Advice to the Young, the Tired and the Fearful


Don’t lose your emotions.

Indulge and delight in their energy and movement, their ferocity and delicacy. Embrace the fullness of person you become through them.

Youth has such a wonderful, distinct ability to welcome emotion. You feel greatly and deeply. It is enviable and useful. It might be the definition of youth. Feeling that strongly expands your consciousness. To a point of hesitation, perplexity, and even imbalance.

It is fearful, this imbalance, but critical.

In righting this balance, in setting ourselves correct, we find ourselves, and our thoughts coalesce. Our philosophies about the world and our place in it take form, develop. Indignity against injustice, understanding the selfless nature of love, a healthy respect for failure and risk… All these thoughts are pricked, generated, expounded because of emotional catalyst.

Nevertheless, life will try to inoculate you against emotion.

“For the good of the collective.” You’ll be told not to feel, through subtle judgments, looks, advice from bosses, partners, mentors. If life can’t rid you of emotions, it will opt to grind them down until they are but a mote. A constantly irritating mote.

It comes in many forms, this grinding:

Work will remind you to grow up, mature. To meet success, stress, and failure with equanimity and quiet ease.

Love will need you to be strong, reserved. It will demand your patience in its presence and a quick healing of wounds in its absence.

Family will demand you to function as part of a whole; it will deny individuality.

Society will force you to smile, to be enthusiastic, to be OK, and to view indefensible unfairness and vile selfishness with a nod, a frown—never anger, never.

You will collude because you think that’s what adults do. Collude to keep our most youthful parts apart and to define ourselves narrowly in the small space the world provides.

These conceptual institutions and others, into which you feed your life and soul, and from which you glean experience, are not wrong: you must be polite, at ease, heal quickly. There is a time and place to feel and express every feeling. And maturity is indeed a lengthier, more thoughtful pause between stimulation and response, a pause fraught with insight, empathy, compassion.

But we must register that stimulation in the first place in order to appropriate the response. We must feel.

If you don’t feel, if you don’t have emotions, you deny yourself deep humanity.

Emotions flood our consciousness until we cannot ignore them and must set them right. That setting right—feeling emotion and meeting it with compassion—contains everything good any human has ever done.

Emotion is the root of empathy. Caring about the world—not just at large, from a detached distance, but the immediate, the present. Your family, friends, lovers, peers, colleagues, people you meet along the way.

How do you affect people? How do they affect you? What is the root feeling? Why do people act the way they do? What do you have in common? How can you help each other?

Emotions connect us. They are the thing we have in common across everything we don’t.

Don’t deny them. Instead, feel them, face them, understand them, understand yourself, understand others.

(Besides, you can’t get rid of them anyway. They will come out, destructively, if you deny them. You might as well listen when they are screaming inside your head.)



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