On transparency

I always say what I’m feeling. I was born without a zip on my mouth. 

“Woman Like Me,” Little Mix

When I was around five years old, I developed an interest in lying. The problem was, I was also very gullible — and my parents were aware. They used this to their advantage by telling me one evening that they could tell if I was lying by looking in my eyes. In an effort to thwart their omniscient sight, I would continue to tell my eyes with one extra additive: I would close and/or cover my eyes. Needless to say, this was a very effective technique for my parents. 

To this day I still am a terrible liar and terribly gullible. My lies come out as half hearted run-on sentences, or vague descriptors that leave too much unsaid and, as such, fail to convince even me. People who know me now understand that when I do resort to lying its because I am desperate. And as for being gullible, well, let’s just say that I once was convinced for ten minutes on a date that Tupac came to Brixton, London and that’s why there was a mural painted of him next to the bar where we were drinking. Yeah, twenty-four years does not cure all foibles. 

But, in effort to combat these two terrible but manageable faults of mine, I’ve adopted one very reasonable trait — transparency. Just earlier today I was buying two bottles of wine (for a party, not just for me, I swear) and the cashier goes, “You look over twenty-five.” Now, a reasonable person would just let this go. But no. No, no, no. I go, “I’m twenty-four. I’ll show you my I.D.” Why? It made no difference. I’m clearly overage. The cashier just laughed and said it was okay. I sheepishly put my I.D. back it its sleeve in my wallet for another time. 

Now, I’m not trying to toot my own horn here, but by most degrees I’m a good person. Yes, I swear, and I drink, and I occasionally f*ck up, but I’m human and if my Catholic father has instilled only one saying in me it’s that “There’s only been one perfect person and we nailed him to a cross.” But I compliment people. I give second chances. I give my spare change (and then some) to the homeless and hungry. I actually pull out my Google Maps when people ask me for directions so that I put them in the right direction, because we all know I’m directionally challenged. I listen when my friends call me at midnight because its 7 pm on the East Coast and they forgot again about the five hour difference because they’re dealing with whatever the new day has brought them. 

But the combination of transparency and good naturedness — well, it can easily get manipulated.

Some people would call this naïvety. And certainly it can come off this way. Hell, I feel it that way approximately 15% of the time. Just last night, I was contacted by an ex who was feeling emotionally distraught and in need of comfort. So what did I do? I texted for an hour to make sure that he knew he had options career wise. And then at the end, when he decided to ask about my sex life and say he was over me, I felt emotionally used and empty. I signed off and listened to “Make It Hurt” by Sydney Franklin for longer than I care to admit on repeat. 

But my transparency and good heart has helped me more often than not. When I was thirteen, I was the only girl who found Lauren crying in the party bathroom after Jimmy Rogers said some hateful things to her. As the new girl in school, I’ll be honest, I was just hoping for a new friend, but for her I hope I was a comfort. Now that I’m nearly twenty-five, I think it makes me more relatable and amicable than most people expect me to be. I’m never anything but real with people.

I could turn around from last night and say to the world, “I’m done. I’m tired of being hurt and I need to grow a thicker skin.” And sure, I did learn a lesson for next time (i.e. leave some messages left unread), but I’m happy being the adult version of that little girl who covers her eyes when she lies because her parents can see the deceit in her pupils. I’m not about to stop being who I am just because it opens me up to the world in ways that are potentially unpleasant. Because if I’ve learned anything in the last three years, the more you hurt, the more you can celebrate when you win the battle

Oh, the past it tormented me. But the battle was lost, because I’m still here. 

“I’m Still Here,” Sia

On attaining integrity

Admitting one’s own faults is the first step to changing them, and it is a demonstration of true bravery and integrity.

– Phillip Johnson

When I was seventeen years old, I attended a religious retreat held by my Catholic high school titled Kairos. The premise was secretive to those who had never been before (aka all underclassmen) but it was a great privilege to be asked to attend during your junior year. Usually it was something restricted to the senior class.

Anyway, it was our last day and we were broken into small groups, as we had been all weekend. The core group we had been spending to had been a family of sorts as we went through what can only be described as an emotional roller coaster. The first time I implied to peers that I had an anxiety disorder was in that retired monastery office. And so, on that last day, as we sat around in a circle and gave each other affirmation based on what we had learned about each other during the week, I was told by one of the B.M.O.C.s (Big Men On Campus for those Non-Americans) that he respected my “integrity.”

Instantly I felt guilty.

I felt guilty because I felt fake. I felt undeserving. I felt phony. I felt unseen. I felt misheard.

I felt guilty because I did not see myself as in possession of integrity.

This happened a year after I lied to my theater director to hide my biggest panic attack to date in order to get out of rehearsal by saying I had an orthodontist appointment. When I was caught in the lie, I said I just wanted to sleep, something that haunted me until graduation as being lazy. And so when Sean called me a person of integrity, I felt a flush of embarrassment at these contradicting versions of Rose.

And, if I’m being really honest with myself, I think seventeen year old me had it right. I didn’t have integrity then. Because I was still in my very mutable development. I had the right idea certainly, in trying to have integrity. I knew certainly that I was aiming for it, and that I was on the track to possessing it, but I didn’t have it yet.

Today, however, if you asked me, I’d say yes, I have it. But almost entirely because I own my faults. I’m no longer afraid to say, I fucked up — something I most certainly would not have admitted at seventeen, regardless of the profanity. I’m willing to own up to my flaws, and I even celebrate them, maybe a little too stridently.

It’s a new me, this Integrity Rose. She came to the forefront when she stopped hiding her mental health and trying to lie her way around what had been a very big part of her life for fourteen years. Thank you, blogging! But making that first post on We Are Alive on January 1, 2018 was a huge change for me. It led me through the big declaration and that has made the smaller ones even easier. The smaller ones like remembering that compliment from Sean in 11th grade and the guilt it brought on me. And the incentive it gave me for every day forward to be an even better me.