One of the worst times of my life was during the final weeks of my sophomore year of college.
I had just started a new internship, was searching for summer jobs and had begun my first week in my new position at The Scout. The semester-long assignments that I had been putting off were coming to their end, so saying I was busy was an understatement. I remember staying up until 4 a.m. for an entire week, only getting breaks from working to go to class and to eat whatever microwavable meal I had at my disposal.
On top of that, the fraternity house I was living in for the entire year had to be vacated because of mold, forcing us to relocate in the middle of finals preparation. As the president of said fraternity, I had to communicate with Bradley to try and get some answers, which involved many stressful meetings and emails.
During it all, I cried.
Fast forward to this semester, it’s already been a rollercoaster. After a busy summer, our fraternity hit the ground running with recruitment as soon as I got to campus. Let me tell you, trying to attend every rush event while balancing two jobs and the start of classes is not an easy task.
I got bogged down by assignments pretty quickly, feeling burnout from a summer filled with work and having one too many things on my plate already. A new semester meant a new start, but it also meant new problems.
And during it all, I cried.
Growing up, I always thought crying was a sign of weakness. I would fall down, and my dad would tell me to “rub some dirt on it.” I would feel pain, and I would just shrug it off so I could look cool in front of my friends and classmates. Especially playing sports, you’d get laughed at or punished if tears were shed. When I hurt my arm, my grandpa – who we affectionately called Papa – would threaten to punch a different body part to make me forget about the pain in my arm. I wish it was that easy.
Papa died on Dec. 31, 2019, and I didn’t shed a single tear. That wasn’t because I don’t love him, but at the time I believed crying was not something a man does. I saw my dad and my uncle, both of whom just lost their dad, and their eyes were dry. That was the standard I always knew.
That was even the case when Papa had to sit through his mom’s funeral. As third grade me got emotional listening to the many great things said about my great-grandma, I felt Papa’s arm wrap around my shoulder, consoling me in one of his darkest moments. I looked up at him, but he was not crying either. It’s been wired in our brains to stay strong during times of turmoil.
Now, through over two years of college, I regret not letting my feelings out on that fateful New Year’s Eve. I wish I knew how to properly let the tears flow so I wouldn’t feel guilty now, three years later, for not doing more to grieve.
As mentioned earlier, I’ve cried throughout these tough times in my college life. Initially, I felt embarrassed, but I came to realize that a good cry is sometimes all you need to make the pain go away. Your friends may catch you, but that’s okay, because they understand. Lean on them to console you. Believe it or not, most college students have had a breakdown in one way or another while at school.
Crying is the least painful way to express your emotions. Traditionally, men have punched a wall or kicked a chair or worse, bottled up those emotions until they collapsed under the weight of them. Trust me — I’ve been there, and it is not something you want to experience.
The stigma that men have to be stoic and emotionless is fading away, with many athletes and celebrities coming forward with their struggles of mental health in an effort to change the way we see their lives. Being in a fraternity, I see firsthand the fight us men have to go through on a daily basis: suffering in silence to avoid being called “soft.” I see how relatable these messages of awareness can be, hoping for a day when everyone can feel the emotions humans were born to feel.
Crying is not showing weakness. It’s one of the strongest things you can do, especially as a man. Showing your peers that you’re not scared of the waterworks is one of the bravest things you can show. In those moments, you become vulnerable, you become free and you become more of a man.
I still feel that sense of burnout. I cried just thinking about the things I needed to do this week, but that’s okay. I’m still a man, and men know how to cry.
So I urge you – next time you think you want to cry, don’t be afraid. We’re all here to guide you through it.