Everyone struggles. I struggle to balance school, my job, being Editor in Chief, and my other activities. Everyone has fears. I fear a day that those I love will leave me. Everyone has doubts. I doubt myself. Everyone loves. I love people and the beauty that exists in our world. Everyone hopes. I hope that one day I will find a career that gives me meaning and have loved ones to share my life with. Everyone dreams. I dream that I will positively affect those around me.
Those experiences make up who I am; yet, I often feel I am measured in numbers, not by who I am. In a society that values efficiency and progress above all else, we stick to numbers because they are easy. We can compute numbers and compare them without attaching meaning. Although numbers are efficient, they do not leave room for individuality.
By focusing on production numbers, GPAs, attendance records, etc., we forget our humanity. There is no indication of life behind the numbers. It dehumanizes us and allows us to withdraw from one another. We fire the person with a certain amount of unexcused absences, regardless of the circumstances that caused it. Instead of being compassionate and recognizing how frail we sometimes feel, we force ourselves and those around us to move on.
This focus on productivity also leads people to ignore problems in their lives, instead of dealing with them in a healthy manner. The person who just lost a loved one feels unable to take time to mourn because they cannot miss work. The anxious college student is not able to take time to reflect on their life experiences to cope with how overwhelming it is and try to balance their life. The sick teacher does not want to use one of their sick days because it means they will have to create a lesson plan for a substitute teacher, which may put them behind in preparing students for standardized testing.
We feel pressured to push through our emotional turmoil so that it does not affect our daily life. This practice, though, is incredibly unhealthy. It leads us to deny the emotions that make us who we are. By ignoring our emotions, we deprive ourselves of our humanity.
Instead of pushing away our emotions, we need to embrace them. Life is not always easy, but ignoring what we feel does not help us find solutions. Let’s start acknowledging that each of us struggle. Yes, some challenges have more gravity than others, but that does not make other issues any less legitimate.
Remember that we all know the sting of pain. We all know what it feels like to be lost. We are all trying to anchor ourselves and find a way to breathe as waves of responsibility and pressure cascade over us. As we go through these quintessential human experiences, know that we are in this together.
We breathe. We live. We love. We lose. We die. We are our experiences. We are not our attendance records or GPAs. We are people. We are not numbers. We are not alone.