So last week on my personal blog, I wrote about a guy that I went to school with who recently took his girlfriend’s life before taking his own. Since writing that post, there hasn’t been a day that’s went by where I haven’t thought about how the news unfolded, the range of emotions I’ve felt, the details of what happened, the girl’s family, the fact I knew the guy, and all the other people impacted by the tragedy. I wasn’t close with the guy and I didn’t know his girl, but the impact that it’s had on me would lead you to believe otherwise. I also found out that a contact of mine’s family member has cancer. Not a direct effect on how I live my daily life, but I was impacted all the same.
On a more positive note, I was watching some reruns of America’s Got Talent. One contestant, an attractive some percentage black opera singer, talked about how her man had passed away and she hadn’t sang since. Her appearing at the AGT tryouts was her reintroduction to the mix and pursuit of her dream. She knocked it out with her performance and advanced to the next round. I felt genuinely impacted like she was someone I knew personally even though I had just known her for a few seconds.
They also featured this dance group composed of three 8-10 year olds. Their enthusiasm for dance was obvious and the pride on the faces of their mothers’ was evident. One of the moms was shedding tears of joy after their performance and the announcement of them making it to the next round. Once again, my life wasn’t directly affected but I was internally impacted. (Pause need be necessary)
Would I have been as impacted by all of these happenings 10 years ago? Maybe, but probably not. I was younger, less emotionally mature, and a lot more concerned with me, me, me. There were things I didn’t understand about terminal illnesses and the impact they have on families. There were things I didn’t understand about mental and emotional health issues, and how not getting those addressed could have disastrous consequences. I didn’t really know how few kids would have the chance to make it out of their neighborhoods to do great things until I moved to Harlem. There was just a lot I didn’t know.
And as I continue to get older but certainly not elderly
and I will take down the IP address of anybody in the comments section of this post that says differently, my empathy continuously increases…for the most part. In the past, I’ve really tried to not concern myself with the situations of others at a deep level. I don’t say that in an “I’m a carefree asshole” sorta way even though I have been known to be a carefree asshole at times. On some days, it’s just a matter of what side of the bed I wake up on and who’s on the other side but that’s neither here nor there. Anyway, I just mean I used to hear about unpleasant circumstances, acknowledge their shittyness, then keep it moving. But now…
I sometimes feel peaks and troughs of emotion because of someone else’s situation. If something positive happens to someone, I feel genuinely happy for them. Sometimes it even feels like it’s happened to me. On other occasions, the news is the antithesis of “happy times” and I feel like a conduit for the emotions of all those impacted. Not that I’m trying to turn this into a sci-fi summer blockbluster post, but I really do feel like I’ve become some sort of X-Men character with the mutant power of feeling deeply for and what others feel. I used to try to suppress it, but I failed much more often than I succeeded. The valuable lesson learned from all this?
It’s okay to feel whatever it is you feel. It takes a lot more energy to suppress emotions or feelings than it does to let them be (in most cases), internalize, understand, and decide on a course of action moving forward need be necessary. If you wanna be happy for someone, be happy for someone. If someone’s tragedy causes you pain, feel the pain. If you’re locking yourself away at home and fighting through feelings you can’t understand or interpret, talk to somebody. Trust me, you’ll feel better.
How about you? Have you become more empathetic over the years or have you grown more callous and desensitized to others? Any other thoughts? Do share.
In NYC? On June 29th, come join me at Human Intonation’s Protection is the New Black: Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell. It’ll be an interactive discussion on sex, relationships, protection usage, and other topics. For more information on the event, click here.