What happens to us when times get tough? People always say that the only constant in life is change. Things are always changing, although not necessarily in good ways. Sometimes it’s good, but every once in a while we encounter the bad, and who’s to say what is positive and what is negative? I think we have to agree – and it certainly shows in all of my writing – that we understand nothing. We try to make sense of the world as best we can, given our limited resources, knowledge, and wit. There will never be a day, at least in the near future, where we understand all that there is. Tough times call for thicker skin, right? It’s what everyone I’ve ever met tells me. But I always force myself to remember that tough skin makes us immune to all the rest of the stimuli in the world. Building yourself to be tough is not always good. Take it from someone who has spent almost half of his life doing just that. I wouldn’t say that it’s hopeless, but it most certainly isn’t necessary. Why do we feel the need to create this impermeable exterior while inside, we’re slowly crumbling under the pressures of being human?
We should all have dexterity and a certain resolve, but being stubborn isn’t always a virtue, regardless of what Hollywood tells us. Being thick-skinned, mentally strong, and emotionally closed off is not as great as it is cracked up to be and although Hollywood wants you to believe that’s what people, especially men, are like, it is simply not true. Characters that display these macho characteristics are interesting to watch because they are unreal. Marvel heroes, super-soldiers, and emotionally stunted protagonists are overused and abused – we suspend every bit of reality and stretch our imaginations, wondering what it would be like to be so virile and magical. But what does that do to the children of the world who grow up without supernatural abilities? They imitate what they can, and certainly, without the ability to perform superhuman feats, they’re only left with what they can copy – a suppressed emotional intelligence, or maybe just the mindset that understanding emotions is fruitless.
Ever since kindergarten, I wanted nothing more than to be fantastic like the Power Rangers or like the latest soldier in that action flick. Look at him. He’s buff, can beat the crap out of some very bad guys, and he ALWAYS gets the girl (if not one, then another). I was, like so many other boys, conditioned to believe that all I needed was to be totally and utterly emotionally unavailable, grow some thick skin, and soldier on. I soon found out that I didn’t have superpowers, but I was able to mimic the character traits of my heroes. Having a hero to look up to is definitely important, because it reminds us of the values they embody – the morals that they uphold to the highest standards. And that’s all heroes should do for us. Suppressing emotions has been researched extensively and the conclusion remains the same: it leads to stress and medical problems. So why are we still instilling these values in the generations of today? Why, in common and everyday talk, are we still urging others to build walls and protect ourselves from the sting of reality? Life can’t always be sweet like honeysuckle. If it were, we’d all have diabetes and we’d all be so high that quality of life would suffer. It is my belief that hardships, the bitter pills, and uncomfortable situations spark internal change, which translates to external change, and a more productive sum of parts. The early chapters of American history were marred by great suffering, death, injustices, and war – not talk about rainbows and butterflies. The sooner we realize that great things can be born of immense suffering, the farther we’ll be willing to reach.
Being thick is troublesome for people who want to get through to you. It is difficult to break down walls that were never meant to be broken. So when the going gets tough, I say tear those walls down. It’s better to be real than to hide behind a wall. It’s better to be honest, authentic, and willing to communicate than shut-in and silent. When have you known silence to ever breed anything truly worthwhile?