vulnerable

Can I Just Be Honest?

As the High Holidays sneak closer, this time of year is one of introspection. A closer look, an uncovering of what I’ve safely kept hidden all year – the more difficult parts of life, and myself, that I’d rather not confront on a regular basis.

Every year, for the month before Rosh Hashonah begins, it is customary to listen to the shofar blow, a spiritual version of an alarm clock, a wake-up call to take stock of what counts. This year, we received a very real and cruel wake-up call.  When my cousin passed away, long before the world could afford to lose her, it was a harsh reminder that life is fragile and how easy it is to lose focus.
I’m a very passionate person. At times, I’ve even been told I’m too passionate.
But I have so many dreams, so many hopes for the future, so many ways we can be doing better as a nation, as educators, as people.
There are so many ways I can be doing better as me.
I know that I am not the best version of myself yet. I know there is so much more digging, so much more discovery to do – but do we ever really become our best selves? Is there ever a time that we can put down our tools, put our hands up and say “done”?
This Elul, this month leading up to Rosh Hashonah, has been one filled with lots of thinking, lots of looking within and facing some hard truths.
Why have I been putting certain things off?
Why do I hold back from doing certain things?
Why do I hold back from saying things that are difficult to say?
Why do I consistently and constantly allow for the things that don’t matter to get in the way of things that really do?
One thing my cousin Hindi was really good at was honesty.
How many times will I lie to myself before I realize that we only benefit from honesty, no matter how hard it seems at the time?
As much as I love to say that I love vulnerability, and sharing my deepest thoughts, I suffer too from the normal human condition of being terrified to open the door at times.
Because when we open doors, the world is allowed to judge what is within, and allowing people to judge our most inner selves is scary stuff.
But. Honesty. Ugh, honesty.
There is this moment in time, always, right before I say something I’m scared to say. It’s this moment in my mind in which I must make a decision – silence, or share?
Every time I choose the latter it’s like an adrenaline rush, as soon as I commit to being honest, to sharing what hurts, or what may be scary to say.
And want to know the truth?
I’ve never regretted it.
That fact alone should be enough to motivate me the next time, but each time it’s a fresh new battle.
Vulnerability and honesty are not easy. But they are the only things that keep us human.
If we can’t relate to each other, if we don’t know each others weaknesses as much as we know each other’s strengths, how can we connect on the level necessary for human connection?
Sometimes my honesty and openness makes others uncomfortable, and I apologize deeply if you have ever been on the receiving end of this.
But for as long as I live, I hope to never lose the ability to be vulnerable, and I pray that this is a year that each time I choose to open up, I lose a little bit of the fear that comes with it.
For we are all only human.
Life is fragile and comes with no guarantees.
Why should we hide? Why should we fear being real, when that is what we are all craving anyway?
We live in a world of edited realities – let’s not let that determine who we are.
I’ve had so many beautiful, raw, vulnerable conversations with people since the start of this blogging-for-a-year stint, and that has taught me that when you open a door, others will walk through it.
I hope to always be able to keep this door open, and I invite you all to open your own.
I’m not promising that it won’t scare the heck out of you.
It will.
But that’s the point.
This post is a kind of a mess, and I’m not sure if it all flows, but it’s what’s on my mind today, and this is me.
Here’s to a year of truth and honesty, and being unashamedly myself.
Here is to a year of not being afraid.
Blog Post: 49/52

Featured Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Where Blog Posts Go to Die

People often tell me I’m good at being vulnerable, but the truth is, I’m okay with anything I put out there.
To me, being vulnerable is opening up to what is truly fragile.
But perhaps that is just stupidity, and knowing what you should share and what you shouldn’t share is just maturity.
I’ve been struggling with this idea this week.
I wrote 4 blog posts this week.
Not one of them are fit to be shared, either because they’re too boring, too personal, or too controversial to unleash on my Facebook page.
Do you know how frustrating it is to write 4 blog posts and not want to share any of them?
I’ve always been a sharer – I’ve never been one to avoid sharing my feelings, not as a child, not as an adult. I’ve never been afraid of putting myself out there with my emotions. Trust me, I’ve put myself in some very vulnerable, embarrassing situations because I don’t believe in letting things stop you when you have something to say.
But these blog posts are not meant for the world, maybe just for now, or maybe for forever.
I tried a lot of things to produce a blog post this week.
I tried writing at different times of day, in different locations, all different forms of writing.
I sat in a coffee shop, with a coffee I didn’t even want to see if I could reproduce that famous coffee shop inspiration.
It’s time I’ve come to terms with the fact that I am not a coffee shop writer. It just doesn’t work for me.
But the point is, I’ve been working hard this week.
And it’s felt fruitless.
As I finished each blog post, I knew immediately it was not the post I was looking for.
And then, while I was walking back from the coffee shop, this line popped into my head.
“Where blog posts go to die.”
And I clung to that line, not knowing where it would go, not knowing if it meant anything.
And I got home, and I started writing.
And I decided- I’m going to honor each of this weeks failed blog posts by giving you one tiny excerpt from each:

1. And as I finish writing this, I know that I’m not going to share this because it is empty of thought and meaning. It is simply a rambling, and the level of ego I need to imagine that people should be reading my ramblings is not a level of ego I want to admit I have.

2. This attitude towards school has carried me through to my adult work life. I tried once explaining to someone that I am not capable of becoming a workaholic, of putting work before life.
She stared at me, puzzled.
“Without work, what is life?”

3. Each night, as I fall asleep, I remember all the mistakes I made, all the bad choices. I resolve to do better tomorrow – no, not better, to do it perfectly tomorrow.
I’ll wake up early, do a quick workout, eat a healthy breakfast, have an incredibly productive day, still have time to hang out with people I love, and most importantly, go to sleep earlier.

4. It is not something that is in my control.
I’ve berated myself, I’ve tried to remind myself time and time again that a watched pot never boils. But alas, I can not stop myself from thinking these thoughts.
Every wrong turn, every delayed train – heck, every train ride I’ve ever taken.

Perhaps one day these posts will be revitalized, fine-tuned and shared. Or maybe they won’t. Maybe they don’t need to. Maybe there are things I can tuck inside my notebook, keep inside my heart, and not share with the world.
Maybe these blog posts have lived and died, enough for me to open up my heart, let the words out, and close up the story.
I’m a writer. I love sharing.
But maybe not everything is meant to be shared.

Blog post: 19/52


Featured Photo by Jose Fontano via Unsplash.

Making the Connection

One of my go-to phrases in life is:
“Ugh, I hate people.”

I know, I’m a lot of fun to hang out with.
Recently, my friend called me out on it.
She told me it was just a blatant lie on my part, honestly.
I protested, defending my everlasting dislike of the human species.
She didn’t buy it.
Which is a good thing, because it got me thinking.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, or I guess even about 15 minutes, you know I’m an introvert by nature. Occasionally someone will find me sitting in my room, light off, listening to music or watching something. They always assume the light off was an act of laziness on my part, and flick it on, and always, always, it feels like an invasion of my privacy. The darkness allows me to be truly alone. No distractions. No one else but my own mind.
But then, on the flip side, there is not much I enjoy more than walking the busy streets of New York City. Quite literally the most opposite experience. I get a thrill from the people, from writing their stories in my head, from the crowds.
Sometimes I’ll hang out with friends, or go to a social gathering, and I’ll come home on a high. And then the next morning, someone could ask me if I want to go somewhere…and my first thought will be “ugh, I hate people.”
This is the thing:
I absolutely hate small talk.
No matter what, you will never find me comfortably chatting about the little things.
I hate talking about the little things.
Like the weather. Or what we do. Or where we’re from.
I’ve heard continuously from people “without small talk, how does one make new friends?”
Trust me, I’d rather make a new friend by talking about my deepest secrets from when I was eight than to chat with them about what I do today.
Oh, by the way, one of the worst versions of small talk is when someone tries to start a conversation with you that can’t possibly happen right then, like in the moments between a speaker finishes and begins their sentence, or as you’re about to cross the street, or when there are people around that can’t be a part of the conversation.
Most social settings are filled with moments like these.
Hence, my dislike for people.
I hate people.
I love people.
Recently, I had to get into the front seat of a Lyft. Naturally, being me, I prefer to sit in the back, look out the window, and listen to the music.
This time, I was with friends and they had taken the back. When they came to pick me up, my only option was the front seat.
I got in, I turned to catch up with my friends, and at one point the driver joined our conversation.
We did no introductions, I did not ask him how many years he has been a Lyft driver for, I did not have to tell him who I was, where I lived.
But I learned a lot from that conversation.
As my friends in the back began to discuss something between themselves, I began a conversation with the driver.
He told me about his country, the differences between America and his homeland. He told me about the time he accidentally killed a deer, and the police allowed him to take it home. He skinned, cleaned and cooked it, to my disbelief. I looked at him.
A man who has lived a life so extraordinarily different than my own.
A stranger, who I now shared this conversation with.
A man whose native tongue was not English, who had almost none of the same experiences as I did, yet we shared a conversation. A human connection.
That is what I love about humans.
We can communicate and see into each other’s lives. We can empathize, we can feel, we can listen. We don’t have to share anything, but a language, and sometimes not even that – to link into the human chain, to widen the horizon of understanding.
We are wondrous creatures.
When I talk to people that know me very well, and I talk about how uncomfortable I am in most social settings, they laugh. They say “oh please, you’re fine talking.”
And it’s true – when I’m comfortable, I have plenty to say. I’m not shy – I’m happy to share, argue, discuss. About almost anything. Ask my family.
But those people know me.
So I don’t know what it is really.
Is it a matter of vulnerability?
Does vulnerability not just mean being able to bare your soul, but to allow people to accept you – without you baring your soul?
Oftentimes, when I meet someone I don’t know very well that will tell me they read my blog, or that they liked something particular that I wrote, I feel the growing expectation to be meaningful and inspiring in my conversations with them. Which definitely does not bode well for small talk.
I don’t hate people. Most certainly not. I find the human species fascinating, incredible, infuriating and beautiful.
At times, my connection with my fellow humans is easy. Comfortable. Sometimes it’s like trying to get water from a rock. Painful.
I don’t hate people.
I hate the process of getting to know people.
I hate how slow you have to go. How little is socially acceptable to reveal about yourself. How difficult it is to get a good conversation going sometimes.
So, strike up a conversation. I know there’s a whole lot of people out there that I would benefit from knowing.
What is the human connection?
Talking to the uber driver. Having a conversation with someone on the subway. 2am texting conversations with people you know really well. The incredibly sweet messages I get from people who read this blog that are always unexpected and always push me to continue writing. A shared love for the same song. Nighttime trips to the beach, to the mall, to anywhere, really. Road trips – again, to anywhere. All the times that you get to bypass the small stuff, and get to the good parts.
Maybe I’ll never enjoy small talk. But maybe one day I’ll accept it as a means to an end, an obstacle that just needs to be crossed to reach the person behind it.
My friend turned to me as we discussed me not hating people and said: “sorry, you’re not special.”
She’s right.
I’m not special.
I’m human.
And that is what I love most.

(by the way, if the photo that goes with this post does not give you warm fuzzy feelings and the reminder of a sweet memory, you need to try living the way I do sometime. Benches in the city should always remind you of some of the best conversations. No pressure.)
Blog Post: 17/52

Featured Photo:  DIMITRIS GEREBAKANIS on Unsplash

Perspective: 5 Years Later.

I recently found my notebook from my high school creative writing club and chanced upon this one exercise we did. We were challenged to write a poem about 3 big things that we had opinions on: marriage, the future, and our career goals.
As a 16-year-old, I was very sure of my thoughts. I never shared this poem anywhere because I remember not thinking it was very good. But today, almost five years later, I’m going to share it.
Together with a follow-up poem about where I’m at now.
Who knows; maybe I’ll keep writing updates for years to come. And yes, I feel pressure to outdo my younger self. If I haven’t become a better writer, what have I done?

Past Etti:

At most I am a skeptic,
a non-believer in the tried and trusted,
a mocker of those who live blindly.
A realist, or is it a pessimist?
I struggle to see the beauty
in words repeated.
Marriage is a far off life,
a place where you must be a wife,
I only search for late night walks,
and a fairy-tale happy ending.
I find myself always searching,
for something better, something nice.
I’m the future
I want to be a woman
who can answer to “What do you do?”
with the words “I change the world”
and change diapers too.
For yes, I want to see the world,
and fix all that I see,
I want to be different,
Powerful, bold and strong,
but motherings my thing.
I search for a career,
that feeds that very need.
Working with children
more special than I’ll ever be.
So this is my perspective,
on this g-d forsaken world,
I wonder what will cross these pages
in a year or two.

Present day Etti:

What is it like
to be sure?
“Are you ready?”
“What kind of guy?”
“What are you studying?”
“What do you want to do?”
Questions
that some days
have answers,
and some days
do not.
Having the answers
is comforting,
content,
safe.
Not knowing
means
you still have a chance
to make it better;
stronger;
more alive.
I live in fear
of living a lie
of living a life
I never intended to.
My days are meant to be filled
with digging deep
and building up.
I’ve always wanted to help
so I was drawn
to those who called for it.
Now,
I search for those
who don’t know
how to call.
While babies
and diapers
seem foreign to my
day-to-day life,
My half-of-a-soul
is calling to be whole.
As each day comes,
and then it goes,
I’ve learned
we are in even less control,
than we think we are.
Blog Post: 7/52

Feature Photo by Vitaliy Paykov via Unsplash.