I’ve called myself a verbal processor for a while, but it’s more about just putting it out there.
Sometimes — usually — there’s no lead in. I just start.
When I felt like people didn’t care about what I had to say as a kid, I just started talking. And talking and talking, until I was absolutely sure people knew who I was.
It usually begins without warning, all at once. Maybe we’re at a party, and all of a sudden I’m pouring my heart out. I’m telling you my life, the contents spilling onto you faster than a drink, coming faster at you than a shot, but surprisingly less messy than you would think.
I haven’t puked in 7 years, but every time I’m out meeting a stranger, I do it a little: I word-vomit. I overshare, maybe not literally going on for hours (like I do with my best friends sometimes), but more than what’s socially expected. People don’t care, but when they pretend they do, I buy it. I want them to care. It’s not enough that my friends care – I want everyone to care. The world may be less lonely after that.
I used to keep a diary.
But since I grew up in the digital age, it wasn’t an actual diary.
Similar to how “getting coffee” has now become a generalization for the idea of hanging out, “diary” is a figurative concept for somewhere to notate their feelings. It’s too personal for a blog, not objective enough to be publicly shared – but for someone who could type faster than she could write, it started as a series of digital Word documents.
It was called “Crystal’s Confider,” where I addressed everything to “CC-”
And I told “CC” everything that I now word-vomit over everyone else. I told them/it/her/him everything that I felt, because everything I knew wasn’t enough for me back then. Everything I knew was stuff that people told me about my problems, that I had already inherently acknowledged; I needed someone silent to just listen to me. And that’s what I told “CC” for years.
Then the ten’s digit where I wrote the year became a 1, and as it changed, my problems got more real, the loneliness got sharper, the self-awareness intensified, and somehow I told “CC” less and less.
The feelings got bigger. The word-vomit would have been too messy.
I opened “CC” up during junior year of high school, just for nostalgia’s sake, and I realized that while I told them/it/her/him everything, them/it/her/him/ didn’t really know me. All it knew was what I thought was important enough to talk about but didn’t actually scare me – boys, petty girls, and small familial issues. If you’d read those, you would’ve thought I was the most shallow teenager ever.
But I was so much more than that, I thought. From ages 12-15, I became a stronger Christian, I strengthened my friendships with a tight-knit group that still influences me to this day, and I started getting along better with my parents because I started making an effort to understand their personalities.
But that’s not what I talked about. Stuff that I’m scared of isn’t what I talk about. I’m frustrated, upset, angry, sad – but you wouldn’t ever think I’m depressed, despairing, or delirious. Maybe that’s a little too intense. My gag reflex has kept me from throwing that up.
So how do I balance?
How do I not puke everything out, but refrain from keeping everything in? How, even, do I selectively share?
I started thinking about this more as I came to college. And I became very good at making even the emotionally unavailable available.
Sometimes, even if I don’t tell all my emotions and life story to you, I make generalized comments that I know will appeal to you. I try really hard to tell you all about what I think of my major, politics, religion, mutual friends, being from Oregon, so you’ll see me as more vulnerable than you. So you’ll feel like you can read me. So you’ll like me.
My worst fear is I’ll be judged for someone I don’t think I am. Even now, when I’ve been called the most open and outgoing person people know, I’m scared of people not understanding me. I keep thinking that if they do understand me, no matter how much they listen, sometimes I’m still unsure people know who I really am.
So I keep talking, and talking, and hoping something will hit the right notes. People assume I’m an open book because I know myself well. But what if I don’t?
Since starting sophomore year, I’ve realized I don’t find strength in actually being vulnerable anymore.
Now, it’s a manipulative vulnerability. I know if I tell you a lot of personal things, you’ll probably reciprocate.
What I hate is being vulnerable beyond my control. I hate being honest if it won’t be an advantage.
I hate the idea that being nice to everyone and being likable could ever, ever undermine me. Because that’s how it’s been. Because I don’t know how to be any other way. Because that’s the way I can win the game – be nicer than everyone.
But just because I’m open doesn’t mean I’m nice? Or does it? Being transparent means that people can assess you, and if you suck as a person, well, you’ll be assessed – judged — more harshly?
I’m not particularly smart, or tough, or good looking, or talented, or even hard working. But I always thought being kind and transparent could get you places. If it doesn’t, it’s kinda too late for me to realize that. It’s too late for me to take back all the honest things I’ve said to not-honest people.
This post was supposed to end with a realization. But as I look around and see that day by day, I’m talking more and more about nothing, I accept that I’m seeking a change that may not come any time soon.