I have travelled thousands of miles across the world searching for what I believed would give me meaning in life. At first, the hunt led me to Hong Kong, where I was in pursuit of a higher, more globally focused education. However, finally obtaining it only opened the door further and allowed me to peer out the doorframe of my life and realize that I had only just left home on pursuit of another journey. This time, the prize I was in pursuit of was not there waiting for me to grab it.
I arrived in Ecuador having been told that this year in a completely new society was a chance for me to learn, not fix. A chance for me to not observe and sympathize, but for me to experience and understand. A chance for me to truly experience Empathy. In my mind, this meant living with people, hearing about their problems, and experiencing them, all steps I have thus far passed. However, I am sad yet glad to say that I am very, very far from Empathy.
Empathy can be defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, however, I like to think of Empathy as a person with human traits just as you and I. I also like to think that in a way I share many traits with Empathy. I am a person who, no matter how hard you try, will never immediately open myself to you and warmly welcome you in. Yes, I’ll smile and we’ll talk a bit about things we have in common on the surface but that is as much you will get out of me.
Unless you are willing to keep prying at me, testing all the spots, searching for a way in, knocking until you accidentally find the opening you were looking for and unleash all I had hoped to keep in. As a last resort, I may even lash out and revolt entirely in an attempt to ward you off; one last warning before the point of no return. I will lash out and test you, push you to your limits where you will wonder why you are even bothering because you are getting nothing out of this. I will keep pushing to you ultimately decide I am not worth your time and energy and you give up.
Unless you are defiant, intent on weathering the storm and allow yourself to absorb each emotion embedded within the repulsions that are whipped out. Willing to take my lashes and share in the scars from where the outbursts of misplaced rage emanate, knowing they are not out of anger, but out of fear; a fear that you will see into my soul and use it how you please; a fear that exposed will become exploited; a fear that you will see my stains and try to clean me and won’t feel my pain and cry with me. This is Empathy is in it’s purest form.
When I look at Empathy not as an abstract concept but rather as an extension of each and every toil and trial and success and dream, I realize I was foolish to think that after a month I would empathize with my new community. I know neither how long it will take nor when I will be able to say I do, but I do know that I have only just found the similarities on the surface and would be wrong to mistake this for Empathy. I am yet to truly knock on the doors, to feel the repulsion, to feel the pain of those I hope to empathize with. And to be honest, I cannot even say I will in my next 6 months. However, armed with this concept of Empathy, knowing that this pursuit of Empathy is not a far voyage across many nations but rather difficult emotional journey on a winding path of experiences, I know that if I keep knocking and hold on tight, I will be able to hold Empathy’s fragile hand in mine and share the sweetest tears in each other’s embrace.