I believe I could have followed almost any intellectually rigorous path. I originally planned to be an astrophysicist. I am an amateur sociologist by nature and studied psychology by necessity. But it is the heart in the arts and community service that call to me loudest. I gave up the stars to study to be a teacher, because I wanted to practice radical inclusion with the outcasts in the classroom. Then I gave up the teaching dream because I knew I’d give my whole heart to my students, leaving nothing for my art and writing. I went into nonprofit administration to give my work heartfelt meaning and leave space for art on the side.
We live in culture that prefers the rational to the emotional and I could’ve leaned in, but I can’t hide my feelings. I was made to have big emotions, and to be able to hold space for the big emotions of others. Ugh, I am so tired of people apologizing for crying in public. Tears are a natural human reaction to pain. Repressing our tears and emotion is harming us in so many ways, from heart health to our inability to connect with each other. We are all hiding how we feel and we can’t connect when we’re hiding.
It is emotional empathy that allows one person to connect with another. This is why stories connect us. They don’t speak to our intellect, they make us feel. Stories evoke emotion. We understand each other better because we can relate to having similar feelings of grief, rejection, and anger, no matter how different the human before us seems to be. It is not our intellects that bond at a movie or a protest, it is our hearts. Emotions are a fundamental part of connecting to one another and yet we’ve become a culture that tries to repress feeling at all cost, especially in public, most especially in anything related to being a “professional.” No wonder we’re dying of loneliness.
Btw – the Trumps of the world actually understand this. He never appealed to the intellect of his base, he preyed on their emotions.
Interestingly, while I was repeatedly told I am “too open” about my emotions, I socially hid my intellect a lot of my life because it made me different after I left academia. I read my books and did my thinking in private. But I’m done hiding. I am intelligent, I like to use my brain, and I like this about myself as much as my big heart.