Guys, just let it out
There's no point in stifling your emotions anymore, gentlemen
My father was killed in a car accident when I was 19. It was a week before Christmas. This event would eventually lead to the splintering of my family, but that wasn't the biggest takeaway from it.
When my older brother delivered the news, I very distinctly remember that my first reaction was, "How am I going to pay rent? The electric? How?" I used to chalk up this reaction to being practical in a moment of terror and uncertainty. I now know that my brain actively avoided having an emotional reaction by focusing on the pragmatic and logistical problems my father's death created.
That night, I slept at my older brother's house. It wasn't until I was in bed, alone in the dark, that my brain finally caved and let me feel something about my father. I cried, buried my face in my pillow so no one could hear, and fell asleep. That was the extent of my emotional release.
For the next decade, I carried the pain of my father's death (and the subsequent family drama that came afterward) deep in my soul. I piled heaps of coping mechanisms to avoid the murky depths of those feelings. I drank a lot, made edgy, off-color jokes, and shut myself off from truly connecting with people. I had lots of friends, but very few were close. And those that were did not experience the "true" me. I hid that person because I was ashamed of having feelings.
Men have traditionally been the ones that leaned on thinking rather than feeling in a crisis. It's a gross stereotype, but I was a shining example of it. I remained this way throughout my twenties, seemingly doomed to fit the mold of men that came before me.
However, things changed when I turned thirty. I'm not sure what happened, whether it was hormonal, or the idea of age creeping up on me. I suddenly found myself tearing up over the smallest things. For some reason, AC/DC's song, "Thunderstruck" started making me cry. Movies that I'd seen dozens of times made me tear up.
It scared me at first. I wasn't used to "feeling." I started to think that I was going to lose my grip on my logical, reasonable part of my brain if I started letting my feelings overwhelm me. But they just kept coming. All of the pain I buried a decade ago was now boiling up like emotional magma that burst from tear volcanoes that were my eyes.
The worst part was that most of what I was feeling were negative feelings. Ones I should've had when my dad died. But once those were expunged, I found that having positive feelings was cathartic and joyful. Instead of cursing myself for letting an 80's rock song get the better of my emotions, I'd lean into it. Now, songs that give me goosebumps and make my cry are welcome experiences.
Once I embraced having good feelings, I started having them all the time. Watching an underdog sports team stage a comeback and win had me in tears. Videos of cute cats made me squeal with joy. Looking at lesbian wedding photos on Instagram filled me with joy and happiness that I had no real right to have. I didn't even know these people and they had me bawling.
"Oh! They look so good in their matching dresses! Ah! AND THEY HAVE SWORDS!"
If you're a guy reading this, please consider letting yourself feel once in a while. Bottling up your emotions is not healthy in the slightest. Shed some tears. Feel joy for even the smallest reasons. Get excited about expressing your feelings, good or bad. Just feel. You won't regret it.