Some of the most vivid memories from my childhood are incredibly awkward and uncomfortable. It’s wild how well I remember being in situations as a kid where no one was talking. Where everything was weird and tense. You know the ones I’m talking about — where everyone is sort of just sitting there looking at each other. Not wanting to put themselves out there.
I was always the person who broke the silence. The one who spoke first. Even though it risked making me looking foolish. In fact, many times I full-on embarrassed myself. But I couldn’t stand that tension. And there was a strange automaticity to the decisions I made even as a younger person — I wanted something to happen, even if I risked looking awful.
When I was little, I wasn’t that kid who kept quiet. I was loud. Kind of bossy. It was only later that I learned to bite my tongue — after I experienced some bullying. I’d made enemies with several bullies growing up because I fought back, and when my oldest sister came out in my small town, it me an easy target, particularly because I wouldn’t denounce her.
It sounds heroic. But it wasn’t. I was bold, reckless. stubborn. No one to emulate.
And I couldn’t tolerate tension. I’d do anything to resolve it, even if it meant making a fool of myself.
I think part of me thought these uncomfortable silences were just going to be something in childhood. But like a lot of what happened in childhood, it was simply a rehearsal for adulthood.
And I find that generally speaking, no one wants to go first. They don’t want to be the first to declare their love. They don’t want to be the one who tries the risky new thing — especially if it’s not already considered “cool.”
They don’t want to invest a lot into someone who hasn’t invested much into them first.
They want to hang back and watch. See what happens. Put themselves out there when they know it’ll be safe for them. When they know it’ll pay off.
And I get it. This is a very reasonable approach for mitigating risk. And Godzilla knows there’s more than enough risk to go around in this crazy world. We aren’t eager to take on more.
But the reality is that someone has to go first. And if you’re someone who generally goes first, I just want you to know today how much I appreciate you. It’s a lonely path sometimes. Sometimes it really doesn’t pay off (and can be quite punishing). But the world is a better place because someone dared.