What if we just got REAL?

"Does it ever get exhausting?" I asked one of my students who comes into class each day with so many walls around her, that I can never really know if she is hearing what myself and others are saying.

"Yes, it does," she replied.  She knew what I was talking about with that one simple question.

And yet rather than shake it off or blow me off, she simply said, "I don't know anything else."

Even behind her walls, I can see that she is a bright and amazing young woman. Yet, she has built up so many walls around her at the age of 17, that she does not know anything else, but to exude an attitude that screams "I don't care".  How can one be so broken, at such a young age?

We continued to talk and she agreed that she would work at chipping away at the walls and I would continue to provide the support she needed, as would the others in the class. Still, it raised the question on a bigger level: What if we just got real?

Take a moment and think about it, the two people who might read this post. What would people find if they pulled back the layers of what you present, and instead saw you in your most natural state. Would you be embarrassed? Would you feel relieved? Would you shed tears of joy? Pain? How vulnerable and exposed would you feel if you were bold enough to say, "This is who I am. Take or leave it." (And then, really mean it.)

Following a Saturday program, a group of students gathered to evaluate a youth leadership conference in the university parking lot. The women's studies class came into the discussion and how some people felt it was a good group, but that the trust was not at a level they felt comfortable with so that they could share. I told them I knew it was a risk and I knew it was a challenge, but what if they called others on it. And so they did...

The activity itself is simple: "If you knew me, you would know..." But, it is what you do with the phrase that can free you. For some, the sharing can be life changing, for others who are either not ready to share or ready to dig deep, it can simply be an activity. Still, somewhere and at some point, it has the ability to make people think about what they are willing to let people see.

I tend to be optimistic, when I am not drowning in my own self-doubt, but I would like to imagine that we would all be better off if we actually took the time to meet people before we judged them.  I would like to imagine that if we understood the challenges people face within their own daily lives, that it might lead to more compassion and less cruelty or indifference.

So, if you knew me, you would know...that my days can be filled with self-doubt and second guessing, that I love to sing at the top of my lungs even though I can't carry a tune and that as a survivor, if I am willing to trust you and form a friendship with you, you have broken down one of the walls that I have put around myself.


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