How I Learned to Feel Feelings

April 12, 2017

Pain sucks and we all hate feeling it. It’s easy to tell yourself that you refuse to feel feelings; I’ve been trying to convince myself of that for seventeen years. To me, that was the only way to be as efficient as possible. You must never break your exterior or show any signs of frailty or sadness. It was a treacherous mold I had placed myself in, cemented by layers upon layers of concrete walls surrounding the cavity where my heart should have been. Growing up in a Latin household, I was always taught to cultivate a passion for life and to be unmercifully truthful in who I was. There was no goal I couldn’t reach and nothing could ever be mundane as long as you put your whole being into it. I did not have to be anyone else; I just had to be. This blissfully ignorant existence ended when I began Elementary school. I began attending a very conservative Catholic school, where they encouraged individuality; just not mine. I had too many opinions for such a young person, I was too loud to hold a conversation with and my personality was too large to handle. The flourishing I had done as a child had shriveled into nothingness as I became a shell of my former self, wasting away as each damning comment hit me. It all culminated to one moment in Sixth grade. I was bestowed with the honor to attend an acquaintance’s party at her house after school. They were the “in-crowd” so I did my best to go prepped for anything in order to be accepted. When I arrived, it seemed as if we had been friends for years. It was all smooth sailing until someone suggested we play a game. This “game” consisted of me being blindfolded and lead around the house; “What’s happening guys?”, I asked the air around me. I felt a wet, unfamiliarly hard surface under my feet and realized I had been lead outside. I took off my blindfold only to find that I had been locked on the front porch. I was left out there for two hours in the rain until someone opened the door allowing me to stumble inside, where I discovered an entire group of girls laughing at my misfortune. That night I left and made myself a promise: I would never let people see that they got to me. I made the public image of Jessica, one that was not too offensive and got along with everyone. But this Jessica would not people in, because that lead to vulnerability which meant weakness. I rose to the top of my Middle School and High School social strata; sadly, my method was successful for a long time. One day, I was invited to see a movie with a friend of mine and on my way there I stumbled upon a group of kids I knew. My friend canceled so I spent the night with them instead, feeling as if they were confused by my desire to be with them. During conversation, someone made the point that I was very different personally than how I portrayed myself at school. My response was, “ Who’s ever really themselves completely around other people?”. After I uttered those words, the entire group and I realized the sadness in what I had just said. I went home that night and realized how tired I was of suppressing my personality, my feelings and my confidence. The following Monday, I walked into school with a new mantra: I am me. Soon after, I started forging relationships with people that had actual depth, and found a group I could trust. Human beings are hard-wired to hate rejection and isolation; our survival instincts were built on community. But I’ve realized that I’d much rather feel the pain, the unbearable and nauseating ache, than nothing at all.

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