Block 186: August 29, 2013

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Are we getting ready for September to arrive?

But it’s just another morning over here in New York City.

Date: August 29, 2013

Crane: 186

Days Spent on Project: 193

Location: Apartment, Washington Heights, NYC

Person I would have sent it to: Eliza B.

Eliza was yet another person my group of friends gravitated towards and enveloped. She was incredibly confident. She was intelligent. I always thought she was kind of striking too.

During that semester in London, she and I didn’t share any classes, nor did we work together in our final productions. From what I remember, she was in Shakespeare’s MacBeth. It was an all-female cast. It was kind of brilliant.

Music I listened to while sewing: “100 Jazz Classics from the 20s and 30s” today. The other day, my apartment building’s superintendent overheard me “rocking out” to some jazz in my apartment. He knocked, unable to belief that I liked jazz.

I don’t know why that’s so hard to believe…

Thoughts/Feelings behind the block: Back when I was an RA in college, one of the last training exercises was something called “Behind Closed Doors.”

In order to be fully hired and trained as an RA at college, you arrived a few weeks early to campus and sat through days of lessons, meetings, training sessions. Besides the obvious things to learn like: what the job entailed, what you were expected to do throughout the year, the campus resources, etc, you also had to sit through many lectures and discussions about a variety of “issues” that plague college students.

We talked about eating disorders, homesickness, rape, drinking, depression, mental disease, etc.

In the words of someone I would soon meet: “You have 100 students: you have 100 different kinds of fu–ed up.”

The culmination of this training was the exercise “Behind Closed Doors,” wherein you would be divided into small groups and were walked into a room in a college dorm. One of you would be confronted with a situation- ranging from “I miss my parents” to “I hate my roommate” to “I hate my life and will do whatever it takes to stop it.” You would have a few other training RA’s to observe, silently behind you, and a campus faculty member/mentor to help in case things froze up or ended badly.

I forget the situation I had, how I dealt with it, or how “well” I did. I remember that people talked this exercise up the entire training period.

“Are you ready for it?”

I remember being nervous, and praying I got something easy.

“I locked myself out of my room.”

So, know that this part of my RA training and life isn’t something that I think about often. I hardly ever do. But, there are times when I’m struck by the idea behind the exercise.

Behind closed doors we’re all a little more honest and a little more vulnerable than we would every be in front of an open door. We all have, in a term that was used on Sex and The City, “Secret Single Behavior,” the habits that we do and enjoy (and sometimes not enjoy) in the privacy of our own spaces, spaces that we don’t share with others. On that television show, the example was something inconsequential- eating crackers with jelly, I think.

I like to listen to music and have private dance parties in my apartment. Sometimes I’ll try to get my dog involved. I would NEVER do that with someone else present.

But, honestly, what we do behind closed doors runs the spectrum of emotions and experiences. Do we lounge around in sweat pants and watch trashy TV? Do we eat junk food? Do we have a secret hobby? When we’re alone, do we worry obsessively about work, money, food, our bodies, our dating lives, our futures? Do we take things out on ourselves?

It’s important to remember that we all have those doors that we do stand behind in life. We all have the things within us that we keep private. No matter how confident- or sure- that we appear to be, we are only human, which means we carry with us a whole lot of baggage. And that’s okay.

When it isn’t okay is when that baggage overwhelms you to the point where you can’t carry it anymore. Sometimes you do need someone to help you. Sometimes it isn’t weak to share that burden.

I always thought the Behind Closed Doors exercise only went “half-way.” Yes, opening a door and walking into a situation where you’re asked to help out as best you can (whether it be helping someone figure out a class schedule or talking them out of a crying episode) is hard to do. It’s hard to put yourself in a situation where you know someone needs you, and may or may not know that themselves yet.

But the next step, of continuing that support, following through with them, that’s hard. And it speaks volumes.

Do you check-in afterwards? Do you try to sweep that time under a rug? Do you get closer? Do you care more?

How does sharing what happens in your private life change you?

Cheers.

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