I recently received a psychological and emotional bombshell in the form of a TED Talk by social researcher Brené Brown. Her thesis states that vulnerability is necessary for human connection, love and happiness, and that we must allow ourselves to be seen and to feel. It’s one thing to hear this crazy concept, put it aside, and continue with our daily routine. It’s another thing entirely to actually process this and to understand it within the context of your life, because in context, it becomes truly terrifying. It is a daunting and painful task that will make or break you, not just during your time at the College of William and Mary, but throughout your entire life.
I know what you’re thinking: How can you tell me to bare myself fully to others? I’ll get burned. I’ll be miserable. It won’t be worth it.
First, you absolutely will get burned. You will put your trust and faith in people who will royally screw you over. If it hasn’t already happened to you, you’re a probabilistic fluke. It’s how you deal with it that matters. Allow yourself to be upset, but don’t harden up and blame ‘people.’ I’m sick of hearing “I’m losing my faith in people” in response to betrayal, tragedy and heartbreak. There are simply too many people out there for you to dismiss — seven billion, in fact — and only a few, or more likely only one, caused your pain. The brutal truth is that putting your trust and faith in people is the only way to form meaningful relationships — the source of any real happiness.
Will it be worth it? In the wake of betrayal, the crushing, throbbing, shameful humiliation may be a bit too much to bear. But yes, it will be worth it, even then. If you approached every potential relationship with cold, detached skepticism, each one would fail, and while the blows would become weaker and weaker, so would the feelings that make life worth living: desire, joy, love.
It’s easy for me to write this at 19, with most of my pain in front of me. I’m guilty of renouncing faith in humanity in response to horror and tragedy, and the suffering of my elders, even some of my peers, dwarfs anything I could imagine having the strength to endure. If we get a head start learning that we need to be vulnerable, perhaps we can find the courage to live passionately, unguarded and connected.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go get rejected.
Email Matt Camarda at firstname.lastname@example.org.