For the longest time, I always got uncomfortable whenever people asked me about what my book was “about.” I mean, it’s not like I didn’t know what it was about—I was the one writing it after all—but I never knew how to sum it up in one succinct sentence. I mean, even if I allowed myself to use the term “coming-of-age,” I would still have had to say, “it’s a coming-of-age story of…” and again, I would hit a wall.
But then something funny happened. I was driving up to Fort McMurray in the middle of nowhere, Alberta, and it was the third day of the trip. It had been a gruelling journey so far, thanks to the stress caused by driving through the United States, and both my friend and I were thankful to be back on Canadian soil—even if that soil was of the “sketchy-outskirts-of-Winnipeg” variety. At any rate, you had sent me a message earlier that day, asking about how the trip was so far, and when I read it that night, something occurred to me.
Do you know what I wanted to say? I wanted to say something along the lines of “I miss you and I’ve thought about you every day since I left.” And that was the truth, you know? Of course, that’s not what I ended up saying, but in that moment, I realized that this was what my book is about: it is about the idea—the tragedy —that we can never bring ourselves to say the things we want to say as often as we need.
We spend much of our lives practicing our social skills and we’ve been conditioned, in some ways, to think that there’s a time and a place for everything we could possibly want to say. We’re concerned about how others might react if we let them know how we feel in what we perceive as the wrong context. So we hold it all in. And, as a result, we will never say the wrong thing at the wrong time—we will never have moments of awkwardness. We can avoid those moments that can seem devastating when they happen…
But we also miss out on the chance to connect with people. We miss out on the chance to tell others how they’ve affected our lives. We miss out on the chance that they might feel the same way about us. There are so many things that we choose to keep to ourselves; things that we’re sometimes dying to share with others and… I don’t know, I just think that it’s a tragedy that we choose not to. And I think it’s a tragedy that this choice is almost a knee-jerk reaction because we live in a society where we prefer to be ignorant if the truth doesn’t confirm something we already want to hear.
That’s really what my story is about. It’s what my life’s been about, really: treading the line between being honest about my feelings and following acceptable social protocol. So what’ll it be? The next time we meet and you ask, “how was Fort McMurray?” how would you react if I turned and said, “did you know I missed you?”