As kids, parents will always want to raise us into intelligent beings. They drill into us a discipline for education, literacy, success. Growing up, education and intellectual growth is sprung up on us as the most necessary element in life. For most of us, that’s what the first couple of decades in life are all about.
Study, succeed, strive for more, repeat.
As an admirer of everything intellectual, I have no objection to that. But as I go further on this journey, I can’t help but notice the gaping holes in my ability to cope with feelings and emotions. And while I’m not sure how exactly emotional intelligence can be taught; out of experience, I don’t think it develops innately without gentle and calculated guidance from the outside. And it is glaringly obvious that I’m not the only one, as I encounter people on both extremes of the spectrum: the ones that let their emotions drown and devour them to the point of exhaustion, and the ones who shut everything out and pretend that they are bulletproof and ‘in control’.
Where and when I was growing up, we let girls cry their hearts out, and eventually, they learn to seek the refuge and council of their close friends. And that might be why some women end up being more capable of navigating emotional encounters. We do get the privilege of experimenting with the shoves and the tugs of emotions without harsh judgment from society. But guys? Well, they taught guys to toughen up, damn it, and not cry, not show signs of defeat, and take pride in the thick skin that they eventually develop.
In my early days as a misguided feminist, my ultimate goal was to not be like other girls. And between that and depression, I learned to deal with things the way guys do. Scrunch it up, throw it over your shoulder, and pretend it never happened. And if I ever remember that it did, then I pretend like it never affected me. I also don’t talk about it and if I ever do, I do it nonchalantly like I’m immune to anything the world may throw at me. I only cry in the dark at the movies when most people can’t see me, or with my nose up in a book over things that do not directly affect me. And the next morning, I get to walk up straight like I’m an invincible being, unburdened and unimpeded by the fragile human state. The good of it and the bad.
To be honest, that technique works impeccably for a fairly long time. You feel stable and in control. Well, at least until your space is of full of haphazardly crammed, unresolved conflicts and burdens that topple on you one day and send you running into a rage or an ugly breakdown. And then, you shove them aside to make some more space, loathe yourself for your lapse in behaviour, and resolve to never let yourself lose your grip so drastically ever again.
Struggle, shove aside, stay solid, suffocate, repeat.
It has taken me a long time to realize how emotionally stunted I am, and that indifference is not strength, that invulnerability is the epitome of cowardice, and that always rising above means that one of those days you’ll be so far off the ground that you can’t have a normal connection with other people. A helium balloon lost to the heavens, deemed to float alone until it deflates or bursts.
And while I realise all of that now, I don’t know how to reverse all the damage I’ve inflicted on myself. Hell, I don’t know if I should. And even if I should, I surely as hell don’t know if I could.
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