I couldn’t wait to read Cheryl Strayed’s “Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar.” Until 2012 when she revealed her identity, Cheryl Strayed always wrote under the pseudonym of “Sugar”, expelling advice that was universal, candid and profane. I read a few columns from Dear Sugar after a friend introduced me to it during college, my favorite one being Sugar’s advice to graduating English majors entitled, “The Future Has An Ancient Heart.” So, getting to read an entire book of her columns should have been amazing.
I devoured a good fraction of the book during one weekend, but I had only gotten through seven pages before I cried for the first time. The book has been a bit of a gut-wrenching read, with people writing in to Sugar about many of life’s heavyweights including the death of family members, sexual assault and broken marriages. It’s absolutely no secret that Cheryl Strayed’s writing is both phenomenal and palpable which is a skill few writers ever master. But, there is something both beautiful and tragic about strangers writing to a total stranger about some of their life’s most ill-lighted moments. It begs the question of where are these people’s families? Where are their friends? Where are the people who are supposed to love these people and huddle around them at times like these? But, that question often times elicits the answer that many people do not always have that cushion of human connection.
Recently, I cried during one of my coworker’s last days at work. It was not a happy day; she was getting laid off. And, I do not care if you amass all of the quotes about “new opportunities” and and “starting fresh” because I still believe that getting laid off fucking blows. It’s a safety net being yanked from underneath someone’s feet without their consent. I cried saying bye to her because in the year and a half that we’ve worked together, I got to know her as a person. She was one of the few people who asked about my apartment when I first moved back to the East coast. She was always worried about my safety and well-being. So, yes, I cried saying bye to her and yes, I made it supremely awkward for everyone else in the office. But, I can’t apologize for that. If crying in the office is unprofessional, then I’ve been unprofessional several times throughout my career. Because, people are people. We bring our full selves to work, even if we try endlessly to dilute those selves for the sake of professionalism. When you get to know people, you connect with them. End of story.
The world has become incredibly intolerant of emotion. We’re so fucking busy and so apathetic and we just can’t seem to be bothered with how we feel, let alone with how others feel. It frightens me that in a world where we are hyper connected, we are forgetting how to genuinely connect. We do not allow ourselves to tuck our phones away when we’re talking to another person. We have opted for surface-level chit chat over substantial conversation. To admit how deeply or strongly we feel about things means the labels “crazy” or “too emotional” could be hurled our way. Everything we say is predicated on jest or sarcasm; if we say anything serious, we feel the need to preface it or provide a disclaimer.
I do not know if I’m built for that kind of world. I’ve been called various forms of “too emotional” in my life, but I’m learning not to immediately deem that an insult. I’m vocal. I’m connected to people. I have thoughts and opinions. I cry a lot, whenever the fuck I feel like it. I shout. I write a lot of shit that other people think but won’t say. I write even more shit that I think but won’t say. But, I’ve learned that these things don’t make me “too emotional”. Instead, they mean my heart is still beating and my body is still breathing. Human connection is scarce. I’m fighting every day to make sure it doesn’t become extinct.