My breath was a visible fog that trickled into then dissolved beneath the heavy raindrops beating down beyond the eave of my front stoop. It was 11 PM on a Wednesday, the day after my sister’s wedding, and a storm settled overhead. I was barefooted and in sweatpants, my sister’s old “Powder Junkie” shirt peeking out beneath long strands of my wet, tangled hair. For awhile, I just sat and watched the road, waiting for the hum of an approaching vehicle, waiting to see headlight beams stretch across wet asphalt, waiting to hear the crumble of rocks and see the flash of white as someone familiar pulled into my driveway and came to say hello.
No one came.
That cold Wednesday night, I found myself in the middle of something. Like a plunge into a cool lake, the kind that slaps you alive as its pushing you to the bottom, it was a wake-up call:
I’ve been lying to myself for most of my life.
It used to be a running, sarcastic joke in my life that I hated people. People are the cause of all the world’s problems. People are the ones running around on the news burning things down and shooting each other. People are the bad politicians, the bad parents, the thieves, and the criminals. People are the ones making stupid decisions and saying stupid things.
People are terrible, so said I.
On that stoop in the pouring rain, puddles forming beneath my toes and drops twisting in my hair, I realized the lie in that. I don’t say “I hate people” because I truly hate them, but because I love them, and they have the capacity to hurt me so badly that they make me afraid.
Honestly, I don’t think any of us truly hate people. We hate it when they leave, and we hate it when they hurt us.
Now that my sister’s married, my brother moved out, a few friends are leaving for the summer, and I’m reminded of old relationships, I recognize that. I recognized that when I saw my sister’s wide, bright eyes as she looked at her husband in the temple. I recognized that when a girl I loved took her life last week and all I remember her by is the way she brought life to everything she touched. I recognized that when a friend pulled me into an embrace, when a guy I dated smiled and I remembered how that felt months ago, when I sat out on that stoop alone, freezing and vulnerable.
People are so unbearably wonderful that the things they do or the times that they leave can feel like a dark hole. People are so unbearably wonderful that when they fail us, it feels disastrous. People are so unbearably wonderful that we lock ourselves away from them, cut ourselves off, and slice our connection to them for fear of what it would do to us to be disappointed by them.
It is the absence of that wonderfulness, the absence of that humanity that we hate so much, not its existence.
Maybe we’d find more to love if we stopped pretending to hate so much. Maybe we’d find more to love if we simply loved, even in our hurt, even in our loneliness.
“I hate people” is the greatest lie I’ve ever perpetuated. In the absence of them that rainy, Wednesday night, I realized just how much I need them. And miss them. And love them.