I got in trouble at work this morning.
People who know me to any extent are likely familiar with my bad habit of running my mouth. I’ve never had much of a filter; when I decided this fall to embark upon the mission of speaking truthfully in every situation, my bad habit, which is egged on by a lack of common sense, seemed to be exacerbated a bit.
This morning, a familiar man walked into the office. For those who didn’t know, Baylor, being a large corporation as well as a university, has a fairly sizeable team of lawyers, some of whom keep offices right upstairs to the one where I work. The fellow who walked in happens to be one of them—very congenial, easy to talk with. He asks me how I am. Perhaps you know how this goes, but it gets better, I promise.
One of the things that spurred my undertaking of Radical Honesty as a lifestyle change this fall was the fact I have been deeply grieved since about March that most people do not answer the question of being honestly. We’re not expected to—“how are you” is a social greeting, and it’s considered a faux pas to answer in any way but positively. I won’t get into my problems with that now. This morning, I meant it when I answered positively, one the shocking tenets of Radical Honesty being that you don’t give false answers. I’m doing well, but this semester is an odd one—why, you ask? Well, I’m studying abroad next semester, and the application process is basically taking over my life.
On it went for a little while. Where are you studying abroad? I’m going to Spain. Why do I want to go to Spain? To learn Spanish, of course, but it goes beyond that. If everything goes according to plan, I hope someday to work in immigration law, and a working, useful knowledge of Spanish would be a good thing to have in that field. Yes, but why Spain specifically? I picked Spain because I’ve already been to Argentina, but I’m not just going for the semester—I’m staying eight months. Does that equate to two semesters of theirs? No, not exactly. Their semester starts in February, but I’m staying afterward because I want to walk the Camino de Santiago.
For a lawyer, he’s surprisingly easy to read. I saw then that the confusion flashed across his face and felt myself go red. I’m sharing the fact I want to go on a religious pilgrimage with a lawyer. Okay. I watched my words more closely at that point. Why do I want to do a 500-mile walk through Northern Spain? Well, now we have a problem: how can I explain that honestly without digging myself into a deeper hole than I already have?
Wait, this is a hole, you ask? Why did I perceive this as a hole in the first place? That gets complicated, but it comes down to this scenario being one of a special breed of situation in which my ability to read people gets me in trouble. On the one hand, I didn’t apply the breaks and gave too much information—in other words, my bad habit of running my mouth reared its head. What use in the world would a lawyer conceive of a religious pilgrimage? Is this chick serious?
Maybe I’m paraphrasing that last question a bit. The point stands. But wait, you say, I’m still confused as to why this is a problem. So you ran your mouth a bit—why were you so embarrassed?
Ah, therein lies the quirk. Check the other hand.
As many of you know, it takes my brain a while to change gears because my thought processes are so complicated. As a result, I stayed rather embarrassed about my exchange with this fellow for some time afterward. An awkward sort of energy was buzzing about me and made me want to leave work early to get away from it. Since that wasn’t an option, I swallowed my pride and slowed down the brain train. When I did, I learned a lesson about the “radical” part of radical honesty.
The thing is, I probably overanalyzed the effects of my running my mouth. Yes, I should have applied the breaks sooner, but as I thought about it, I realized all that had happened was I’d disclosed the information too soon. It would have gotten out eventually that I was planning on doing a pilgrimage in northern Spain after completing my studies; after I return, I’ll be thrown right back into the routine of daily college life. Whoever I am at that point will, I expect, be different to who I am now. One thing I know: I will not be less competent, as I know God has placed this goal in my life for my ultimate betterment. Why should I be ashamed of the fact I am doing a pilgrimage? The secret would have gotten out eventually. The jig is up, Dresden—there’s nothing to be ashamed of. No embarrassment needed. Don’t worry so much.
Wow. That’s funny. They don’t come more type-A than me. Don’t worry so much?
That’s the thing, though. I don’t have to worry. No, what I’m doing is not practical; there might exist some better use of my time in that kind of sense, but it won’t teach me anything I don’t already know. I will be able to prove myself when I come back, justify that this was necessary for me. No, I won’t need to, but I am a warrior at heart and will want to.
Radical honesty? You bet.
The most radical part of it, though? Being honest with myself.