When you live in a large city like Toronto, at times it feels as though the world is a cold, inhospitable place. We crowd onto the subway while avoiding eye contact, bury our faces in the newspaper, or tune ourselves out by plugging into our iPod. It’s easy to feel lonely even amidst this horde of humanity.
Underneath this faceless veneer, we all share one thing in common. Our greatest fear is that we will be found out to be a fraud, that others will discover that deep inside, we are not as “perfect” as the persona we portray. For many of us, it’s a constant struggle to reconcile how we really feel about ourselves with how others perceive us. In a world where we are desperate to make connections, it’s cruelly ironic that we suppress the one thing that truly binds all of us and makes us “human”…our insecurities, our vulnerability, our broken bits.
If we buy into the message that the mass media and advertisers are trying to ensnare us with, we start to believe that society today is all about homogeneity and fitting in. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with that concept, and in fact, it’s kept us safe throughout human evolution. Where I think the message becomes distorted lies in the assumption that one size fits all, and that individuality ought to take a back seat to a greater need to fit in.
There’s a great quote by American entrepreneur Seth Godin that really speaks to how I’m feeling: “As our society gets more complex and our people get more complacent, the role of the jester is more vital than ever before. Please stop sitting around. We need you to make a ruckus.” That’s where I am at right now; I’m trying to make a “ruckus”. I’ve come to realize that burying my vulnerabilities and vainly following the herd always left feeling isolated, insecure, and disconnected.
In an age of information fuelled by blogs, podcasts, and social media, unlike at any other time in human history, we find ourselves with various media to express “our voice”, to share our story. In a sense, we are all marketing ourselves to the world, but who is listening? By launching this blog three months ago, I started to create a “ruckus” through writing honestly about my struggles with addiction, depression, and issues related to childhood sexual abuse. It’s a very vulnerable and uncomfortable feeling to open myself up to others about the parts of me that I have been programmed to keep hidden from you. We often hear people describe a moment of personal crisis as a breakdown or falling apart. I no longer see it like that. Today, I believe that these periods of crises are not me falling apart, but rather, me falling together.
If I look back on times of my life when I have had the most personal growth or enlightenment, they are invariably associated with me coming through a difficult period a little bruised but definitely stronger. One of the cornerstones in AA that I cherish the most is the belief that in order to keep our sobriety, we have to be willing to give it away. I’ll never forget sitting on a bench feeling completely despondent after one of my first AA meetings. I have no words to describe how utterly lost I felt knowing that I was literally days away from losing everything I held dear in my life. While I was sitting on that bench, a young lady from the meeting sat down beside me and just listened to me and reassured me that things would get better. I had never felt so vulnerable, yet so connected in my life.
So, if I’m going to make a “ruckus” and shake up my life, I will need to be willing to sit with my own discomfort, and to sit with others when they open up to me about their fears. The part of myself that I give away is gratitude, and the part that I keep is humility. We are not so different after all, and our fragile bits might just be our most beautiful offerings to the world.