I am really good at hiding. You may not know this when first meeting me, but I’ve been hiding my whole life.

For years, I stole snacks from my parents’ parties and meetings and then disappeared to the basement, avoiding conversation with “grown-ups.” When I saw people on my college campus handing out flyers or eager to chat about the latest cause, I hid behind my phone, headphones or just a stone-cold glare. Even now, I refuse to answer a phone call from an unknown number, and if someone calls my home phone, the answer is always, “She’s not home.”

Why so much hiding? I guess it’s a combination of two things:

  • I’m an introvert. I need that alone time to recharge. If I have my heart set on a quiet night alone in front of the TV and you show up with friends, all bets are off.
  • I like to be in control. I know a lot of people like this; I am not the only one. I don’t want to open myself up to any surprises that may lead to an hour-long conversation on global warming or a phone call from a presidential candidate asking for money. Nope, that’s not in my plan.

At first glance, I think those are completely valid reasons to hide. It doesn’t seem like the worst decision. I’m dealing with life in my own way, right?

But the thing about hiding is, it’s harmful. Sure, I love my alone time, and the alternatives sometimes seem unbearable. But when I’ve been hiding long enough, I eventually look around and realize that I’m isolated and alone.

There is no doubt that it’s safer to hide. You’re not exposed to those messy things like emotions, surprises or hardships.

The down side? Well, you’re not exposed to those messy things like emotions, surprises or hardships. The things that help you grow as a person. The things that teach you what it means to be human and interact with your fellow man. The things that make you cry or laugh or just stand and say, “Wow.”

Those are things that are worth experiencing. And things that are worth experiencing with others. I may think I’m hiding from the world and its responsibilities, but actually when I hide, the world continues to move on around me, without me, and the only one missing out is me.

So how do I make sure that I don’t miss out? There’s only one answer: stop hiding. I need to allow myself, imperfections and all, to stand out in the open. To be ready to take on anything that comes my way. Allow myself to talk to strangers, become vulnerable, expose my emotions. Face the world. And finally, come out of hiding.

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