Lately I've been reading that apparently blogs have made many a woman feel inadequate. She doesn't bake well enough. Or do enough creative projects with her children. Or style her clothes just right. Or whatever else blogland throws out into the cybersphere.
And while I doubt anyone who has ever graced the archives of this here blog has ever compared themselves to me and been led to feel like she or he (hello, gentlemen) isn't enough, I'd like to contribute a little something in honor of full disclosure.
I moved out to Chicago after college. I intended to be here a year and have remained an extra four. I had plans to leave and then I met my husband. Long story shorter, I'm beginning my sixth year in the city. While I do love my husband and my job, I'm confident I will not be here forever.
Prior to living here, I don't remember a time I really had difficulty making friends. In both high school and college, I had wonderful groups of friends. And though long distance, I've been lucky to maintain a few of those friendships. And while I cherish those relationships, I cannot deny that I am an in-person kinda gal. I have a hard time connecting when I just can't see your face.
Since being here, it has been a struggle for me to make a decent friend. Thankfully, I do have a few who have made my time here much more enjoyable and who have sat with me through some trying times in the past few years. And the difficulties of connecting with others teaches me to appreciate the few friends I do have.
I'd like to think it's the Midwest, and not me, that has the problem. Though more realistically, or perhaps honestly, I think it may just be a combination of the two of us, the Midwest and me. A few years back, I came across a card that read "No one here thinks I'm funny. What's wrong with these people?" and it resonated with me. I like to think I have a healthy sense of humor. I'm often quite quick with a laugh or a witty comment. But I've come to find that my humor is a product of my New England upbringing and thus lost on this largely non-New England crowd.
Perhaps worse than my bad humor is my uncanny ability to complain. I have bad days from time to time and on those days, I'm not particularly funny (even in a NE crowd!) and I'm known to complain a bit. Ask my dad, he'll tell you. I don't consider myself a Debby Downer by any means. Rather, I would say I am honest. Not in the way that some people use the word to greenlight being cruel to people. No, no. I think I'm honest in the way that when you ask me how I'm doing, I will probably give you something more real than "fine". There's something therapeutic about acknowledging the utter disaster of your day.
Because I like to feel like you know me and I know you. I like to know how you are. And what you've been up to. And the challenges you face. And the worries that keep you up at night. And the successes you're dying to share with someone but are too afraid they'll think you're bragging. Brag to me. I want to know. I want to end a conversation feeling like I know you a little better than I did the day before. And I'd like you to know me, too.
And though I have found the Midwest to be much more friendly than the Northeast (I'm looking at you, Boston), I've also found it to be more guarded. Many times here, someone asks me how I'm doing and I tell them how I really am, and I proceed to ask them how they are and they tell me "fine". And so, rather than feeling like something wonderful just passed between us, I feel exposed. Ashamed to have let slip my worries or complaints. Like inviting someone to your "lived in" (read: messy) house only to later find theirs spotless. With all their dirty socks out of sight, leaving you to wonder how many of yours they might have seen.
A few years ago, back home, a coworker of mine once commented to another coworker (who, of course, later told me) that I was one of the most genuine people he had ever known. Years later, I treasure this as one of the best compliments I have ever (indirectly) received. I think when you're genuine, people feel the invitation to be genuine as well. I also believe that when you hide, you invite others to do the same.
So, in the spirit of being genuine, can we skip the pleasantries and the "things are going well"s and the "I'm just tired"s? Can we jump ahead to the part where we sit on my couch and talk about what's really going on, even if there is a dirty sock on the floor? Maybe we can even acknowledge that dirty sock on the floor in the middle of August and laugh about how it got there because who even wears socks in this heat??
Can we stop pretending we have it all together while silently falling apart?
Cause you don't have to be perfect in front of me, Midwest. God knows, I'm certainly a work in progress.