In college you get two first days every semester. Cool or not cool, you decide.
Today was my second first day.
Lucky for me, I’m in my very last science this semester.
My professor is young, scrawny, and has a big brown beard. When he first walked in, we didn’t know if he was a student or not. He wore a plaid shirt, and it seemed like he could fit right in with some of the people sitting in the seats.
Class began, and he introduced himself. He immediately came off as a very laid back guy, cool, calm, and collected. He showed us pictures of his dog, where he went for undergrad, the band he plays in, and previous jobs he’s had protecting wildlife.
Then he went into the syllabus, and we all cried a little when he told us we had three readings due next class, but that’s another story.
At the end of class, he said he had two things to tell us before we went. I can’t even remember the first, because I was entirely taken by the second. His composure faltered, and he shrunk a little bit. He told us that the last few months had been hard on him. That he lost his child unexpectedly just six months ago.
The class grew quiet. No one really talked before that anyways, but something in the air changed. It’s crazy how we can feel things without saying a word.
He told us that he is a lot better now, and I believed him. He also told us that some days he is not, and I believed him too.
I can’t explain it, but I can try.
Something about the way he spoke these words really, really struck me. They carried so much truth, and hurt, and honesty. They were just so incredibly raw. I don’t believe he did it to get a rise out of us, or sympathy. I truly believe he was just speaking, in the most untainted way. He didn’t run it through the robotic filter we all tend to use more often than not. It wasn’t automated, or made up, or forced. It was deliberate. Like he had thought long and hard about the place he was before, and the place he is in now. It was deliberate and thoughtful, yet it flowed like he had nothing to hide.
It was different than anything I’ve heard in a very long time, because it was real. And I almost forgot what that was like.
He didn’t have to tell us this. He didn’t have to tell us any of this; what happened, why he had a rough few months, why he would be different some days.
But in a classroom, in front of 46 strangers, he said it.
I could tell this man had been shattered, and that he still was, tiny pieces of glass still laying around his life. My heart broke for him, and I didn’t even know him.
There was really no happy part about this. But what I loved is that I could see him healing through his words. His words were real because they were full not only with truth, but with progress. Of course, you will never be the same after something like that. I can’t even begin to imagine, my heart is heavy just thinking about it. But you can get better. You can slowly become okay.
I sat down to write this lesson, and I planned on telling you that this felt like a reminder. That you could never know what’s going on in someone’s life just by looking at them, and that you should really be nice to people. I got chills when he told us, “All I need you guys to do is just come in with energy. With positivity and light.”
But this wasn’t just a reminder to be nice to people, because you should do that anyways.
This was a reminder to be vulnerable.
It’s scary, believe me.
People may see you differently. Maybe weaker.
But some will see you as stronger.
The good ones will see you as stronger.
And you are stronger and braver for it. For opening up. For allowing people to see inside you. For inviting others in, and helping them, just by telling your story. For being honest, when it’s what most people don’t have the courage do.
“I’m a lot better now,” he affirmed. “But some days I am not.” Because he is only human.
We’re only human.