My arrogance has prevented me from cultivating many relationships. Recently, I received a few emails from people I knew from school and university. They all shared with me the same message: they have all had, or had since quite a few years back dating back to university days been diagnosed with depression or other mental health challenges.
I never knew that, and I would not have even guessed. For one, I didn’t know what depression was and so even if I paid attention, I could not have been aware of the symptoms others exhibited.
However, the main reason was most likely because I didn’t pay attention at all.
Even if not overtly, inside I was definitely arrogant and basked in the glory of my achievements. Anyone who “couldn’t pull themselves together” and make the grades in addition to excelling in a full basket of extra curricular activities and competitions was a “loser” in my mind. They did not have the competence to multi-task and multi-achieve, and thus I was far more superior. I was too full of myself, my own perceived problems and my own conquests, to have any capacity to consider others around me.
Looking back, I realize I did not know how to make friends, or keep them. I thought meeting up for coffees and lunches were all there is. I did not care or ask the classmate sitting next to me for four years in university, “How are you doing?” Instead, it was a nonchalant “Hey” and a half-hearted acknowledgement when they responded. I did not bear in mind how my friends who had gone overseas to study were doing and what form of culture shock they might be going through. I spent too much time eyeing their Ivy League education with green envy.
I was overly guarded; worried that someone else might steal my grades, my awards, my scholarships, my best debater trophy, my job offers that I had to protect myself. I climbed the mountain on my own instead of sharing information and what I know so we could all do better. It was a constant battle. No one was unconditionally truthful and giving to anyone.
It was the same in the corporate world when I started working. Maybe this was why I could only pent up stress inside me for fear that others would mock me for not being able to cope and maintain my brilliance. Although I did not maliciously intend to hurt anyone or stir up politics behind people’s backs, just perfecting my responsibilities were not enough. We had to pre-empt to avoid getting hurt, thus one must protect, establish walls, and guard. I was thankful no one messed up my backyard, but when others had a cyclone go through theirs, what did I do? I pretended I didn’t see so I would not be curled into drama that would damage my reputation. It was self-preservation.
It was fear of losing. It was dread of being hurt.
No one gave to me, and I gave to no one. When someone gave to me, I received with utmost precaution and suspicion that there was a conspiracy I did not see.
For this reason, encountering the blogosphere was a refreshing eye-opener. Here, no one placed menacing German Shepherds at their front doors to conceal information. Rather the opposite, everyone gave. Through cyberspace and email correspondence I felt the sincerity these blog owners had. They had succeeded, they had help along the way, and now they want to help too. They want to help so bad it would pain them more that I did not sponge up their advice and suggestions to grow my blog than it would had their own blogs flopped.
I am touched at how kind the blogosphere is. It has massaged my wounds and assured me that there are good people in this world.
It might just be me being emotional but I can sense tears welling up my eyes. I feel absolutely sorry for not having paid more attention to my friends, my classmates, my acquaintances, my colleagues, and everyone else who have passed through my life.
I’m sorry I never cared. I’m sorry I never took the time to care.
Thank you to everyone who wrote to me and shared their stories, especially to those who I have known for so long personally, and yet, never took more than one look at you. Thank you to every blogger whom I have come to know (you know who you are!) well, sharing experience and just chatting.
I have been humbled.
I am sorry.
Is there someone you have overlooked today? Please share in the comments, and call them to show them you care.