COLUMN: Open up about your problems

Spencer Jenkins

Breakdowns are inevitable in life — especially at our age. Our issues may seem like insignificant first world problems, but it’s still our world and everyone’s issues. Despite how minor they may be, someone cares about them and you.

As college students, our issues range from freaking out about writing a 10-page research paper at 4 a.m. the day before it’s due, having to work two dead-end jobs paying for school yourself or even relationship problems amongst peers or significant others.

Whatever the issue, there’s nothing harder than opening up to people about your deepest, darkest secrets and problems.

Opening yourself up is like being completely nude or in your underwear on stage in front of a laughing crowd, all fingers pointed at you.

But remember that everyone in that snickering crowd pointing the finger at you in judgment secretly has their own issues manifesting inside them — maybe even darker and deeper than yours.

Putting these personal issues of ours out on the table for all to see makes us nervous because when we look vulnerable, we look weak. For most of us, looking weak isn’t an option.

So what do we do? We put up walls. Walls of arrogance. Walls of violence. Walls of bitchiness. Walls of isolation.

I could go on and on about all the defense mechanisms and walls we build to protect us from vulnerability.

We want to protect our reputation, right? We hold firm grips on our personal façades because we find great comfort in them.

Recently I attended a memorial for my fraternity brother’s mom, who was actually a WKU alumna and a member of Alpha Omicron Pi sorority back in the day. On this day something kind of changed in me.

There we were, probably about 10 or 12 of us fraternity brothers cutting up and having fun before the service started. Some smoking cigarettes and giving each other shit about this and that and even talking about going out to the bars later that night.

Even though that’s how we would normally act in any social setting, you could also cut the air with a knife. All of us had our walls up acting like we were all OK, and almost as if our best friend and fraternity brother’s mom hadn’t passed away.

We’re human though, and that was just a natural defense mechanism.

When the service began, all of us “tough and macho frat boys” felt the pain and sorrow of our fellow brother and the tears and emotions poured. We broke down our walls and we felt a sense of relief embracing each other.

Having gone through the death of my dad a little over a year ago, I still find myself blocking his death out of my mind and hiding behind walls, but I wanted my fraternity brother to know that he wouldn’t be alone in his grieving process.

I let my vulnerability show just by him knowing that I’ve dealt with the death of a parent and me telling him in tears, “I promise you it gets better man. I promise.” It made me feel great that through my pain I could help someone else cope with theirs.

What I’m trying to tell you is to not bottle up your emotions, fears and secrets, because they’ll eat away at you.

Tell someone your story, and it’ll get better.