A letter to a friend, honestly

Photo by Cole Hutson via Unsplash

Dear Friend of Mine,

I need to speak to you. I know we already do so often; we giggle and guffaw at the other, talk about the inconveniences of our day, and bond over discussions of the irregularities in our lives, and ourselves. We squabble playfully, and tease, and chat, and natter on. I’m lucky to have you, really. But sometimes our eyes meet and I feel an unease — like we’re passing in hesitance, unable to call out the way we’d want to, and, instead, fill the gaps with noise.

Or at least that’s how it is for me. And I’d like to explain why.

It turns out that a while ago I gave up on something that was fundamental to myself, and, until recently, had forgotten. It used to be woven into every part of me. It resonated in my voice, and held my joy in place. It roused me in the morning and lulled me to sleep at night. Sometimes it scared me. Many other times it saved me.

Turns out, it was honesty.

Not just the sort of honesty that keeps you from telling lies, but the expansive sort of honesty, where you allow it to make your words and actions genuine and deep-rooted. It’s the mother of conviction, and a defiance of the fear of rejection. It holds you in place so you can remain open and receptive without getting blown away. And for so long it kept me constant — until the fear set in.

Somewhere along the line it seemed more fitting to lie. I decided to play at being strong and cool. I let the world tell me that apathy was more pragmatic, if only because it saved me from heartbreak. Maybe it was the schoolyard bullies. Could be it was the irrational blame from other teenagers. Possibly it was the immense weight of the pain and chaos in a globalized world. Though probably it was shitty television and junk literature.

I see now, though, that giving up on honesty caused me more problems than it saved me from. It warped my sense of self, and paved the way for a lot of personal anxiety. Masculinity, stoicism, and indifference became king. I started to doubt other people — what they thought of me, how they felt about me, that maybe they wanted to hurt me. It became easier to tell myself that most people were my enemies. And that meant I had to act. It meant I had to play a character that could handle such an awful world with ease.

Yet even now, when I’ve acknowledged honesty and am welcoming it back in, I can still feel the walls I built without it. It’s becoming easier to be honest with myself, but honesty towards others is still irksome. And that brings me back to you, friend — because most of the remaining walls are standing between us.

The walls keep me from telling you how beautiful you are, and that you bring a sense of safety and belonging to my life that’s more important to me than almost anything else. They keep me from hugging you — not just because you look like you need one, but because I’m human and just want to hold you for a moment. Instead, they make me hold my tongue so that the things I think and feel don’t scare you away. They make me think you mean more to me than I could mean to you — that maybe I mean nothing to you. They tell me to keep my distance because, before long, you’ll be gone anyway. They make these thoughts seem damp, weak, and overly sentimental.

But they ignore the truth: that what I really want to do is tell you everything. The stuff in my head wants out, and I think maybe you’d get it if I took the chance. But I’d never say it right. I’d never express it in a sane way. And that’s terrifying. But I had to tell you. I had to explain to you what this is, so that the next time I see you, maybe I don’t seem hesitant. Maybe the noise between us gets even just a little quieter. And maybe I’ll be brave.

Maybe one day, when you ask me how I am, I won’t avoid it. I’ll start,

“Honestly…”

And, hey — maybe you will, too.

All my love,
Your Friend