By Julia Lopez
If you really knew me you would know that…
This sentence has stayed with me since I participated in Challenge Day at Oxnard High School. How many people really know me? How many people do I truly let in?
If you really knew me you would know that… I can’t stand avocados or tomatoes.
It may seem like a simple way to start a deeper conversation but food is at the core of my environment. My family shows their love through food, food expresses my culture, and food is the way I have coped with the negative realities of life many times. So by telling complete strangers in my little family we created that day that I didn’t like certain foods, it actually opened the door to talk about who I lived with, where I came from, and even some of my past traumas. It also made me realize how few people I consider close to me that actually know this about me.
To be honest, I don’t really know what food my best friends or even my family can’t stand. I know what they love but I don’t know what they pick off their plates or hide under other food. I was always taught to be polite and eat what was given to me when I was at someone else’s home. Chances are, if you’ve given me something with tomatoes or avocados I’ve eaten it and said it was “great.” When I try to form relationships, I focus on large sweeping realities of a person’s life and never ask basic questions. I want to get to know people but I never stop and actually listen.
My biggest challenge on Challenge Day was listening. For two minutes, five times, multiple times a day I had to sit and listen to someone else tell their truth or not speak at all and just listen. No feedback, no helpful tips, no “you should…” – just honest, open listening. I don’t think I had ever actually listened like that before. I am always thinking of what I’ll say next, how I can help with what someone just said to me, or how we will go forward from this conversation. That headspace had to go. That isn’t true listening, it’s reacting. To cultivate deeper relationships with people we know and with people who are new to our lives, we have to truly listen. I want feedback in my life but I have also said multiple times, “can’t you just listen to me?” I am so guilty of not listening to people. Not truly listening to them but just hearing the words they say and immediately being ready to speak when they are done.
If you really knew me you would know that… I have pretty intense OCD and I can’t sleep in my room if it’s too cluttered.
After all the food talk and after the challenge of rewiring the way my brain listened, I knew I had to go deeper. I have told people I was OCD for the past 10 years and the reactions have mainly been, “oh that’s great, you must keep such a clean house” or something along those lines. Recently I donated a massive amount of my clothing and now only have 40 items of clothing (not including socks and underwear). I said this was minimalism and for ease. It wasn’t. My OCD couldn’t take having so many clothes even when they were hung up or folded nicely. If I have too many things out of place I have to go and sleep on the couch or spend time cleaning before I can fall asleep. The panic sets in and my body starts feeling physically ill. It took sitting down with a group of strangers to realize this fact of my life should be something I express more sincerely and readily to the people around me.
I wasn’t faced with judgement. They listened in the way we had all come to realize was truly listening all along. I wasn’t given feedback or a way to change. I was given hugs and shown compassion. I truly believe if I expressed to more people that my need to wash a dish right after I’ve used it isn’t just to be helpful but is an actual compulsion my life more united not divided.
If you really knew me you would know that… I have moved 12+ times and have never felt that I have a “home base.” I am absolutely terrified of the day when I will settle down in one spot.
This isn’t the last thing I shared about myself with my small family during Challenge Day, but it is the last thing I will share here. Someone asked me recently if I was looking forward to settling down one day. I thought that my immediate reaction would be an enthusiastic yes. I mean, who doesn’t dream of that white picket fence? I couldn’t get the yes to come out of my mouth though. As much as I tried I just couldn’t say yes. Then I started crying. Bonus “if you really knew me,” – you would know that I cry all the time! This person DID NOT know this though. I started crying and realized that the idea of living in one place and not moving ever again was terrifying. How do you stop moving if you’ve never lived in one place for more than two years. How do you not search for something more? I’ve seen beauty everywhere I’ve lived but I’ve also complained about every place. What if that home feels life a cage? All of this came flooding over me with that one question.
Here is my take away from Challenge Day. Challenge yourself constantly and consistently. Connect with the people already around you, with people new to you, and with yourself on deeper levels. That question you fear, sit with it. Try to answer it. I will be thinking about the day I eventually settle in one place until I feel less fearful about it. Share with others what makes you uncomfortable, like OCD, until you find more comfort in your surroundings. Trust in the listening process and be slower to react. Know that a challenge is good. Be kinder to yourself and others; we are all in life together.