By Eder Díaz Santillán
I am sitting on a flight back to Los Angeles facing all sorts of emotions as I write this column. These last few days I have been mostly absent and away from myself. I have been feeling very disconnected lately from all the projects that usually impassion me. I have been functioning in autopilot. The power that emotions can have over us is incredible. In my experience, it is very draining when I feel out of control of what I feel. I don’t want to focus on the details of why I am feeling like this, mainly because I still haven’t processed it all. But also, because I don’t want my experience to be the focus, because if someone isn’t going through the same situation, I would hate for that to be the reason they feel excluded from this column.
So, instead I am going to focus on the importance of letting it all out and just let our feelings flow. That is for sure more universal than the details of my situation. I think I am right to say that we have all been through something that was hard to cope with. I believe that one of the biggest challenges we face as humans is to let others see our open wounds and for us to openly admit that we need help. When I think of myself, and how I process my feelings, I always find a new barrier around my heart that I have been carrying since my childhood.
My conclusion is that while we are in the closet, we become great actors. We learn to not show any sort of feelings to our elementary school and middle school crushes to avoid anyone else finding out how we feel. We learn to laugh at homophobic jokes that we hear during recess or during our family weekend get-togethers, so no one finds out their words are hurting us. In fact, we sometimes learn some of those “jokes” ourselves so that there is no doubt we don’t feel anything when these words are said. We convince ourselves that nothing hurts.
Let me make something clear, I am not an expert in the subject of expression, I’m just writing based on my own experience. In my case, I have also learned to care deeply for others in silence. I had a friend in Junior High School that was the jock of our class. He was the best soccer player, a stud, all the boys wanted to be his friend and all the girls wanted to date him. I never really understood why he chooses to hang out with me every day, but I wasn’t complaining either. I think he was my puppy love – the kind of love that you can only really experience at that age. I loved listening to him, making him laugh and I would write his name all over my notebook. I want to think he never knew, how crazy I was for him, and to this day he remains a close friend.
I share this short story because I feel like I am learning now to be vulnerable. At the time, keeping my true feelings to myself was torture, but now it is my most cherished memory from Junior High. As I grow older, I am learning to speak up when I am sad, afraid, or I feel anxiety. I am learning to say something when someone close to me or around me says something that hurts me. Above all, I am learning to say “te quiero” and “I love you.” (Sorry, there is no equivalent for te quiero in English). It’s not easy, I’ll admit that I sometimes still stay quiet. But as I learn to say these words out loud, I can feel how I release all that anxiety and fear that I have been carrying.
Let me warn you that a very cliché phrase is coming next: it is not easy, but it is beautiful. Isn’t it cliché? But I am also learning that that phrase is true. I just find that it is not complete; it should include a reference for time. Something like “it’s not easy right now, but with time you will remember it as something beautiful.” For me being vulnerable requires so much courage, sometimes I’m not sure I have it in me, because in my vulnerability are all the fears of rejection that I have internalized since I was a child. However, I am now learning that in being vulnerable is a great opportunity to feel alive. To not only coast through life on autopilot, but to show up every day, face it and deeply feel it.
I may have a column, a podcast and a radio show, but I’m not a fan of sharing everything, so I’ll keep the details of my story to myself. It’s the most beautiful story that I have ever known.