Dear Young Lady,
Do you know why vulnerability is so scary? Do you know why sharing yourself with someone else is such a challenge? Do you get why revealing your truth makes you shaky? Why you won’t share your secrets? Or say more than “fine” when asked how you are?
What’s funny to me is that all of these ways that you live, are the opposite of the way I live. I thrive by letting people in and sharing myself and treating my friends as family. When someone asks how I am, I leap at the chance to give the good, bad, and the ugly. This doesn’t make me better, maybe it makes me crazy. But I have no walls (and no filter).
But for you, I get it. I get why you operate in the opposite way.
It’s because when you let down your walls, you’re letting someone care and likely, you’re caring for that person too. You could get hurt, attached, broken, or worse, start caring about someone else. To quote the little kid with the big ears in Love Actually, “[What could be] worse than the total agony of…love?”
If you toe the line, if you keep cool, if you stay quiet about feelings and things that matter, you can be neutral. No extremes. No joy and no pain. When you tell me a half-truth or omit something important on purpose and I find out later, it doesn’t feel as bad as it would with another person. Because it feels like you’re protecting yourself.
But here’s the thing, hon. Trust is the hardest thing to gain and the easiest to lose.
Maybe I’m also holding back my trust because I know you’re not always telling me the truth either. But as much as I care about you, I’m not here for me.
I already told you this, but I’ll tell you again in this letter I’ll never show you. The other day when I was with the Ceasefire Squad in East Baltimore and they were burning sage and hanging posters, the owner of a liquor store came outside of his eyesore of a shop. He told us we couldn’t hang a poster on his boarded up garage. He didn’t trust us. Why would people want to hang a poster that reads, “Nobody shoot anybody”? Did we think that a poster would prevent “them” from shooting, he asked. Why didn’t we ask him first? Couldn’t we see he owned the whole building? From the glass-walled-inventory, to the boarded up windows, to the storefront crowded with people boozed up on things they didn’t need to be spending money on. From the sign for a failed campaign for State’s Attorney to the trash on the sidewalk, from the rat haven alley to the corner so stumbly-traipsed. And then again, “They’re still going to shoot each other,” he said. Because gestures tiny and gargantuan, when filled with love and hope, are hard to trust. Because why would someone care about this city? Why would someone care about this corner? Why would someone care about the people on this corner?
Or in your case, why would someone care about me?
Your story echoes throughout this beautifully broken city. Even when I don’t know someone is suffering notes of what you’ve suffered, that’s where my heart goes and it leads to my brain and I feel empathy that no one asked for. I see you all over the place. Older versions, younger versions, male, female, whatever. You.
Young lady, there are lots of ways to be. But you have to trust. You have to trust that there are more options than the ones you’ve known. I throw hope and love and questions and conversation at you and it’s confusing to you. I get it, I confuse myself, and I have no idea if I know even how to help you. But every time it feels like the Spanish Inquisition when we’re riding in my car, know that this is my way. This is my way of breaking down your walls, of showing you that I care, my way of inviting you to trust in me. Because I might be hard for you to understand, but I’m trustworthy.
So while your future feels uncertain, look around for what is certain. And know that while vulnerability and sharing and trust are really hard, that’s because they’re worth it.