After the exhilarating high of completing Voices, the First Days event where students speak about community on campus, there was one common response from that night: They told me and the other participants that our speeches were so “honest” and “open.”
In a speech about my life, I thought that I would have to be honest. I assumed that it was a given. We all knew that coming in. Even though we had the freedom to choose what to speak about, we knew that we would be revealing personal things to over 500 people. It didn’t occur to me that I could be dishonest. I mean, I know no one will call my mother and ask if I ever had a terminal illness as a child and because of that that’s how I learned the importance of surviving. Maybe it’s my naivety, but I think honesty should be a given in our lives, even in our administrations.
As an aspiring writer, it is my duty to open my mind and soul to the world. I do realize others aren’t inclined to reveal such vulnerability to the public or even to their loved ones. My family doesn’t share their feelings. We aren’t the white family that talks and hugs out their issues in 30 minutes. We don’t go to the living room and have family conferences. We yell at each other and/or remain passive aggressive. I remember times when my mom gave me the silent treatment as child. If I did reach out to her, she would give me her stare to get the hell away from her. I was told be silent and do what I was told, no questions asked. If I did ask too many questions, the adults would say I was too nosey. Because of that, I wasn’t much of a sharer (and also, I’m a Gemini, so it is in my nature to be two-faced (fair warning to everyone reading this)). Still, it was a novelty for me to be vulnerable during my adolescence. The only way I could express myself was through my fiction, but I shared that with a select few. If it wasn’t for years of therapy, I would be a different person.
It took time, but I finally began to be open with my friends, especially here at the College. But with that came the expectation that I would be honest about my life. I felt obligated to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing less. I did not want to be labeled “fake.” I have this irrational fear that a friend would consider my action to be “fake.” That I would have that label sewn across my chest for everyone to know to stay away from me.
I have had lunches/dinners where my friends had to look sideways in a crowded dining hall before speaking to me about another student. And I don’t want to be the person people speak about in hushed voices. I still have this need to tell everyone my inner thoughts and fears. It usually happens when there’s a dull moment in the conversation, and that’s when I reveal something randomly personal. Then I worry that I’m being too honest. Is it so bad that I want everyone to know that I’m real?
But I also wonder where the line between “real” and “fake” lies. Why would a friend be insincere to another friend? Jealousy? Love?
I know that I do fake things. I mean, so far, I haven’t slept with anyone’s boyfriend. But my fakeness, like others’, is subtle. Sometimes I have purposefully skipped class because I didn’t do the homework. Sometimes I do not say hello to friends when I see them because I think they don’t want to be bothered. Sometimes I am rude because I feel so exhausted that I cannot keep up my façade of happiness. Sometimes I am distant because I don’t want to tell people how they hurt me or vice versa. Sometimes I have mistakenly told someone else’s business to others because I make mistakes and I have tried to make things better.
But honesty has a way of reaching people’s hearts and soul. They really appreciate that you’ve decided to be sincere. I’ve noticed that it makes them feel more comfortable. If you’re vulnerable and open with them, they can be vulnerable. I trust them with my life and they trust me with theirs. Those are small moments that make us feel connected.
Maybe what I’ve said can be redundant, but in this Kafkaesque world, it is important to have open conversations about the honesty in our relationships and lives.
Leonel Martinez ’20 is from New York, N.Y. He lives in East.