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  • Writer's pictureElana

secret vs. private

There's a lot going on right now.

Not just for me (actually not particularly for me) but with the good weather comes good moods, good news and busy times.

When I decided to leave my job, I kept it very private. For a while, nobody knew except me and Navin. I only told my parents a few days before. And I had a very hard time keeping it to myself. (Those of you who know me well know that this would normally be very difficult for me). As I've said in previous posts, I was so sure that this was the right decision for me that I didn't feel the need to talk about it and get advice. Even though the people I love know me well, I know myself best and I had to do what was best for me...without the pressure and influence of everyone else's opinions.

By holding in this significant decision and news, I felt like a liar. Someone at work would ask me to do something in a few months and I'd change the subject or be non-committal about it. If I would agree to it, I would feel a pang of guilt. People would ask me how I was doing or what was new and my answers were vague and boring. And I felt like a fraud.

When I gave my notice, I felt a huge weight lift off of my chest. I planned to stay at work for 3 more weeks but by my manager's request, we didn't communicate anything broadly until the T-2 week mark. I was nervous about my ability to keep it a secret and a little uncomfortable with continuing on being the fraud that I had perceived myself as leading up to that point. But it was through this struggle that I learned that there is a difference between lying or being deceitful and keeping something private.

This is also something I struggled with during my depression. I knew that people could tell something was wrong, but for fear of judgment or perceived weakness, I didn't want to tell anyone. Again in this instance, I had difficulty distinguishing between a lie and a secret. As time went on, I learned that keeping something private doesn’t necessarily mean keeping it secret. I did eventually open up to a few people after I began to have a better understanding and once I had established who I could trust, and who I wanted to invite into the "tent". But it still wasn't public knowledge.

After all, everyone has a right to privacy.

Recently I was faced with another circumstance where I struggled with my ability to balance honesty and privacy. This time, the news was not my own, which I guess made it a little easier.

The feeling of sharing, whether it's opening up your heart and being vulnerable to someone you trust, discussing feelings that are hard to discuss, or sharing exciting news can feel so wonderful, and can form such a strong bond.

Recently, my sister Tamara announced her engagement and upcoming wedding. And even though I knew before their Save the Date and official announcement went out, I was fine keeping it a secret (it helped that most of the people I see on a day-to-day basis don't know her anyways).

But the day before she announced it publicly, I ran into one of her close friends who lives in Seattle. We were pleasantly surprised to see each other, we smiled and hugged and chatted. And then I left pretty abruptly and somewhat rudely, because I didn't trust myself to keep my mouth shut… and because it wasn’t my news to share or my announcement to make. In this case I didn't feel like I was being dishonest at all, but I still had a very hard time having casual conversation when there was clearly something so big to talk about.

And so, while I've learned to distinguish between what's deceivingly secret and what's reasonably private, I am still working on holding in news when it's not ready to be shared. And that patience is hard. I think I've gotten a lot better at it, but it's still a work in progress.

“Patience is not passive; on the contrary, it is active; it is concentrated strength.” - Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton

As I have and will continue to make some big life decisions, I will get good chances to practice filtering information appropriately. I no longer feel dishonest for keeping private information to myself, but I also find it helpful to talk things through with the people I love, and to share some of my intimate feelings and personal experiences here broadly with you, so that it can help you understand me, understand yourselves, or even help yourselves or someone you love. It's a delicate balance.

“Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.” - Spencer Johnson

So bear with me. Try to understand that sometimes things aren't ready to be shared and that you don't need to know everything that I know. If you can tell that I am holding something back, don't try to pry it out of me. I appreciate your support as I strengthen my secret-keeping muscles. And I will reward you by sharing even more with you…when I'm ready.

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