learning to be vulnerable has been one of the most difficult lessons to date.
growing up in a rural, small midwestern town, being a “man” was associated with very specific traits.
don’t be too emotional.
keep your feelings close.
these “anti-masculine” messages were rarely so overt in their dissemination; however, even without words, it was clear what being a “man” should be.
it’s taken me a long time to realize how much bullshit all of that really was.
throughout the pandemic, i found the only solace is to be deeply aware of one’s emotions. we are, all of us, creatures of emotion.
emotions guide our every decision—no matter how rational or logical we try to be. emotions win every time.
in not recognizing the strength that come with our emotions and being humbled by their power, we try to subvert them...shove them off...ignore them.
the harder we push our emotions to the side, the more influence they ultimately have.
by being vulnerable, we can find comfort in all the emotions that come with humanity. by allowing them in, we can find acceptance and more clearly wade through the torrent of our constructed reality.
in being vulnerable, i have found a deeper connection within myself and with others. i have found shared experience...shared joy...shared pain.
as a “man”, or what society told me that it should look like, i feel isolated...alone in my emotions.
as the pandemic raged, i found that i could no longer contain it.
emotions always win.
after that first semester in the pandemic, i recognized that what was before no longer worked. everyone i interacted with was hanging on...frayed...raw...bursting with emotions.
i was too.
it was in this moment that i realized that i could no longer suppress what i was feeling. that in those feelings were all that scared me...it was what made me feel alive.
humanity is a complex, often indescribable, thing. what is it that separates us from other animals? why do we separate and segregate ourselves? why do we presume to be above our most primal selves?
i don’t know.
but in my experience so far, our humanity is our emotions. what separates us is our ability to define what makes us human and to share that with those around us.
our emotions tie us all together.
whatever our identities, experiences, beliefs...our emotions unite us. they are a common thread.
by limiting our connection to these feelings, we divorce ourselves from the reality of humanity. our hubris becomes our own destruction.
society is reckoning with the story that it has told itself. we have held on to beliefs of what should and should not be...and who should or shouldn’t do certain things.
we have an immense distaste for uncertainty. yet, it’s perhaps the only thing we can count on.
we have no way to predict the future. in a world so infinitely complex, a simple solution rarely presents itself.
this uncertainty fuels the complexity of our emotions...it drives us to make choices that are “fair”...that we feel are emotionless.
it is here when we fail.
i told my students i was tired.
i told them i was exhausted.
i was honest when i wasn’t able to finish grading over the weekend....when i didn’t respond to an email.
i was vulnerable.
i was scared.
what i was met with, however, amazed me...it strengthened me.
my students got it. they commiserated. they told me things that i hadn’t experienced in my previous years of teaching.
they got it.
in being vulnerable, i was met with the same vulnerability. i received the same care and consideration that i put out there.
in the following weeks, now months, i have build stronger relationships with students...with colleagues...with friends and family.
i have found strength and conviction in being honest about how i was feeling...how i was told to feel.
i have found that i am not alone. that there are others...still struggling to contain the emotions they are told shouldn’t matter.
punk taught me a lot about how to live with my emotions...though i didn’t know it at the time.
as a kid trying to find a place in the world, i found acceptance in punk spaces. i found others, with wildly different experiences from my own, that shared the same pursuit. i found acceptance.
i’ve found this repeated through my live as i have navigated new spaces...new cities...new communities.
this is not to say these communities are without issue...they are. they are subject to the same systemic oppressions that are pervasive across society more broadly.
however, as a punk, i’ve learned that they only way forward is to accept that we can not control what is or what has been...but what comes.
we can correct for the injustices. in whatever ways we can.
and we must do it by radically accepting ourselves...our messy, over emotional selves.
recently, i finished reading An Indigenous People’s History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. in an outstanding exploration of indigenous culture and it’s exploitation during the ongoing colonization by what we refer to as the United States, Dunbar-Ortiz paraphrases the late Native historian Jack Forbes, stressing that “while living persons are not responsible for what their ancestors did, they are responsible for the society they live in, which is a product of that past.”
i had little control of what had occurred in the past. critiquing and shaming those that have espoused those actions...that decided what emotions a “man” should or shouldn’t feel...will do little to make a better future. a just future.
i do have control of my present. i can choose.
by embracing my emotions...by finding vulnerability...i am changing my present. i can no longer continue to leave my emotions unacknowledged.
the pandemic broke me.
i am glad it did.