Full Span

I was talking with a new friend yesterday1 about various things in life, work, well, life. She was sharing what she thought might be a professional opportunity. It was an opportunity where she would be able to have a real impact on people doing incredibly important work. And she’s uniquely positioned to make this impact given both who she is as well as experiences that she’s had. At the end of her telling me her (actually pretty heart-wrenching) story, she said, but personal stories don’t really belong in these kinds of professional environments.”

[If I’d had my wits about me after she said that to me, I would have said something like, Pardon me while I preach for a moment.” I wasn’t as clear then as I am now — a speech is coming.]

If I had a nickel for every time I’d heard someone express a similar sentiment. I believe that this is one of the most toxic beliefs that’s been forced into us. Many of us (most?) have introjected some version of this idea. We seem to have been sold on the idea that we can leave parts of who we are at the front door, as if there was a locker where we put our emotions, hopes, traumas, joy, and on and on. This is, of course, ridiculous. That doesn’t stop us from believing this. And acting accordingly.

You were born. You were born in a time and a place. You were born in a body with certain characteristics. Regardless of what those are2, there are certain inalienable rights that come with that experience — being born. One of those rights — a primary one, I’d argue — is to experience all of your life.

No one knows what it will be, but your life will have a length to it. Is it predetermined? Is it a result of just choices you make? The jury is still out on that one. That said, it will have a length. It also has a width and a depth3. What’s found in that width and depth? The fullness of what makes you a multidimensional being who has grown, hurt, loved, celebrated, grieved, and on, and on, and on. The time that you were left behind by your friends is there. The cry for attention in your family. The time that you felt the deep love of a grandparent. It’s all there.

To constrict any of this is to ask you to strangle a part of you. To kill a part of you.

Every meeting you go to. Every interview. Every social gathering, it all comes with you. It’s in the room like a vapor. It surrounds you, informing how you see and experience what’s happening. And everyone with you? They are surrounded as well. Indeed, everything that’s happening around you, in a way, is the result of a set of experiences encountering one another. There’s nothing else that could happen.

And it’s your birthright that you should get to feel and experience all of it. That is my stand on this. You have a right to every ounce of that. And no one has a right to tell you what you can and cannot bring forward. And no one has a right to tell you what to leave at the door4.’

Of course, it’s also your right to decide what to share, and when. This might be because of safety. It might be because you choose it’s not appropriate (or even better, relevant) for a given situation. But it’s no one elses’s right to tell you what is and isn’t appropriate — or relevant. Of course, they get to be with their reaction to what you bring forward. That’s theirs to own and be with, just as your reaction to them is yours.

So, what do I think of my friends story? I think if she thinks it will move the hearts of people in room (and, trust me, it would), than she should tell it.

And you should5 tell yours. You get your full span, just as I get mine. We deserve it.

  1. Aren’t new friends simply the best? Of course, old friends are too.

  2. The characteristics of your body are critical — primarily the color of that body — as they direclty impact your experience of being alive. Obviously (well it should be obvious). That includes, of course, what I’m talking about here.

  3. Credit to Diane Ackerman for this idea: I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I have just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.”

  4. Seriously? As if.

  5. I hate the word should’…it’s such a shaming word. That said, it’s true. :-)

Previous post
This too shall pass Won’t it? This moment will be as gone as the one that preceded it — just as fast! It’s an obvious and fairly ridiculous cliché. I was on a call
Next post
Men Connecting When the pandemic became a reality to us here in the US, I found myself wanting to find a way I could reach out and support people. Pretty quickly,