I was going to write a poem today, but after going to church this morning, I think God is telling me to write this instead.
Everyone has a story, everyone has a background and we often have no clue how any particular person gets to the point in life where we meet them. We only know our background, our “behind the scenes” footage while all we see is everyone else’s “finished production” and oftentimes we make the mistake of comparing our lives to others based on their public persona and our private problems. I’m not immune to this mistake either, in fact, since I walked across the stage almost two months ago, I’ve caught myself comparing my situation to other people’s situation and getting admittedly jealous. Seeing people with these amazing jobs, or going to graduate school, all across the country & world leaves me with mixed feelings. On one hand, I’m happy for everyone who is doing something with their life and making major movies, it’s always good to see people better themselves. On the other hand, a mixture of jealousy and anxiousness creeps in because I’m not certain of the value of my own situation. Self-doubt is the poison that we can’t help but to drink every now and then. But I have to remind myself of my own self-worth and the value in my situation: a salaried full-time job, minimal student loan debt, a college degree on my wall. I have to remind myself that just because I deem other people in a better situation comparatively speaking, doesn’t mean that I’m doing terrible. I must use my friends’ successes as motivation instead of intimidation.
This type of confession is rare for me, because I don’t open up to people. I don’t do it publicly or privately and I have my reasons for doing so. First and foremost, as a black male in America I am taught to treat life like a boxing match: Protect yourself at all times. Weaknesses will get exploited and showing any semblance of emotion is considered a weakness. We have been told to “suck it up” ever since we were old enough to understand what that means. When we get angry, we’re often told that we are overreacting, that we’re playing the race card. The “angry black male” stereotype is something that we have to grapple with on a daily basis. Black males are viewed as threats to society, even without speaking and the recent precedent shown by the American judicial system has shown that you can take a young black male’s life and receive nothing more than a slap on the wrist. With that being the society that we live in, you expect me to open up and talk about my feelings? I barely am allowed to have feelings, let alone share them with other people. But I don’t just blame society, I blame myself as well. Do I not trust people because I don’t open up or do I not open up because I don’t trust people? Either way it goes, no one in my life knows my full story, not even my mother. Different people know different parts of my story, bits and pieces. Enough to get them to trust me, but never enough where I feel forced to trust them. Part of this is because I always feel like asking people to listen to my problems, my hopes, and my fears is an unnecessary burden for them. Never mind the fact that I am always the listener to other people and their problems. It’s easier to let people spill their souls to you then to be forced to open up and let people in. It’s easier to the “life of the party”, the funny gregarious personality than to actually face your insecurities. There’s points of my life where I can’t even tell their difference between my friends and my associates so I do what feels simple enough for me, keep everyone at an arm’s length away and figure it out later.
I’m not perfect, not even close. But I’m working on getting better and more comfortable in my own skin every single day. Progress is a process, so I ask those who really care about me and my well-being, whoever you may be, to be patient as I try to figure out this thing called life.