Emotional vulnerability is a daunting, ongoing process

Shideh Ghandeharizadeh | Daily Trojan

I don’t know why I volunteered to write this column, because I don’t do well with honesty.

Some people find writing to be a cathartic experience, working out their trials and tribulations through the act of putting pen to paper, and then feel completely comfortable sharing this private slice of their mind with an audience of strangers. I am not one of those people. I don’t even like revealing my feelings in a one-on-one setting, much less letting my inner turmoil become a piece of performance art open for public consumption.

Actually, I’m more the type to bottle, cork, stopper, tamp down any semblance of sentimentality until it’s buried so deep in the recesses of my consciousness that even I am incapable of accessing it, unless armed with a narcotic cocktail. Unhealthy? Perhaps. I forecast an emergency trip to the therapist for an emotional enema in my future.

But I don’t want to give off the wrong impression here. I’m not some cold, unfeeling psychopath, incapable of empathy or affection. Au contraire: I feel often — and deeply. But you won’t find my heart on my sleeve; you’ll probably find it after fending off thorny hedges, crocodile-infested moats and a fire-breathing dragon. And no, no one hurt me. I’m merely taking preemptive measures to ensure that I won’t get hurt in the first place.

Not to say that I shy away from displays of vulnerability, as long as they’re on someone else’s part. I pride myself on being a great listener, advice-dispenser and general go-to person for unloading an emotional burden. But as soon as the expectation of reciprocation arises, I’m dodging questions better than Neo dodging bullets. I’m a master at deflection, either by volleying the inquiry back, skirting the subject entirely or answering in a tone so saturated with sarcasm that no one could possibly take me seriously. When faced with a question loaded with any sort of significance or gravitas, my response is usually along the lines of, “Sorry I forgot to mention, but I’m headed to Havana tomorrow for three months.”

Humor and irony are my tactical weapons, which, if you couldn’t tell, I’m deploying right here and now. Even my genuine statements are often coated with a thin layer of sardonicism, so that you can give me the benefit of the doubt, and I can retain plausible deniability. This dynamic has become so entrenched in my interactions that I’ve caught a searching side-eye directed my way and a skeptical smile lingering after I cast a simple “I like your shirt” toward a friend.

So I guess that’s why I volunteered to write this column. I won’t lie and say that my relationships with friends and family haven’t suffered as a result of my inability to open up. I want to work on letting my guard down more easily. I don’t want to be forced to follow up with a “No, really, I’m serious” when I compliment someone’s clothing choice. Years down the line, I don’t want to regret keeping everyone I care about at arm’s length.

Full disclosure: I was close to copping out and instead writing about my favorite books. Certainly, it would’ve been much easier than agonizing over this article, which was filled with false starts, second guesses and many (metaphorical) crumpled balls of paper tossed into the wastebasket. But no one wants to listen to me wax poetic about Infinite Jest; we are inherently curious about the misadventures, misgivings and misfortunes of others — if only to fulfill our daily schadenfreude quota. So who am I to deny the masses?

Just one request: If you ever encounter me in real life, please, do us both a favor and pretend you never read this.

Kitty Guo is a sophomore majoring in journalism and computational linguistics.  She is also the lifestyle editor of the Daily Trojan. Her column, “Kitty Corner,” runs every other Wednesday.