We Need to Talk

When I started writing this blog, the concept was simple: there are conversations that we don’t have with each other, and we need to start having them. There are times when we hold back, when we retreat into ourselves, and hide out from the world. The irony is that these are the times when we need to talk the most, when we need to get out the things that are weighing us down.

I remember sitting with friends two summers ago, the day before the fourth of July. We each had our beverage of choice, and although the sun was high and hot, the umbrella in the center of our table provided ample shade. We’d spent the afternoon playing basketball, and we were sweaty and tired, but high on endorphins. The conversation flowed, as it always seems to do with old friends. At a certain point in the afternoon, my friend asked me about my first year in New York City.

“You never talk about it,” he declared.

It was a true statement. I’m willing to talk about it now, but I definitely wasn’t willing to when I was living through it. The first year I spent in New York City was challenging. After the adrenaline rush of moving to a strange and exciting city wore off, I was suddenly very aware that I had no plan, and that one wasn’t materializing either. I spent my time applying for jobs, volunteering, and training for a marathon I would never run.

My anxiety during this time might have been the worst it’s ever been. I’d be sitting on our couch in the common room, minding my own business, when my heart would start beating furiously, and on occasion it would palpitate. I spent too much time on my own, away from people, stewing in my own juices. I’d go out and run errands just to have an excuse to get myself outside, and to feel like I was a part of the City I was now living in. I was looking for that elusive feeling of connection, and I’m not sure I ever found it when I was there.

The jobs I had or applied for were varied. I applied for and was rejected for a job as an economic writer. I briefly cold-called for an oil company. The company sold a mechanism, which was supposed to make drilling for oil a safer and more effective endeavor; that’s the strangest one. I almost had an internship for a printing company in the Bronx, which would have been a hell of a commute, but it went belly up. Instead, I was given the task of driving up there and taking pictures of a warehouse that would soon be closed for good. I walked around and snapped photos with my phone, and to say it was awkward is an understatement. There were people still there working, but they’d all need to find new jobs and soon.

I started training for a marathon, thinking to myself, “There’s nothing else to do in the winter,” and I got pretty far into it. I was feeling good about myself, felt like I was finding what I was meant to do, and I formed an unhealthy relationship with running, expecting it to be my savior, my reason for being. The problem was, during a 16 mile run, something popped in my leg, and my shin swelled up when I’d walk or stand on it for too long. I remember the last run before I gave up.

I was walking/limping back to my apartment after trying to gut it out, knowing full well that my goose was cooked, and my phone rang. My sister was on the other end, and she told me that our papa had just passed. Writing this all out now, it’s crazy what a messed up year that was, and I haven’t even included everything. I know I’ve written about some of this stuff, but it bears repeating: a year after I lost the person I loved the most, that following year may have actually been worse. I couldn’t seem to find my purpose, my new direction, and it was exacting its toll on me each and every day.

I didn’t see a therapist during this year, and I don’t know why. I had the time, but I opted to keep these failings to myself, trying to bottle them up. I’d go and visit home in Massachusetts for long periods of time, charging up my batteries before I returned to the city and drained them. The city I was so excited to move to almost killed me that first year, and when I was so convinced that I just needed a change of scenery to get me going.

I got into grad school, and the sense of relief was overwhelming. I think I screamed when I got my digital letter of acceptance. For the next two years, I knew what I’d be doing, and the weight on my mind lessened. I had a reason to stay and give it another shot.

Despite my acceptance, I took some much-needed time off. I remember saying to myself, “I’m not going to be here at all this summer,” and I made it happen. I took a life-changing road trip with my stepbrother, and enjoyed every minute of it. I rented a Cape house with friends, and our 4th of July celebration was epic. That summer cleansed my pallet, and when I came back to the city with a summer’s worth of experiences, and a new girlfriend, I felt much better about life, even though the girl and I would part ways shortly thereafter.

It was not a good year, but what made it worse was that I suffered through it in silence. After all, who wants to talk to the person who doesn’t have positive things to say, who only talks about all the crappy things that keep happening to them? At a certain point, when you see that person’s name on the call screen, you let the phone keep ringing.

We only seem to talk to people when things are going well, when we’re hitting our stride, but friendships grow and are enriched when people are able to discuss everything, when two people are able to help each other through the adversity we experience as human beings. Maybe if we talked about the bad times a little bit more, they wouldn’t be as devastating. Someone would be on the other end of the line, and instead of saying, “I have to go,” maybe they’d say, “I know how you feel. The other person could respond with, “Thanks for letting me vent,” and the two friends would be closer as a result. These conversations may not bring you all the comfort you need, but it’s better than going it alone. Pick up that phone, call that friend you haven’t heard from in a while, and let the conversation go wherever it goes. Thanks for reading.

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