Friday, April 13, 2018

Late-Night Listenings, Loneliness, Atticus Finch, & The Gift of Being Understood

| "I like good music - don't you want to love me at all?" |

There's a song by SWMRS called 'Hannah' that I instantly fell in love with the first time I heard it, back when I would play the song on repeat and listen to it as something wholly satirical. The lyrics start off with the lines, "I'm Hannah, I go here, I'm cuckoo bananas / Why can't you understand me?" The first time I listened to the song, and the time after that, and the time after, I heard the song as a way of poking fun at the stereotypical "misunderstood" girl who likes records and books and stays alone and edgy and sad (in the cool way) because no one around her gets her in the way that she deserves to be seen.

 The song is great, and often I would listen to it without feeling any real impact from the lyrics. I'm not sure how long it was before suddenly I was hearing it as something that was not actually funny at all, but something that was rather heartbreaking and far too vulnerably realistic. I'm Hannah, I go here, I'm cuckoo bananas... why can't you understand me? 

Don't you want to love me at all?

It's been two months since I last posted to this blog. Part of the reason for that is the fact that my semester has been crazy hectic, but the main reason is the fact that my semester has been crazy lonely. Closer to the beginning, I was finding it hard to reach out to people with the problems I was dealing with because I didn't want to feel like a burden or didn't feel close to anyone in the first place. So I immersed myself in art. I would make lists of record stores in the city I needed to visit and go spend the day there alone. I made a list of over thirty films I needed to see and tried to watch one every night I could. And while that was amazing and I discovered so much great music and such incredibly impactful art, it was so crazy lonely.   

I often think of myself as someone who has a hard time connecting with people, someone who communicates through writing and has either deep friendships or no friendships at all. And I know it's totally emo to be the self-diagnosed misunderstood kid, but sadly I've realized that far too many of us go throughout our day-to-day lives suffering from a complete lack of this incandescent gift of feeling understood. There are plenty of people that I say hey to in school hallways that I have spoken to probably once in my life before and might not ever say anything to other than hello, and it's hard not to feel like all of those people passing by us will never really know us or see us as we want to be seen. 

But we appreciate them.

Because sometimes, as cliche as it is, all you need is some kind of recognition that you are still breathing and making it to the school you show up to every day, and there are still people willing to notice you and appreciate you. 

I think a huge part of the problem is that we are not only constantly feeling misunderstood, but we are also very rarely seeking to understand. I know that I feel invisible as I pass by all those people, but there's a huge chance that the majority of those people are also feeling like no one gets them in the way that they are desperately wishing to be seen. 

One of the most beautiful books I have ever read and one that has been very much on my mind this semester is The Perks of Being A Wallflower. As crappy as YA fiction can get, this one does almost everything the right way; perhaps the best part of it entirely is the narrator, Charlie, who is doing his best to navigate his way through a painful life alongside so many other hurting people. The first page of the novel is the following:

If you get the chance, I highly recommend reading the book. I think the reason I have always loved Charlie's character so much is because of the way that he so deeply feels everyone else's pain and yearns to love the people around him. 

There was a night last summer when I was catching up with a friend from high school and filling her in on my not-so-fantastic sophomore year at college. As I was explaining how hard winter break of that year was, I mentioned the name of a song that had really helped me through it. In the middle of the conversation and before I had finished my thought, she asked, "Can we listen to it?"

It was one of the most powerful moments in my life. That never happens. People will listen but they don't always try to feel. My friend was not listening to respond, but listening to feel alongside me. 

I have another friend who recently reminded me that while so much of everyday life brings us to a negative view of humanity, we still have those rare moments in which we connect with someone on a transcendent level and it is the most illuminating gift we can be given. And those are the moments that give us hope. 

As Jamie Tworkowski puts it in If You Feel Too Much,

"You'll need coffee shops and sunsets and road trips. Airplanes and passports and new songs and old songs, but people more than anything else. You will need other people and you will need to be that other person to someone else, a living, breathing, screaming invitation to believe better things." 

The past month and the next few weeks are some of the most hectic of my time in college so far, as I have been scrambling to register for classes and start a new internship and move to a new apartment and get through finals. But I needed to sit down and write. For the first time in two months. Because I cannot shake how heavy these feelings have been. 

I want so badly to reach out to people and let them know I want to hear about them. Usually it's either fear or a general selfish habit of getting caught up in my own problems that holds me back, but I really think that if each one of us did just a little more for the people in our lives, things would be significantly different. 

Before being understood comes understanding. What's so sad to me is the fact that after traumatic events or any kind of real heartbreak, we tend to shut ourselves down in a way that does not only kill the love that is hurting us, but also voids us of the high levels of both good and bad emotions that keep us alive and make us human. Shutting down out of fear of getting hurt by people again saves us in a way, but harms us in far more rooted ways. The emotions and feelings that we don't want to feel are also those that give us the ability to really understand another person's being, and I think that we could all benefit from each of us seeking a little harder to go the extra mile for those around us.

My favorite quote of all time is right at the end of To Kill A Mockingbird, when Atticus is tucking Scout into bed and she is telling him about her misconceptions concerning Boo Radley:

"'...They finally saw him, why he hadn't done any of those things... Atticus, he was real nice...'
His hands were under my chin, pulling up the cover, tucking it around me.
'Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.'"

Erin Nicole

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