What it means to be vulnerable

Posted on February 1, 2017

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“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.” – C.S. Lewis

It’s the first of February. As usual, I was woken up by people too eager to point out that Valentine’s Day is coming. Romance motifs are starting to become ubiquitous again, it’s almost sickening.

It’s worse when it’s your birth month.

People say that those born in February are romantic (ugh). Sensitive. Dreamy. Passionate. Not quite right in the head.  While I do have to say that I have some of those traits, I’m not exactly a sweet summer child excited at the thought of flowers, heart-shaped chocolates, and spreading all the love in the world. I cringe at anything cheesily romantic and try too hard to be a hardass.

But despite all that, I am vulnerable.

Last week, I’ve been playing this game called Life Is Strange (I’m late to the party, I know) which is basically Donnie Darko except it’s an emo teenage girl. You play this girl named Max who obtains the power to rewind time and uses said power to save people, including the entire town of Arcadia Bay.

It’s a choice-based and narrative-driven game, as if making choices in real life isn’t hard enough. I don’t want to go into the analysis of its character and story development, aesthetics, and plethora of references (I’ve been meaning to make a thread about that). Rather, I want to relate the concept of vulnerability to its protagonist, Max Caulfield.

Obviously, the fact that she shares a surname with teen angst poster boy Holden Caulfield is no accident. Max is introduced to us as a typical emo hipster girl with a boring monotone. She prefers analog cameras to digital ones and has a “Keep Calm And Carry On” rug for Christ’s sake. She is portrayed as a weakling who has so much potential, as the game so forcefully makes us believe through various tidbits of information and character interactions. I know it’s a video game, but I find it hard to suspend my disbelief that Max, a cute girl who is seemingly perfect in her own modest way is not popular at all. People are all over that shit.

Anyway, her relatability and the fact that she could be any sensitive hipster teenage girl makes her a perfect receptacle for the player as she has the vulnerability that each of us have. She is as vulnerable as her best friend Chloe and the town she is supposed to save.

I used to cringe at her throughout the game, but now I realize that maybe it’s because I am also cringing at some parts of myself. I’m annoyed at her being a weakling but maybe it’s because I am also a weakling myself.

Ok, I have to admit that a huge part of why I had this change of heart towards Max is because her GPA is supposedly around 2.5-2.8, I’m not sure. I have to admit, my GPA when converted is around those levels, so not that high. I had to put my ego aside, which was a teeeeny bit disappointed especially since high grades factor into my success at getting into law school.

My point is, I am more like Max than I thought. We’re not that special and we’re both vulnerable. I have to admit that sometimes, I make myself believe that I’m special. That I’m smarter, stronger, braver, cooler, and more selfless than I think. I’m not. I’m just like Max, thrust into situations she never asked to be in. Like her, I’m just stumbling around figuring out stuff and fixing things by trial-and-error.

Like her, I am vulnerable.

I am vulnerable to anxiety and depression. I am vulnerable to having my efforts put to waste. I am vulnerable to the fear of having too many regrets. I am vulnerable to never really knowing my calling. I am vulnerable to the looming possibility of being stuck in something my heart was never in in the first place. I am vulnerable to falling for people who might not want me back. I am vulnerable to the fear of not speaking up when staying silent will make things worse. I am vulnerable to not finding the courage I so tediously seek. I am vulnerable to the fear of not getting my life together until I die. I am vulnerable to the fear of failure.

I am vulnerable to life.

Everyday, we try to mask vulnerability. We don’t want to be weaklings. We do everything to cover our scared, primal selves. I guess while getting rid of our anxieties and fears to get shit done is commendable, laying down our guards and being vulnerable is also essential to our well-being. At the end of the day, being vulnerable is also being brave.

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