Not sure why I haven’t written in a few weeks, but this quote (and reading about) vulnerability and joy made me think about how challenging I find being vulnerable, and finding (and showing) joy. I’ve been reading Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown, and finding that it really resonates with me quite a bit at this time in my life. But one thing – that perhaps wasn’t the intended outcome, but was the one that I had! – was that I realized I have not laughed out loud in a very, very long time. This realization came after reading in the book, then thinking about our planned trip to see my family for the holidays. The last time we were there, and had a lunch with a group of old, old friends, I was struck by how easily, loudly, and wonderfully they laughed. The lunch table was rocking with laughter – and I was sitting there with a kind of grimace on my face, smiling, and uttering small bursts of laughter. But nothing like the full-on belly laughs that others were sharing, and nothing sounding as joyful as that laughter, in those moments, sounded.

I also have realized how challenging it is for me – as it is for so many others – to be vulnerable. I have put up armor. I have done this throughout my life. I have hidden behind the shields that – if I’m honest – really started going up in middle school. Insecurity and uncertainty are challenging at any age; when you’re a physically unattractive and underdeveloped 12 year old, who also happens to be a complete nerd, well, it doesn’t take too much to make the leap that those experiences shaped how I show who I am to the world. Finding a place in academia for my professional life has been a huge, huge, benefit to me. Where else can I be paid to be a nerd, to try to answer questions, to seek knowledge? I can read research and “nerd out” all day, to my heart’s content, and no one questions it. But now that I have found my professional home, and am better about being vulnerable within that, how do I translate that to my home / personal life? How do I (re) learn to be vulnerable with the people I love? How do I learn to trust that they will hold and support me and that they want to know the real me?

Because as much as this journey is about finding me, about learning who I really am at my core, it’s also about sharing that with others. To live truly and fully – to come to a place where I can and will laugh out loud until my face hurts and I can’t breathe – I have to learn to be vulnerable, to share the soft and easily wounded spots of my very being with those with whom I interact. And that is still hard. I have tried in the past – then pulled back from those relationships when I felt threatened. How can I trust that others will be compassionate to me (as I hope I am to them)? How can I learn to just let go and be me in all aspects of my life? How can I make the parts integrate into a coherent whole, to be truly me all day, every day? I joke that I “own my weirdness” now, but the truth is, I’m just now doing that for myself.

It’s time to break out and do that with others, too. Scary, but necessary. Taking the first steps? Not sure what those will be… but it’s time to figure it out.

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