What They Want To Hear

In fifth grade, the art teachers asked us to write what we thought about a project we’d just finished. Did we enjoy the assignment? Why or why not? Every year, I had told them that the project was great and that I learned a lot. But after the tedious tessellations they’d put us through, I just couldn’t lie. I told them that I didn’t like the project and that the art teachers were very creative individuals who could come up with better ideas.

Everyone flipped their shit.

Admittedly, I could have worded it more respectfully, but I was a ten-year-old who was just starting to open her eyes to a whole new world of complete honesty. Even though all the ruckus, disappointment, and “little chats” with the teachers brought me to tears, it was strangely freeing, in a way. I’d refused to conform, and it felt absolutely amazing.

It was another five years before I decided to commit to a life of candidness. My freshman year had been enormously turbulent and full of fake smiles, good reviews for everything and everyone, and sickeningly fake austerity. Tenth grade, I decided, was going to be different. When I had to write papers reflecting on the quarter, I told them that I was a horrifically lazy student who’d only regressed academically. I flat-out told my classmates–in front of my teachers–to ignore school if it was getting in the way of personal health. The best part? The teachers high-fived me for it. I got compliments on my honesty. I stood out because I didn’t tell them what they wanted to hear. I told them the truth. If something sucked, it sucked. I saw no point in sugarcoating things.

I’m glad that I made the decision to live in (often brutal) honesty, and I hope that I can inspire others to do the same. This world will never change if we don’t decide to buck the system of smiles and excuses. Surprise people with your sincerity. Tell people what’s really going on. And whatever you do, don’t just spit out an answer because it’s what you were told to do. Each person has her own brain for a reason, and it’s yours forever. Use it well; use it wisely.

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