Listen. (And I mean this with all the love in the word, okay?) We’re all broken.
We all have a past, ghosts that haunt us, things that – against everything we ever might’ve dreamed for ourselves – forced us to become the imperfect, flawed, goddamn damaged human beings that we are. Personal history doesn’t make you special. We all have it.
It’s how you live well in spite of everything that could’ve beaten you that makes you captivating to be around.
You don’t have to pretend to be fine when you’re not. That’s not what I’m saying. What I mean is that brokenness isn’t as interesting as surviving, and surviving isn’t as magnetic as thriving. It’s about energy, the age-old cliché that people seldom remember you for what you said, but for how you made the feel. Make them feel, then, strong, and capable. Inspired and kind. Worth something. This isn’t about you.
Being interesting is almost always about the other person. Being interesting is being interested. And you can be interested in the story of others without having to say: well, here’s the shitty thing that happened to me, too. Or at least, contribute your story to a bigger narrative. Don’t present it as your whole. Because you’re so much more than that. You are.
Your tragic story is conversation enough for a dinner, or a drunken evening spent with your new BFF in the kitchen at a mutual friend’s party. Maybe it’s enough for pre-dawn hours in bed with a lover, for the first time, when what you really mean to say is, “I’m making myself vulnerable to you and I’m afraid.”
Your tragic story isn’t enough conversation for a lifetime, though. You’re going to have to move past it if you’re going to live a life with rewarding relationships, friends who feel like family, family who you would’ve chosen as friends, challenging jobs with thought-provoking colleagues and hobbies that become obsessions because there is just so much awesome in the world!
All of that good stuff is what you deserve.
Do you understand that? That you deserve every good thing you’ve ever wished for somebody else? Because you do. Thinking you have to be some kind of spoiled good in order to have something worth saying is not your truth. It’s lazy.
(I told you this was tough love.)
Being defined by your past events is idle. It takes somebody truly in charge of themselves to step outside of the past and take responsibility in the present. Feel pain, yes. Be aware of circumstances that have shaped you. But ultimately, the best company is the company who is prepared to work through all the bullshit that comes with simply existing to deliberately cultivate positivity in the same way that we cultivate knowledge, or cash in the bank, or shoes. Being interesting is soldiering on without a backward glance, and making something of yourself even when – for those darkest, most agonizingly debilitating hours when it was at its worst – you really thought you might not make it.
It’s really fucking hard. Choosing happiness – and it is a choice – is a religion for The Interesting. It takes dedication to a personal creed. Focus. Practice. One doesn’t become a Catholic, say, by going to church once. Oh! Guess I’m done here then! No. We go to church, or temple, or the synagogue, week in, week out, and that’s what being interesting takes: daily commitment to pushing forward, finding the good, resolving to change the things we can, and letting go of the things we cannot. Learning. It’s a process that lasts our whole lives and that’s what makes it so exhausting, not for the weak: there’s no end point.
Interesting people aren’t the ones who spend a life telling you about the stuff that has made them miserable. Interesting is “Sure! I’ll try that!” It’s “So I read this article…” It’s “Tell me more about that” and “This is what excites me” and “Let me help you.”
I’m not saying you have to hide anything. It’s simply about refusing to live as a misery memoir. You are not That Bad Thing That Happened.
Pay attention when I say this: you are complex, and mystical. Multi-faceted. Bold. You’re terrified and ecstatic and surprised and lonely, and you’re loved and loving. Not broken.
To be interesting you have to be engaged, and to be engaged you have to feel a part of something bigger than yourself. Make that something bigger a community – of friends, of family, of colleagues, or volunteers or other parents or twentysomethings or pensioners, whoever, whatever, you are – who also understand that very straight-forward fact, and trade in the same simple currency.
You do not have to be broken to be interesting. In fact – it’s kind of a bore.