“I completely understand” is one of the most irksome phrases someone can mutter to me if they’ve clearly never been in my position.
I appreciate your good intentions and your consolation attempts, but I can tell you from personal experience that it’s just not fair to tell someone that you understand their suffering unless you have in fact had the same, or very similar experience.
It’s not fair to equate a lifetime of adversity and grief to knowledge accumulated through an anthropology or psych class or discussions or documentaries. It’s not okay to sweep what feels like an eternity of misery under the rug.
We all know pain and hardship, and we experience it on different levels and wavelengths, but this also doesn’t make hardship a competition.
Life shouldn’t be a race to the bottom, even if it sometimes feels like one.
Our encounters and opinions about suffering are molded by our individual experiences and influenced by our pasts.
My friend Curtis has had more ups and downs s-old than I ever hope to have in my lifetime. I’m talking depression, alcoholism, anxiety, car accidents, heart attacks, bacterial infection, suicide attempts, as well as lots of scientific things that I wish I could understand. I just know that he is fighting as hard as he can against the way his body was built, and that he doesn’t want to/shouldn’t be defined by his hardships.
What I say here today will not be satisfying, nor will it offer much insight, because I’ve never had depression or experienced a lot of what Curtis has endured. I’m not going to say “I understand” or offer advice because I don’t understand, and the only words of wisdom I have are:
When the going gets tough, keep going.
The only role I can play as a long-distance friend is listener. I will be listening to you rant incoherently, whisper softly, and wax poetic about social injustice, love, and everything in between.
I will never judge you. I will swallow any instincts to retort. I will listen, and I will absorb your shocks and explosions.
I’ll encourage you to help yourself in any way you can, mainly pushing you to blog whenever the inspiration hits. I’ll be the supportive, healthy and present friend that I always should have been.
Readers, Curtis has an amazing blog that he started a few months ago. It’s deep, it’s insightful, and though you may not understand every tenet of it, it is strongly relatable.
About many topics he writes astutely, decrying the many costs of Greek life, tackling the complicated nature of relationships, and boldly criticizing the administration at his former college, Wake Forest University.
Curtis doesn’t need your pity. He doesn’t need your understanding. But we could all learn something about ourselves as we follow along his life.
It is a work in progress, as he is, as I am, and as all of you are. It is, as the header states, a process.
How appropriate timing. I have emerged from my winter hibernation, exhausted and overwhelmed by everything that winter quarter has pitched at me.
Finals are looming and just over the horizon spring break is waving at me. And from my calendar appears this message:
March forth. Do not stumble, do not stagger, and do not crawl. March! Forth!
Still obsessed with Cashmere Cat:
But I also love the original!