“It could have been me.” That’s what I think, day in and day out, ever since I started working as an administrator at MY Psychology’s center.
One of my tasks as an admin involves me replying to inquiries about mental health issues, or responding to registrations and bookings. And it is not always just straightforward requests or questions, asking about the time, or the place, or the services.
Sometimes, they tell stories. Stories about their own lives. Stories about the lives of people they lived with, or people they know of, or people they heard of.
There are tragic and sad stories, sometimes there are funny or heartwarming ones. They came from all walks of life, some being more unfortunate than others, and their situations filled with layers upon layers of misfortune.
Despite their individual differences, regardless if they are rich or poor, tragic or fortunate, they all share a common humanity, a humanity that encompasses the spectrum of experiences, emotions, and needs.
And indeed it is this humanity, this connective tissue that connects us all together. Human lives are stories, however different they are on the surface, they are the same at the core, narratives that when picked apart reveal a universal commonality.
The desire to be understood, to be accepted as we are, and to be supported by others.
There was a time in my own life when I too felt extremely lonely and isolated. I felt alien to others, and I struggled so hard to fit in. There were days when I locked myself up in my own room, binging on shows, losing myself in some made-up world, because the real world isn’t as perfect as I wanted it to be.
Those were hard years, where I felt as if everyone around me, even those I deemed my friends, were oblivious to the feelings and thoughts I kept bottled up inside of me. And I felt that if they were to see through the front I put up, then they would despise me. I have forced myself into a dilemma where I simultaneously need others to understand me while fearing the consequences of that happening.
Luckily, in the next few years, some of my classmates, who have previously been sources of terror for me, turned into close friends, confidantes even. And slowly my prickly shell fell off, and I was able to live out my high school years in a fairly normal fashion. Even though there were still times when my fears came back to haunt me.
But I came out alright.
“It Could Have Been Me”
Throughout the years, time and time again, I have had the chance to relive my past, to reconsider, reconfigure, and reassemble my memories. And I often wonder, what my life would have been like if some of the more fortunate events hadn’t happened to me, or what if I was not surrounded by those who were willing to help me, support me during times of need.
Human lives are stories, narratives that share the same core, the same template, differing only in the details. The road is the same, but the journey is not, and the destination is a mystery.
And my story, my journey so far, looks to be smoother.
But when I hear the stories of others, of how they were misunderstood by their parents, by their partners, by their friends, I saw myself in their worlds, and I saw the small but crucial differences that set us apart, that made our lives and where we end up in wholly different.
When I heard of their struggles, of how lonely they felt, and how hard they have tried in this cruel world, I look back and I wonder, “I am so close to being you, and it could have been me.”
It’s a privilege to be privy to their worlds, and their stories. Because of this job, I am afforded this opportunity to be a listener. They felt so misunderstood, so uncared for, that they are willing to tell me how they feel, a stranger whom they have never met, never seen before.
It is a slippery slope, this thing we called life. We walk down its twisted paths and sometimes we fall. If we are lucky enough someone will come along to catch our fall. But if they don’t and they never came, we slid further and further down, unseen, unheard, unmourned for.
Perhaps it is impossible to fully and truly understand one another. Perhaps we all have limitations, and can’t expect ourselves to always be saviors. But sometimes, a willingness to listen is enough, or a hand that reaches out, assuring them that at least, if nothing else, you are there.
You are there, momentarily, and your paths converged, for a small but significant moment.
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