It’s my senior year, and I’m awaiting a call to hear if I’m going to be appointed editor-in-chief of my senior capstone, Urban Plains. I had the interview the week earlier and I said all the right things. I was qualified. I wrote a thank-you-for-interviewing-me-thank-you-card. I felt good. I had a celebratory glass of wine before my call—I was that confident the job was mine. I had been waiting for my moment to lead a publication at Drake, and was ready for the good news.
I was headed to mixology night at The Science Center with a group of friends, and I took the call in a hallway, where I watched a giant pendulum swing back and forth as my body went completely numb with the news. I lost all feeling when I heard the words, “You’re not going to like what’s next.”
While I’ve accepted crying as a cathartic and ultimately positive response to stress, I’m still not that comfortable bursting into tears in public. So I left The Science Center and walked at an insanely fast pace to the river, where I sat in the grass, utterly alone and unseen, and broke down as the wind blew my hair into knots and muffled the sound of my sobs. I called my mom then, and just cried to her on the phone. I felt mad and upset, but ultimately wronged. I explained some of the points my professor had made on the phone through tears and shortness of breath, but I still couldn’t really wrap my head around it.
I’m a junior, and am having a particularly hard week. I had received a rejection email that morning for another editor-in-chief position I had applied for, was coming up dry on summer internships, and was anxious for the budget meeting at Senate, where I knew I would be grilled for all the money I was requesting for the Student Activities Board. I had already cried that day—having left class to go cry in the Meredith basement bathroom, a fairly abandoned bathroom, if you’re looking for a public place to break down. At the Senate meeting everyone was at my neck for petty costs, which went on for almost four hours. I struggled to maintain my composure at the meeting; my outlet was biting my lip, which I did repeatedly to the point of it starting to bleed. When I got home I flung myself face-first into bed and cried until my whole body was sore. I was at a complete loss of what to do if the budget didn’t pass, and I had never felt like a bigger failure in all of my college career. This was the first time in college that I didn’t regret crying, or feel ashamed of my “perceived weakness.” I felt my whole world was either against me or oblivious to what I was going through, and this was my only true reprieve.
I’m a sophomore, and it’s spring break. My best friend and I are in a fight over a boy. Not that we both liked him, but that I said something I shouldn’t have, and now a giant three-way fight was taking place. The whole situation was blown out of proportion, climaxing when I received a text that said something to the effect of never being able to fully trust me again, and while our friendship could possibly continue, it would never operate to the same extent it once did. I didn’t know how to fight it, so instead I spent my break feeling defeated. I let myself have one quick cry in my room, curled in a ball on my bed before chastising myself for my tears and freshening up before dinner. I was uncertain with how to respond to my tears then—it was an outward breakdown, and I didn’t like showing weakness even if I was completely alone. I didn’t even tell my mom about the fight and my emotions until long after my friend and I made up.
I’m a freshman. Before leadership roles became my primary form of college motivation, I was obsessed with my grades. During my second semester I was in a Drugs and Behavior class and a math class, and I didn’t make Dean’s List, which was mortifying for me. I also failed my first exam. I couldn’t even bring myself to say, “I failed a test,” aloud in front of a mirror, and I watched myself regretfully as a few tears slid down my cheeks. I didn’t let myself cry anymore than that. It was embarrassing enough for me to fail, and I didn’t need to compound my issues by crying about it, too.
Two of my most influential college takeaways are that it’s okay to say no and it’s okay to cry publicly—when you’re happy and when you’re upset. My happy tears have surfaced mostly in my last two years of college, which was when I pivoted from viewing crying as a weakness and instead as a useful tool for understanding my emotions.
I cried the night I accepted my role as Vice President of Student Activities. I sat at home later that night, exhausted but exhilarated, and replayed the week’s events in my head. It was a half laugh, half cry—mostly reveling in the fact that I had done it. It was a rare, fleeting moment where I could imagine myself doing anything.
I cried over fall break my senior year, when I re-read Humans of New York and fell upon a story about a dad and his red-haired daughter. I thought of my dad, and then my mom, and how they raised me to be someone I loved, and someone they respected.
I cried at a Misterwives concert in April 2018, when Giada ran her first meeting, which meant I officially “retired” from SAB. I watched my clock hit 9 p.m. and imagined her calling the meeting to order, and it finally sunk in that it was something I would never do again. While in the moment I felt a powerful sadness, it turned into an immense respect for myself, and everything I accomplished that year.
I let a few tears slide down my face on April 21, 2017, the day the Relays Edition of the Times-Delphic went to print and the day of street painting. I stood with my other Relays co-chair at the far end of the street, and as we stared at it, I couldn’t help the tears from falling. One of the longest days of my life was winding down, and I had just facilitated a masterpiece. It was one of the most pure and serene moments of my time and Drake, and I will never forget the almost out-of-body experience I had standing there.
I cried after taking myself out on a date to see Dear Evan Hansen. The tears were mostly due to the beauty of the musical and its message, but also because I finally found the confidence to go out on my own, share a drink with myself, and do something I wanted to do, without worrying about what others thought. The experience was freeing, and so were the tears that followed.
There is crying in baseball
When I was in high school I was on my varsity softball team for two years. It made me angry when I saw my teammates cry after they struck out or missed a routine play. I wanted them to save their tears for later, if they had to cry at all. It seemed worthless and unnecessary, and in all due respect, high school softball wasn’t worth losing tears over.
But, I was pretty self-centered in high school. I didn’t understand that for some of my teammates softball was their thing—their passion. Since softball wasn’t held on the same pedestal for me, I couldn’t understand why they were crying over it. But, someone could look at my above situations and say the same thing about me. Ultimately, not getting editor-in-chief was a learning experience, and one I grew from. Ultimately, the budget did pass for SAB, and the current president is putting the money to amazing use. Ultimately, my teammates cried over a strikeout, and the next time up to bat, they hit a homerun.
But it’s not always about how you bounce back. It’s about realizing that it’s okay to show emotion when you are incredibly passionate about something—and you shouldn’t be judged for doing so by yourself or by others. I regret that I disrespected my teammates’ emotions on the field just because I didn’t operate the same way. I didn’t understand that four years later I’d be collapsed in the grass, sobbing over something that I failed at. When you care about something deeply, sometimes the only way to showcase it is through pure, unrelenting emotion.
I have gained immense perspective through my leadership positions on campus. Rarely can you judge someone’s response to a situation through only your own lens. I have also come to value emotion and vulnerability. While I admit that I am not yet as empathic and understanding as I strive to be, I’ve increased my amount of both pretty drastically since leaving high school. And I know these parts of my identity increased because I found activities, organizations, and people I was truly passionate about, afraid of losing, and afraid of letting down.
So cry in baseball. Cry watching baseball. Cry over what you’re passionate about, and cry over what your devastated about. Just be sure that your tears are shameless and that your tears are powerful.