I started writing this sometime in 2016 but I’m finishing writing this in early 2017
“If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it.”
“I’m not afraid to tell the truth. I tell it like it is.”
In these sayings there is implied a dichotomy between being nice and being honest, where being “too nice” means being too accommodating to the point of being a pushover.
In middle school, I argued that there is no such thing as “too nice.” The stepfather in a book I read in my sixth grade Language A class was seen by the protagonist as “too nice,” because he didn’t stand up to children who were being, well, mean. My sixth grade self would have argued that not standing up for yourself or other people is actually mean–it’s not being nice to the person being insulted or attacked.
Nowadays, I think my confidence in some senses has decreased while in other senses expanded, and when I think about trying to be nice I think of shrinking back, of decreasing the size and space I take up, of making my voice smaller and less important, of saying well you know well maybe you’re right more. Of trying to seem more agreeable, of compromising more, so I can get along. I don’t know, maybe it’s because trying to say what I thought and be who I wanted to be got me into trouble, and got me accused of not being agreeable and friendly in the past. Maybe because some people are just that good at getting their way and making me doubt and question what I really think. Maybe because I’ve had my confidence stripped from me, maybe because I’ve let that happen. Maybe because if you hear something enough you start to believe it.
Something I thought in ninth grade: What if you look so that the truth is good?
I was thinking, what if you look so that the truth is the good, the truth is nice? And telling it like it is means to build each other up in this world of falling down, of finding the true goodness that exists in all the dirt, of finding that which shimmers and gleams in the middle of a pile of trash, of not letting the lies of the world get to you.
So life is crazy, life is always crazy. Things tend toward disorder. This is how my time and schedule and everything goes. But there are things to say, there are things…I am so busy because there are problems, there are things to see and notice and imagine and think and say. Because there is more to the story than the same old same old, there is more to do than acquiescing to the everyday currents of life.
Since the presidential election and since I learned about the resistance at Standing Rock in November, I’ve been thinking a little more about letting a bit more of how the darkness in the world is just as valid as the light in the world settle in. Both exist. You can’t let the hope get overwritten by the negativity, but you also can’t ignore the pain and suffering which is real, the less than nice things people do every day, the ways people have their words and stories overwritten or their value and/or values ignored.
I used to think that being a good person meant being happy all the time, like having a smile plastered on my face the way some of the popular outgoing girls in middle school did–the way some girls are expected to, the way if you don’t it’s called a RBF when really it’s just a neutral face, the way females can look mean without doing anything but males can look neutral. But I’ve been learning more and more (and I still know so little) of the inequality and problems that haven’t been solved–that can and do but shouldn’t go unnoticed and unacknowledged–and I don’t think you need to gloss over the bad in order to keep your positivity. In some ways things are just bad and aren’t going to be solved easily or quickly, and things are just going bad, but in other ways honest and positive are not mutually exclusive. (And maybe telling it like it is isn’t so bad after all, if it doesn’t mean resorting to insults and ear plugging and going lalala, because like I thought in middle school, not standing up for people is mean–sometimes shutting up can be mean, other times you need to shut up and listen.) I like what Rob Morris from Love146 said in a video I am currently unable to find, something about how you need to stare into the darkness to do good. Keep your skin thin, let the problems of the world sink in.