Background: Without sounding egocentric or portraying any sense of ignorance, I have always considered “people” to be among my strengths. This is why I feel Chad Fowler’s piece really resonated with me. I will not claim that I do not judge, but I actively avoid doing so. I will not claim that my intuitions are always accurate, but I spend considerable time making sense of the things said and actions taken by those around me. It is rare that I take things personally and difficult for me to witness another person’s discomfort or dissatisfaction. I do not like awkward humor as it makes me feel awkward. I do not care to overindulge in the negativity of others as it takes a toll on me over time. Nevertheless, I am an easy person to talk to and a good person to turn to when dealing with personal problems. I am not good at telling people what they what to hear because I do not take sides and am not too shy to share my incite if asked to do so. At the same time, I feel no need to share my opinion. What I feel and how I approach people is often exhausting. This is why I identify myself as an introvert. I am perfectly capable of being social and most often am. If I am antisocial it is because I do not possess the energy at that time to be actively present in conversation. There is a disconnect I feel with other people when managing my own life’s problems so I rarely vent and never care for the sympathy of others. It is likely stubbornness that inhibits my trusting people to capably empathize with me so I tend to tackle personal matters entirely on my own.
Premise: My story of tribulation is nothing different from what many of you and so many others before me have experienced. It is simple; it was a breakup. It is how I responded that may differ from most of you. In short, I maintained a very unhealthy relationship for three long years after high school and in college. When it finally ended, I did nothing crazy in relation to her, but I lost interest in school, opted out of working, cut relationships with friends and family, fell off the map completely, and went nowhere for help. This was two years ago.
Fallout: I was evicted from my apartment, everything I owned taken with it, flunked out of school (yes CU), unable to buy a meal, and depressed beyond belief which was not something I was familiar with. I failed to live up to my family’s expectations as well as my own. Hell I even lost my gym membership which was pretty sad. I have experienced a great deal in my life growing up with a single mother -mental disability, financial stress (put lightly), violence and chaos always having some presence, but this felt unbearable. It was only at this point that I discovered not all of life’s problems may be solved alone.
Empathizer’s rescue: Perhaps it was my knowledge of his own history or just me feeling that I had little more to lose, but for the first time in years I was venting. All of the accumulated resentment, hurt, anger, disappointment, insecurities, and life questions I had ever had were spewing out over the course of a few days and to one person. This person was my father. Without judgement, disdain, or disapproval my father listened. Without ever saying much he said a lot. I felt I was speaking to someone who truly understood my situation and had sensible opinion, pertinent advice to share. He reminded me of who I was, guided me back to reason, and left me with a choice: keep digging or move forward.
Takeaway: I recognize that I have said more here than I needed to, but as it pertains to empathy, this is the clearest moment I can think of in my adult life where someone else played a crucial role in my success. Be it business, school, personal relationships, or friendships I have come to learn the value of empathy. Empathy salvaged my life.