The single coolest thing about my fifth grade experience was that my classroom had a massive library in it — with bookshelves upon bookshelves of different types of books that we could check out from the teacher, take home and read. And on the side of one of the bookshelves was one of those inspirational posters that every middle school classroom seemed to have, the ones with nature scenes and some sort of entirely unrelated “power word” written across it — like a river that says “MOTIVATION.” The one in my classroom had a cross-section of an iceberg on it, and while the part of the iceberg poking out of the water seemed massive, it only took up the very top of the poster, since it turns out that like 85 percent of icebergs are underwater. I think it said something like “IMAGINATION” across the bottom.
As one of the nerdiest 10-year-olds ever, I spent a lot of time in that library, checking out books and staring at the poster of that iceberg, thinking to myself something along the lines of “damn, that’s some major ice under the surface.”
Last weekend, I went out with a group of girls who I consider to be some of my best friends here at the University. We were on our way to the Corner from a fraternity mixer when we decided that we needed a quick pit stop at Grandmarc to hit the restroom — and while we fully intended to make this a five minute excursion, the four of us soon found ourselves snuggled up in my friend’s bed, talking and sharing stories that we hadn’t told each other before.
That night, I learned that it’s a scary thing to realize there are parts of your friends’ lives that you had absolutely no knowledge of. It seemed that everyone had an experience that they needed to talk about — whether it was something that happened at a frat party gone horribly awry, the looming possibility of parents’ divorce or the heartbreak that accompanies being the collateral damage of someone else’s addiction. And it’s when you hear things like that that you simply wish you had known about them earlier.
We talked for hours, never made it to the Corner, and as I walked back to my apartment at 3:30 a.m., I realized that as devastating as everyone’s stories were, I was so grateful that they had opened up and shared with me. These are the people that I’ve come to regard as my family here on the East Coast, and I felt so much closer to them once they had the courage to tell me about the parts of their lives that are often kept under wraps.
Another Life Columnist, Lily Brock, wrote incredible article about relapse and recovery on Grounds recently, and I think it’s a great example of how having the courage to be vulnerable and share your story can be a powerful thing. But, not all of us are comfortable enough to share the most intimate aspects of our lives on such a large scale, and not all of us can turn our struggles into a witty, heart-wrenching and ultimately inspiring article like Lily can. So, if you have something you need to get off your chest, I suggest you consider reaching out to a friend or two.
Growing up is hard. Now that we’re 18, 19 and 20 years old, I think we often neglect to acknowledge that growing up is something we’re still doing every day. But life is easier with friends who will stand by and support you, and they can only fully do that if you are willing to share your story with them. If their friendship is worth anything, they’ll be there to give you a hug, hear you out and help carry you forward. You may even find that someone else in your life is suffering a similar narrative.
To those of you that don’t have any obvious skeletons in your closet, I implore you to pursue empathy. Seek understanding, build upon your friendships and recognize that everyone is a bit more broken and complicated than they initially appear to be. Most of all though, keep in mind that everyone has a story — you likely just don’t know it yet, because the majority of people only ever show you “the tip of the iceberg.”