On a flight to NY this past weekend, I did something I don’t do very often these days: I cried. On the plane, in front of my seatmates, a handful of big, fat tears spilled out of my eyes and cascaded down my cheeks. Slightly embarrassed, I pulled out my eye drops and quickly squeezed in a few, until they became indistinguishable from my real tears. I could blame the eye drops then. It wasn’t me. I shook my head, thinking, “this is why you don’t watch dramatic movies, especially in public”.
When I was 14, I was VERY in touch with my emotions. And my friends’ emotions. And the emotions of everyone I came in contact with (or didn’t for that matter, I could feel them too). I loved going to overly dramatic, heartbreaking movies, where I would cry my eyes out for two hours with no shame or apologies. Sometimes gulping back sobs silently, but often gasping for air as I tried to catch my breath. I’m not exaggerating. You can ask my friend Brooke, who bravely went with me to see the movie Somersby, knowing that I would likely be bawling immediately following the opening credits. (She’s a REALLY good friend)
But at some point, something changed. I stopped going to movies that might cause me to burst into tears, and opted for silly romantic comedies instead. I phased out great literature in favor of cheesy young adults novels about boarding schools and blind dates. I retired the Sarah McLachlan, and put top 40 or rap on in my car. I stopped talking about how I felt, and eventually…I stopped feeling so much. It didn’t happen immediately, but gradually I was able to dim the switch on my emotions.
I stopped allowing myself to be moved.
I don’t really know what precipitated this change. Maybe someone’s reaction to me crying made me feel ashamed for being so emotional. Maybe going through a loss at 17 caused my heart to harden in protection. Maybe I was just so overwhelmed with feeling that I had to shut it off. Take a breather from emotion. For 15 years.
How incredibly sad is that? Experiencing life through a filter of stoicism. Going through the motions without allowing myself to feel everything fully. Choosing distance because it felt easier.
And guess what? It’s not working anymore. Maybe it never really did. I thought by guarding my heart, I could avoid being hurt. I couldn’t. I thought people would be more comfortable with this version of me. Some are. Most aren’t. I’ve gone through breakups, and heartbreaks, beginnings and endings, joy and sorrow…never fully taking it ALL in.
Tomorrow I set off for what is often described as one of the most magical places on Earth: Bali. I am spending a week amongst the rice paddies and the glorious sunsets that make Bali so uniquely beautiful and special. And I realize—I want to be able to feel EVERYTHING. I want to wake up before the sunrise and be blown away by the explosion of colors. I want to taste every morsel of food without worrying about my weight. I want to laugh and cry and swim and sing and sweat.
I WANT IT ALL.
This trip feels serendipitous for me right now, as I am figuring out how to be “me” to the fullest. I get to allow emotion to re-enter my life while surrounded by the wonder and beauty of Bali. HOW LUCKY AM I?!?
I may even bring some tearjerkers along for the flight.