There’s that moment of silence, the few seconds of darting eyes and rehearsing your thoughts. You wonder if he cares to talk to you or if she’s in the mood to be engaged in conversation. You second guess whether you’re worth their time or if you might come across as eccentric, maybe even a threat.
You pass her by every morning on the subway; your eyes make contact as you both wait for the coffee to brew at work. She’s reading the same book that’s shaped the trajectory of your life. He enjoys pizza the same way you do, with ranch and hot sauce. Her outfit makes her eyes look even more stunning and his voice carries so much intensity. You’ve heard his shared passion for animals and it makes your heart jump. You see her at the gym, her dilligence mirrors yours. You want to tell them these things but you fear that your compliments, the chemistry of mankind might be received wrongly.
But they all seem so put together unlike you. Everyone else in the world seems to be content, so perfectly certain of life. And ironically, only you struggle with worry, with heartbreak, and stress. No one else has the time to share beyond, “Yes, I’m doing fine. Thank you.”
It’s only you who’s suppressing an ecstatic smile for the promotion you just received or talk about how wonderful this day is.
It’s only you who’s fighting off depression and you feel like crawling back into your sheets, shunning the world and all of it’s fallacy.
It’s only you who wants to go beyond the, “How are you,” or the “How’s it going?”
But is it only you who’s aching on the inside? Is it only you who has a story to tell? Is it really only you cares to be understood, hopes to be seen, and to be comforted? Is it only you who’s conjuring up the next revolutionary idea or preparing to run for office? Is it only you who’s concerned about the well-being of your family or what happens to you after death?
You can’t possibly be the only one who falls asleep in a puddle of tears or lays stiff in bed hoping to get even a moment of sleep.
Then why do you assume you are? Why have we convinced ourselves that no one wants meaningful conversation? What virus has infected our perception of community, of empathy, and of genuine curiosity?
We as a hurt people have created a culture to protect our insecurities. We have hedged ourselves in this fortress of societal norms that gives us the excuse to have small talk and to be fake. Deep and meaningful conversation has been labeled taboo and responding sacrifice. Vulnerability is reserved only for intimate friendships and listening has become an archaic means of counseling for the deficient.
But I see your story written on your face, I see it pouring out of your eyes.You’ve written it out on your forehead, drawn it by your relaxed shoulders, and performed it with your crossed legs. It has the makings of a blockbuster, it has the tears and endurance of your years. The only thing it’s missing is an audience, an audience I hope someone can give you.
Will you be the one to hear the unheard, to salvage the disposed? Are you willing to ask even when it means being misunderstood? Are you willing to be the outlier to bring out what’s lying within?
Everyone in this world is anxious to celebrate life with others and to release themselves of the burdens on their shoulders. They just want someone to sit on the other side of the seesaw or need someone get that piece that’s a tad bit too high for them.
And sure you might not get the most welcoming invitation, but doesn’t the awkwardness or the push-back make that connection all the more real?
So go ahead and ask so that they have the opportunity to talk.