Dear Friend, how are you?

Think about how many times a day you’re asked how you are, and how many times you respond truthfully. I can’t say for certain, but I imagine that you, like me, rarely answer anything less positive than “fine.” “Fine” is the closest I can get to saying how I really feel, which is “not fine.” Do I want the barista to know I’m not fine as they hand me my coffee? Do I want my classmate to feel obligated to delve into my personal life? Do I want you to take it upon yourself to cheer me up? No. So I say I’m fine. I would say “I feel crappy” if I thought it would get the same nod and smile that “Good thanks” receives. Nobody asks “why” when you say you’re happy, they only ask “why” when you say you’re not.

I’m not ashamed of the fact that I’m not okay all the time, I’m reluctant to talk about it because everyone reacts like there is something wrong with me. I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in the world to be freaking out because I don’t understand how the world is working around me. If you think about it, if you’re really honest with yourself, do you have any idea what the hell is going on half the time? Are you confident in your choices? Do you feel in control? Now ask yourself, how are you doing? If the answer isn’t “fine”, well, that’s okay. I don’t think I’d have been so unhappy for so long if I had known that it is natural to be confused, to make mistakes, to be stumbling over myself while I navigate the four-thousand forks in the road of my life. Maybe if we were comfortable admitting that to ourselves and each other it wouldn’t feel so bad to feel bad. Maybe we wouldn’t look for comfort in things if we could find solace in friends and lovers. I know I’d have felt a lot better sooner if I had someone who I could be weak in front of without fearing that they’d see me as a weak person.

Writing so openly has made me okay with feeling weak, and in my heart I know I have strength in equal measure. In the same way that we need sadness to understand happiness, we need weakness to understand strength. I write because it makes me feel less separate. I write because I know these experiences are not mine alone. I write because I hope you, my friend, know I understand how you feel even if you’re not willing to share as publicly as I am.

Next time we see each other, let’s just say “It’s good to see you again.” You’ll tell me how you are if you want to, and I’ll do the same. We can talk of things beyond ourselves, and that will be good too. And if you need to be weak, you can be weak with me. I won’t ask questions, but know you can speak freely. I will listen because I understand and I care.

With love,

Lili

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