Raise Your Hand

“No talking. Keep your blindfolds on.”

Every Wednesday, each Residence Life staff team meets to talk about upcoming events, chat about our communities, and grow as a group through team-building exercises.

“You are inside a circle made of rope. Your goal is to find a way out of it. You cannot touch the rope. You cannot go over it or under it. If you need help, raise your hand. Regardless, there is a way out.”

There were twenty of us; eighteen were the unfortunate blindfolded participants, myself included. Every so often someone reiterated the rules aloud to remind us of the limitations. On my hands and knees, I crawled in all directions, being rerouted by unknown hands when [I thought] I was getting too close to the rope. My internal dialogue went as such: there is a way out and I’m gunna find it, by golly! I felt ridiculous, taking moments to curl in a ball and laugh before continuing on my way. I can’t remember exactly what it was that kept me going, but I was stubbornly determined to find a way out of that circle. As time went on, I noticed the hands directing me away from the rope came more frequently until finally I stopped my crawling, sat on my heels, and with the most sass a blindfolded Soup could muster, I raised my hand.

“Take off your blindfold.”

I looked up and found nineteen people returning my gaze standing in a circle around me. I paused, and then realized that I was the last person to solve the puzzle.

“For those of you in the circle the longest, how did you figure out that the solution was raising your hand for help?”

Oh. I didn’t raise my hand to get help. I raised my hand in sass.

How embarrassing.

The moderator then asked us how our response to the exercise reflects the way we operate in real life. Despite my utter embarrassment, I learned a peculiar lesson: the stubbornness and independent mindset I held on to while trapped in the circle is the same mindset I have when tackling most tasks.

I’m not one to raise my hand when I need help. I will stubbornly crawl my way around in hopes that I’ll get lucky and figure out a solution. I wouldn’t say it’s a conscious decision – I’ve always been a strongly self-reliant person. I just internally process before chatting up a storm with someone else; however, I’ve been finding myself in situations in which the helping hands and reassuring smiles of the kind people around me would be highly appreciated.

So why don’t I indulge in the love and generosity of my peers?

You see, I do not like to ask for help because I feel like I’m going to be burdening someone if I do. I will ultimately be taking them away from anything else they would otherwise be doing. And let’s be honest, we all have a lot on our plates. Midterms are coming up – we’re all tired and overwhelmed and what exactly would be the benefit of relieving all of my crap on someone else when it would just bring more stress the both of us? This semester in particular, I’ve crammed a ton of activities into my schedule – if I got myself into this hole, I must ultimately be the one to find a way of climbing out of it. If not, I’ve failed. My worries and struggles are my burden to bear. Placing them on others would be bothersome, selfish, and more stress than what it’s worth.

I recently sat down with our lovely director and let off some steam. Our “good chat” in the Opp was supposed to be about various Lighthouse projects and other business. Time to buckle down and get shit done! Needless to say, we didn’t check anything off that list. And normally our unproductivity would bother me, but that day – that day I needed to talk. To express how tired I’ve been. How discouraged I’ve been.
I left that conversation with a more composed disposition. I started tugging at the blindfold.

Asking for help means willingly putting yourself in a state of vulnerability. In our individualistic society, we are told over and over that we ought to be proudly independent. You can do anything you put your mind to. You can shoulder any weight that you’re carrying. But in reality… maybe you can’t. And maybe that’s not a bad thing.

That’s something I’m working on, and will struggle with for a while yet to come. Like I said, I don’t fancy sharing my tasks and worries with others. The honest truth is I don’t like being vulnerable, but lately I’ve been a frustrated, hopeless, exhausted shell of a person… until I told someone about it. I left the Opp a little lighter that afternoon. Nothing had really changed. I still have beastly tasks to tackle, but in light of that discussion, I remembered that I am not a burden and it’s okay to ask for help. The tenderness and love of community is ultimately what keeps us sane.

If you need help, raise your hand.

If you would like to talk with Soup about this or anything else, you can join her in Oppenheimer for her next cafe hour on Friday, March 8 from 2-3pm.