When I decided to tell the story featured in this week's We Happy Few Podcast, I thought I knew what I wanted to say. In fact, I wrote it down; read it, and re-read it dozens of times. It got where I had it memorized to the point that I used the same inflections and pauses every time I told the story.
I didn't realize until one of my colleagues pushed me, that my account of that incident was missing something critical. I'd told the truth as I recounted that experience, but I only offered a superficial accounting of what happened and how I felt. I wasn’t willing to share the depth of the embarrassment I felt when I realized that cooler wasn’t a roadside bomb. My colleague pointed out that if I wasn’t willing to be vulnerable in sharing my story, how could I expect other veterans to be. It made me wonder - why is it so hard to be vulnerable?
I think it's because we think that if we are vulnerable, we will be seen as weak. That if we let our defenses down, people will take advantage of us. I have learned since starting this project that is simply not true. As we've talked with veterans - as they've shared their stories, their fears, their failures, and their triumphs - I've witnessed strength. These veterans and their families opened themselves up to us, sometimes strangers to them, and were vulnerable enough to share a story that impacted their lives. In doing so others learn that they are not alone and may also find strength in sharing this act of sharing our experiences.
Allowing myself to be vulnerable is still difficult. I still feel weak as I recall my thoughts, my fears in those moments I share in this episode. Other times I see the incredible strength that comes from truly letting your guard down and letting others in. It is in that moment that you create lasting friendships and can realize that you are not alone.