I was talking to this unhappy kid last night who was telling me that he didn’t get a job he interviewed for. They told him he was 'too aloof'. “It’s not fair,” he mooed, “They didn’t hire me because of my personality. But I would be great at that job!”
I looked at this kid, this twenty-something with self-conscious stubble and clear, bright eyes, and untrained, soft hands, and a surfer’s shock of hair going in too many directions, and I sighed. It wouldn’t be helpful for me to say that I’ve seen lots of people’s personality traits change over time, including mine.
“That sucks,” I offered. “Vulnerability. It’s a thing.”
“Yeah. But I don’t even know what vulnerability is, I guess. I mean, it’s about being open and stuff, right? But I don’t know how to do it, you know?”
I nodded. Three years ago I was asking myself the same question.
“How do you do it?” he asked.
“Oh, I’m not sure that I do, or at least, I’m not sure how well I’m doing it most of the time. I’m probably not doing it most of the time,” I admitted.
“But you’re doing it right now!”
“Yeah, but so are you! You’re showing up here, imperfect, letting me see you without all your answers figured out.”
“Yeah, but you can’t show up like that to an interview. You have to have it locked down for an interview.”
This kid. So young. Time behaved differently for me when I was his age. Everything was urgent and hung on the edge of disaster. Everything was everything. Eventually, this kid is going to discover that his life is a phenomenal journey, a story better than the best novel ever written, but right now, he just wants what he wants.
“Listen, you’re right. You can’t have your tender underbelly exposed all the time. In my experience, a lot of this work just comes down to being honest. With myself and others. Even if it’s difficult. Even if I run the risk of not looking good. If I’m hiding the truth from myself, I'll never get to know myself. And that’s really all I’ve ever wanted. To deeply know and love myself, you know?”
The kid looked down. “It was a shitty job, anyway,” he grumbled.
Sarah Elovich is a writer, performer and humorist based in Oakland, CA.