It was only when I was ten thousand miles from my plush, sheltered home that I felt I actually got it. I was sitting in the security office of a London market reporting a theft. My iPhone had just been stolen out of my trench coat pocket by an Eastern European. In addition, I’d just been rejected yet again by an article blog site I really wanted to write for. I was rapidly running out of the money I’d spent four months waiting on tables to earn. And I was also feeling wholeheartedly disappointed by yet another guy who turned out to be a lot less than I had originally thought. Again. I felt alone and very vulnerable.
I was sitting in that security office looking into the dreary mist feeling sorry for myself. Well, this was not the way I pictured things to go. Sent off on an adventure too many aren’t given the opportunity to live, I should have been ecstatic. Instead I was gutted and cold. London was supposed to be an escape for me. I was going back to my hometown. Oh yeah. I was going to fall in love, write a lot, learn a lot and have it all stored away in the safe memory box of my iPhone. Sure I was. I felt I was more than capable. I’d set off with optimism, but that nagging feeling of failure was back, and it killed me.
How many failures will it take before someone turns on the lightbulb? I thought. How many times will I have to meet up with a guy until there are proper, reciprocated feelings that matter? I pondered. And for fuck sake, how many more times will I lose a fucking phone?
But this is the world where we pretend everything is okay, right? We publicise the ideal image of ourselves, but compare the pure truths of our own private lives with the publicised ideals of others. We hide our feelings and drink away our pain. We’re taught it’s “uncool” to admit our failures and our passions, and instead act invincible, as if nothing can ever hurt us. And with good reason, too. Being honest about everything you feel is tough, and hurts like hell a lot of the time. Still, it hurts more to keep it inside; to watch the person you love, or the place you want to be linger in the distance trapped by the possibility of heartbreak and pain.
So that day it really hit me that life will take whatever it can from you. It’ll steal your dreams, it’ll crush your ideas of romance, it’ll change your perception of travel and adventure. But the fact is, if you numb it all out with the facade of cool, and the pretense of feeling nothing, you’re missing out on the one thing that makes us human: vulnerability.
What Vulnerability Isn’t
A week before my trip I went to the bank to collect a travel card. The bank teller asked me, with his endearing smile and faded acne scars, “Aren’t you afraid you’ll miss whatever you have here?” He explained that he just wouldn’t be able to take off like I was about to, and travel away from his friends and his world as he knew it. He told me that his identity was where he was, and that obviously he’s “gone on holidays with friends”, but that that’s different from travelling alone and relying only on yourself.
Relying only on yourself is hard, but I still pitied this man. People tailor their identity around their job and their friends. The problem with that is, you’re basically missing out on challenging yourself and are putting more energy into fitting yourself into some social stigma or group. For instance, hipsters. Now, everyone with a brain knows that hipsters aren’t actually as “individual” as they think they are. My friend and I were walking around Shoreditch in London trying to find a “cool bar with live music”, and how did we go about doing it? We targeted hipsters in the street and asked them. We found one and yep. He dressed like a hipster. He spoke like a hipster. He said things that a hipster would say. They’re as easy to identify as any other social group, yet they pride themselves on being different. So my point here is that vulnerability is not priding yourself on being in an individual social scene, nor is it achieved from your work position or your relationships. In fact, it’s the complete opposite and it comes from you and you alone.
What Vulnerability Is
Vulnerability is saying and doing exactly what you feel even if it means potentially being left with nothing. It’s doing stuff that takes guts. It’s doing stuff with heart. It’s doing stuff with honesty. Too many people nowadays are afraid of real feelings and it makes me sad. They aren’t giving people the respect they deserve because they’re afraid it may make them “uncool”. People don’t chase love or passion anymore. You know why? Because they may look like a fool if they failed or are rejected. I know people who literally cry themselves to sleep at night because they’re living a lie in some form or another. So instead of telling the truth, they bottle it up, put on a smile, take some MDMA and take a cute selfie.
So please, I implore you, be vulnerable. Tell someone the truth. Say how you feel. If you want to be a performer, admit that you really want to be a performer. Stop acting half-assed and nonchalant about the things that are supposed to matter in life. If you see someone you know in the street but you aren’t sure they know you, say HI anyway. Because it’s important.
It’s important because it’s only when you’ve done all that. It’s only when you’ve begged for your lover back, or written five hundred songs or called twenty five pet shops to find out if they have that cat you wanted and you’re lying on the floor in tears of heartache because everyone’s said “no” that you will actually get it. You will actually get what it’s about. It’s not about cool and it’s not about nonchalance and it’s not about Facebook likes and making everything seem okay because it fucking isn’t. It’s about telling the truth- your truth- from the bottom of your heart because YOU want to. And it could take a thousand truths, a thousand “no’s” and just one “yes”, but that’s all you need. You need one “yes” that came from you and your truth: your honesty. It’s about being vulnerable. And don’t worry about dignity. Dignity comes and goes.