Dear Evan Hansen:
This year will be a good year. You will learn to love yourself for who you are, and soon enough, those around you will love you too.
After taking the time to reflect on these past few years and where my life has taken me, I have learned to appreciate my mother’s weird love for that horoscope stuff and “inspirational quotes”. Once a week, on Monday mornings, I try to find a quote to get me through the week and to motivate me through every day, whether it be a good or a bad one. Today, I found one that stood out to me, and reminded me of my feelings throughout my life that still linger with me from day to day:
“The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority” – Ralph W. Sockman.
I find that I identify with several parts of this quote. Through my struggles of loneliness and anxiety, I was in a dark place that I never thought I could possibly get out of. I felt like an outsider, like a minority. I just didn’t fit in with the others, in a way that was out of my control. People often take anxiety lightly. Some people will ask me “Why do you always walk with your head down? Isn’t that kind of weird?”. Maybe they’re right… I just can’t help it sometimes. You should probably work on making eye contact with people a little more.
I like to think that your anxiety is the reason why you struggle to make friends. Not because you’re weird or sometimes make bad jokes, but because a large part of your identity involves a quality that many people don’t have. I actually talked to a friend …uh no… I mean…. “family friend” the other day about this. His name is Jared. He’s kind of an asshole, and I don’t really know why I’m friends with him, but I guess I’ll take what I can get. Anyways, he’s Jewish and is always making jokes about the fact that he’s Jewish. I read online somewhere, actually, that “self-deprecation (is) central to Diaspora humor” (Whitfield 245). I think most of it comes from the fact that he is part of a minority too, and his jokes are his way of coping with the fact that he, too, feels like an outsider. He may not realize it, but I think Jared actually likes hanging out with you. You’re both part of different minorities and are able to share that connection over the fact that you don’t exactly fit in with the crowd. I never thought that Jared was insecure until he started making jokes about his religion in the same way that I make jokes about how nobody really cares about me. I always used to like to use humor as a coping mechanism, and it made me wonder if that’s what Jared does too.
Jared’s parents told me a little bit about discrimination when I used to hang around his house because my mom was busy at work. His mom told me that sometimes she felt like she was an outsider and was sometimes even discriminated against because she was Jewish. She said that people would often make comments about her religion without even realizing what they were saying was anti-Semitic. I found myself connecting with Jared’s mom when she opened up to me this one night in a way I never thought I would. Hearing her talk about how she has experienced anti-Semitism made me realize that my whole life, I’ve been looked down upon because of my anxiety. Jared’s mom taught me about a term “everyday racism”, “a form of racism distinctively structured in “practices that infiltrate everyday life and become part of what is seen as “normal” by the dominant group” (Beagan 590). I never really thought about it, but I think that I can relate to this term a bit. I know that your anxiety isn’t a race or a religion, but it does have more similarities than many would think. Your anxiety is part of who you are and you can’t easily change it. Yes, you can take your medicine to try to get rid of it, similarly to how a Jew can convert to another religion, but it’s always going to be in your blood. Like Judaism, because your anxiety isn’t something that is “obvious” or physically apparent, it makes this “everyday racism” a lot easier to occur. People don’t think they’re being discriminatory towards you, because they are ignorant to the fact that you are different from the rest of them. They feel less guilt because it isn’t obvious that they are making you feel like an outsider because of your differences.
Although both Jews and people with anxiety don’t outwardly have their identities written across their foreheads, they do often have their quirks or stereotypes that are identifiable. “The importance of a “Jewish nose” is that it is perceived as one of the most obvious defining features of Jews” (Schrank 18). Jared’s mom told me that she thinks she falls under some “Jewish stereotypes”, her nose being one of them. I never thought it was obvious that you had anxiety from an outsider’s perspective, but come to think it, you’re a walking stereotype of an anxious high schooler. The way you stutter correcting your teachers to call you Evan, your slight twitch… and don’t even get me STARTED on those sweaty hands of yours. But, Evan, you just have to embrace it and people will like you for you.
It’s okay for you to admit that you feel like an outsider. Admitting that you might be different from others is the key to accepting this fact. Your anxiety is part of you, and you need to embrace this in order to truly be yourself and put yourself out there. Remember what you always say- be yourself. Be true to yourself. When you’re feeling down, think back to the quote from this week- the test of courage comes from when you are in the minority. You have this courage inside of you, Evan and you’ve showed it to the world. Continue to be yourself, and take on every obstacle with your head held high.
Whitfield, Stephen J. “The Distinctiveness of American Jewish Humor.” Modern Judaism, vol. 6, no. 3, 1986, pp. 245–260. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1396216.
Schrank, Berince. Cutting off Your Nose To Spite Your Race: Jewish Stereotypes, Images, Cultural Hybridity. Purdue University Press, 2007.