Vulnerability Is The New Buzz Word

Don’t mistake me. I’m more than a strong advocate for honest, open communication, sharing of emotions, and facility of disclosure. But just like the media ruined “mindfulness” and “feminism” such that they now sport almost smarmy connotations, I fear that “vulnerability” is quickly becoming the next trendy phrase in 2019.

I would hate to see this because vulnerability, of all things, is probably one if not the most important keys to having fulfilling relationships and a good support network. But we must remind ourselves that being willing to share your deepest fears and secrets does not automatically swing open the doors for friendships to develop. Yes, be vulnerable. But don’t prioritize spilling your own secrets over your responsibility to be considerate of the other person.

Vulnerability is important, certainly. But to really develop a good, healthy relationship, we need to recognize that it’s two-sided. We should defend our own boundaries, needs, and self-worth, but we also must pride ourselves on our abilities to be understanding of others. We need to genuinely want to get to know others. It’s more than one-sided vulnerability – it’s two-way empathy.

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How To Actually Have A Better Year: On Toxic Relationships

One thing I’ve seen people advocate this past month is dropping toxic friendships from your life. I agree, but I also think that removing bad doesn’t necessarily guarantee the addition of good. Instead of simply ridding ourselves of what hurts us, we need to also become the kind of person worth keeping. We need to set the example of what is good.

Security, reciprocal emotional responsibility, and clear communication are qualities we often take for-granted. But people worth keeping exhibit these, and more.

We all basically understand that toxic people leave you emotionally drained, devalued, and/or feeling stifled in your attempts at communication. We shouldn’t dehumanize or vilify them, though – they are insecure people who deserve compassion. But they lack responsibility of both their own emotions and those of others. They may believe that admitting their own shortcomings, fears – thereby being vulnerable – is a weakness. Or they may source their own value in others’ esteem and project.

In contrast, people worth keeping are those with whom you can have conversations about everything from the weather to your wildest dreams. They know that everyone has faults – themselves and you – but know that everyone is trying their best. They know that everyone has just as many if not more strengths. When something goes wrong, they let you know while still taking account of the fact that every story has two sides. When something goes right, they tell you, encouraging you, building you up.

To simplify, in a harmonious relationship, communication is earnest and reciprocal, ambitions and vulnerabilities are validated, and both individuals are responsible.

Getting rid of toxicity won’t guarantee that the rest of our relationships will be fulfilling. We all want people who build us up, make us excited to reach for our goals, and make us feel safe. But to find these kinds of relationships, we need to be those kinds of people too. In 2019, we need to all become people who communicate respectfully with others, are strong enough to be vulnerable, and responsible enough to nurture truly positive relationships.

The Imperativeness of Being Earnest

To be honest, honesty is overrated. Earnestness, on the other hand, is extremely undervalued.

Who hasn’t before heard (if not said) the passive-aggressive preface, “Just being honest?” Firstly, honesty is not an excuse to be an asshole. Honesty should only be used where an outsider perspective that conflicts with another’s interpretation of events is constructive, whether that be to truly help someone for their own benefit or to defend yourself if your rights are violated.

Secondly, honesty is an abstract notion. Honesty, according to Merriam Webster, is “adherence to the facts.” But when we preface a subjective statement with “just being honest,” we are not honestly adhering to the correct definition. Who is to say that my interpretation of reality is a fact? The only fact in that statement would be the fact that you think something different.

Finally, people know that being “honest” can often provoke others. They sometimes thus use honesty as a pretext for inaction, likely also blaming the other party for not permitting them to be honest, which brings me to my next point.

We seem to confuse honesty of words with something virtuous. Sticking to the “facts” is impossible. But being sincere is not.

It is an age old adage that “actions speak louder than words.” Honesty is certainly not always the best option, but earnestness usually is. If you truly, honestly care about someone, it isn’t so much the content of your words that will demonstrate it as it is your actions. Listening to people. Reaching out to them. Gestures that show you want to understand and care for them. Is this always completely possible? Of course not. But it is indeed the thought that counts, and more.

The Taming of the Who?

A brief clarification: refuse to pursue those who aren’t worth it. In other words, those who don’t reciprocate the same level of openness and accountability for their actions when it comes to their relationships. Choose friends and companions who show they care.

I am constantly reminded of Antoine Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince and the notion of l’apprivoisement. L’apprivoisement is, in short, the deliberate action of making friends. It is singling out an individual one feels is worth knowing and deliberately taking action to further understand said individual. Unfortunately, while it accurately connotes the patience it takes to forge relationships, it doesn’t fully encapsulate all of the complexities that come with it.

Forging or maintaining a relationship is a reciprocal action. It is not simply a domesticator and a domesticated. There must be volition on both sides. It is not as simple as my declaring that I want to be your friend, persistently asking you questions to get to know you, and then happy end.

I find that expressing feelings through writing when rejection or disappointment occurs is cathartic. But it is just that – expression. It is not necessarily a basis for decision nor an attempt to apprivoiser through flowery words like Cyrano de Bergerac and Roxane.

We need to stop mistaking feelings for finality and start choosing people who prioritize us as much as we do them. When it comes to the people we choose to stay in our circles, we express our feelings with writing. But we make our decisions with our brains.

“I saw you yesterday across the road”

I saw you yesterday across the road, walking

Up the staircase, under the architraves, towards Minerva

And her temple of turning cogs. All I could discern

Was the curve of your shoulders, but though the rain was falling,

The fog thick, I knew it was you by the way the air

Parted for your stride. My friend dropped her ice cream and asked why

We mourn what we never really had. I could not reply,

Thinking how there were surely gems of raindrops in your hair,

Wondering if you might hear my voice above the traffic roar,

If you’d know the shape of my mouth, the cadence of my shout,

Or if to you I’d be a silent, nameless face in the crowd.

The strawberry ice cream, like crossed paths on the shore,

Washed away with the water. You, I’ll have to do without.

The cars and rain are clamoring anyway, and my voice is not that loud.

Written April 28, 2018.

Parameters: loose Petrarchan sonnet

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“The constellations were covered by the smoke”

The constellations were covered by the smoke

Of your cigar, and as I squinted at Cygnus,

“What’s so amazing about stars,” you spoke,

“That keeps us gazing at night?” For Polaris

We chase no more down the banks of River Tuul,

And we’ve never understood the astronomer’s charts.

But someone once said, “Make a wish and you’ll

Be answered.” So lovers and thinkers sat in parks

In Lisbon and Kyoto watching swans

Glide on long pearled lake lights and thought

How gold and clear the sky shines at dawn

And constellations connect more than just the dots.

That might be why – When we part to places new

I know we’ll keep on stargazing then too.

Written December 31, 2018.

Parameters: Shakespearean sonnet, memories of this past year

Bayarlalaa & bayartai

I’m very sad, for today I’ll be leaving Ulaanbaatar.

At the UB Post, I wrote an article on my first impressions of Mongolia for my internship. For that article, I concentrated on my overall experience and addressed it from the a racial perspective. However, I didn’t address many other things that shaped my experience here, such as the people, the food, and outside trips/locations. There was a lot of good and admittedly there was some bad, but overall this has been such an empowering experience that has helped me grow and flourish in unimaginable ways. Thank you so much to everyone who helped make this happen again – you guys are amazing! Here are some highlights of my trip that I feel were key in making the experience what it was.

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You Saw Me In The Mirror

Semi-fictional piece on friendships that build and break and haunt you with regret.

Once upon a time, I thought I had a best friend. As I’ve grown older my mind has gotten weaker, and I’ve allowed myself to forget the location of every wrinkle on her face and the exact pitch of her voice when she asks a question. But even though my memory is no longer pristine, I still can trace the bridge of her nose, and I still hear echoes of her voice.

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