I’m not sure about you, but the word “strength” holds a positive connotation to me. In fact, it is probably one of the most positive words in my lexicon, only because I have been conditioned to believe that with strength, comes endless possibilities. Every society values strength; be it political, economical, or simply just physical strength– because that is an indication of power. To me, being “strong” is the best compliment to give because while beauty may leave us, our emotional strength will not. Being strong gets you through the most trying times, and who wouldn’t want that?
I am having a tough semester. I am in my final year now, and my workload consistently piles up as each day passes. I feel like I am being stretched too thin, because on top of the exams, assignments and thesis I have to complete, I have been tasked with various projects to head and execute– and I barely have any time for myself. I am also in a long distance relationship (LDR), which normally doesn’t bother me much, but with the stress of everything that has been happening, all I need is someone to hold me and tell me that everything will be all right– that this workload is temporary, and the benefits I reap will be permanent. The problem is, I can’t have that. When I was in a relationship with someone who was living in the same city as I am, it was easy for me to be whisked away from everything. It isn’t that simple anymore today.
One day, I was looking at the poster for a movie I have been wanting to watch for a while now, which is slated for release in November. It hit me then that I will have no one to watch it with, because the person I want to share it with is on the other side of the country. That night, we were on our usual video call and having one of our usual conversations, when he looked right at me and said, “I miss you a lot”. This tugged at me, and hard. Just at a time when we need each other the most, we are separated by an ocean. The thought of that dissolved me into a pool of tears. With watering eyes, I told him I had to go. I needed time alone. He left me with an “I love you very much”, and when I ended the call, I bawled my eyes out for a good five minutes.
Some buckets of tears and an episode of Modern Family later, I felt much better. The one thing that remained– was my embarrassment. I was ashamed of letting weakness consume me at that point, and allowing myself to be overwhelmed with uncontrollable emotions. Many people have told me that I am a strong person, but at that time, I truly did not believe it.
Recently, the people around me have been having difficult times as well. Last week, a loved one came to me, shaken, and with the weight of being betrayed on his shoulders. Someone who would normally regard himself as a person who would not allow things to bother him so much, someone nonchalant, someone laid-back– was sitting right in front of me, trying to hold back his tears because he was overwhelmed with emotion.
Today, one of my toughest friends chronicled the end of her three-year relationship with a softness in her voice I have never heard before. Her voice was trembling, her eyes red and swollen from crying the whole night through, and tears threatening to spill over with every detail she described. My heart broke for her, only because I knew that at that point, she was truly vulnerable.
All this has made me realize that human strength is finite. The strongest of people have their moments of weakness, but does that make us any less human? Does that make us any less strong than what we hold ourselves to be? Probably not, but that is something I am still grappling with. Maybe I will see the day when I am not feeling guilty or ashamed of my tears, but right now, I still am.