beyond the pages of a book or how well you pass a test. These things are important, yes, but a truly intelligent person has the decency to admit they are wrong, can listen open-mindedly to someone who might have a different opinion than theirs, and, if they cannot be persuaded, can agree to disagree and respect that other person’s educated opinion. However, this is uncommon in us millennials who, due to our own confidence, believe that we are the only ones capable of proper judgement, and therefore don’t trust others enough to value their opinion. But let me make something clear: just because I disagree with you, does not mean I am ignorant. I might have an educated reason that I hold a belief different than most other people. Just because I won’t give up on what I believe in does not mean I am close-minded person (also, I don’t know when conservative became such an insult).

I suppose that my point is that this thing we call “acceptance” should go all ways. In my opinion, it’s somewhat synonymous with respect. For example, I’m Catholic, which causes many people to automatically assume I’m against gay rights and abortion and that I’m very conservative. These are not all true, but it is, in a way, it’s own from of discrimination. People are quick to make me an outlier because I am ” not accepting.”  But aren’t the people judging me for my “non acceptance,” which is, in fact, a stereotypical label of their own invention, just as guilty of the same crime they are accusing me of? A gay man who calls a catholic man homophobic is just as prejudiced and stereotypical as any catholic man who might have the nerve to call a gay man a sinner.  This double standard occurs today because “acceptance” has a specific definition to this generation’s culture, which means accepting only certain minorities. I do believe that it is extremely important to accept minorities; however, what about people with different opinions? In my mind, acceptance means realizing that people are different and everyone has different opinions, not grouping us all into a singular mold and accepting those who fit the mold and teaching those that disagree that they are somehow their own minority. We have to remember that our differences aren’t a bad thing to voice. In fact, by not voicing our differences in a respectful and peaceful manner, they can grow inside of us until we ultimately explode.

Which brings me to this sense of confidence that our generation supposedly has. To be honest, I don’t see confidence, I see entitlement. We are confident when it comes to standing up to our elders, or anyone we might see as below us or unworthy of opinion. (which is horrible, because who are we to decide whose opinions hold value and whose don’t?). But, when it comes to standing up to each other, we are not even close to confident. Peer pressure is more alive in this generation than ever before, perpetuated by our addiction to social media. I mean, our lack of confidence runs as deep as the oldest text book example. You want to party and drink? I have to accept that because this is the accepting generation. But are you going to accept me for my decision to stay home and read a book instead of going to that party? Nope. I will be called a prude or a nerd or worse, even though I am the one making an intelligent, safe decision. I see closed-mindedness everywhere in this so-called open minded generation. If we were really so confident, we would stand up and speak up, not sit on our butts, going along with what society tells us is right. We are all talk, tweeting and sharing our opinions online, only to back down or delete it when we are confronted about it or questioned.

It’s time to stop backing down, millennials. Not every mistake can be deleted as easily as your online profile.

Honestly, I think we are working towards the wrong thing. I don’t want to be a part of the “accepting” generation anymore, because we are accepting things that are not ok. Contrary to popular belief, acceptance has a limit. Acceptance can become synonymous with laziness. We have allowed acceptance to corrupt our sense of morality. How far are we supposed to let it go? Are we supposed to let everyone drink and smoke all day long because we have to “accept them for who they are”? Pretty soon, we will be accepting things that so aren’t okay just because we are afraid of being called ignorant or closed minded. Oh wait, we are already doing that. And, in fact, most of the population is closed minded to anyone with a different opinion than their own.

Accepting someone for who they are or what they believe, doesn’t mean that we agree with them and it doesn’t mean you have to compromise your own beliefs.

Speak up, millennials.

So do I want to be a part of the “accepting” generation? No. I don’t want to be accepting if that means I have to learn to accept things I’m not ok with and not speak up just so I am not labeled as an overly conservative person. I don’t want to be a part of the hypocritical generation that claims to have confidence, but doesn’t speak their mind. I don’t want to be a part of a culture of acceptance if this is what it means.

So, I will say it again: don’t back down, millennials.

If we want to become the truly the confident, accepting, educated, generation that we have the power to be, we have to learn to work together and put aside our selfishness. We have to turn our group narcissism into empathy. If we have to think selfishly, we should put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and if we wouldn’t want it to happen to us, we work to prevent it. We have to learn to “accept” that people are going to disagree. But if we want to make a difference, we have to learn to compromise, to find common ground, to listen to those around us, one issue at a time. It’s time that we start putting our educated, entitled qualities to good use, accepting love in all forms and stopping ignorance and pride from running our society.

It’s time to work together, millennials. Let’s work together towards a society where if you believe something, you can stand up for it, and your educated, open-minded peers will admire you and accept you for it, whether or not they agree.

So, for all of these reasons, I’m done working towards this modern day idea of “acceptance.” I don’t want to be a part of the generation of acceptance and double standards. I want to be a part of the generation of equality, education, confidence, and positive change. That will only come if we learn to accept our differences and peacefully, intelligently speak up for what we know is right. So listen when someone presents an opposite opinion, speak your own without fear, and love everyone around you. That’s how we gain the “acceptance” we are searching for. But it’s not acceptance, it’s equality.