The blessing of vulnerability

Mei Corricello

“Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center of meaningful human experiences“ – Brené Brown 

Like many of us, I tend to divide my time at Lynbrook into three distinct periods: the pre-COVID era, the COVID era, and the post-COVID era.

In my mind, the first year and a half of high school is defined by both my endless curiosity and naiveté. I arrived at Lynbrook prepared to work hard and try new things, but my freshman self could’ve never prepared herself for the academic rigor and pressure to be perfect that the Lynbrook experience entails. 

After a mere few months at the school and my first B in Algebra 2/Trigonometry, I’d adopted the mindset of a Lynbrook student — a lens of perfectionism driven by ambition, high achievements and hard work, accompanied by an inevitable aloofness and lack of  valuable human connection.

This environment quickly taught me to become my biggest critic. No one else’s judgments could hurt me if I could brace myself with self-deprecation. As a sophomore, I perceived even my closest friends as numbers on a four point scale, defined by their resumes and extracurricular activities. What were friends for if not just sources of comparison?

The people around me did the same. We were like horses with blinders on, with an instinct to guard our hearts and minds from each other, keep our heads down and work until we succeeded. Or rather, reach an ever-rising standard of success. Collaboration came only after competition. Why let others in, ask for help or show any sign of weakness? To struggle is to fail.

Despite the obvious tragedy it caused, I will always be grateful to the pandemic for giving me the opportunity to take a pause. I needed a second to breathe. It forced me to set aside our egos and go through the same humbling human experience together. For many, including me, that isolation amplified existing mental health issues. As a result, I sought therapy, where I learned the importance of being vulnerable. 

When I opened up to family and friends, I finally began to feel true love and support from everyone around me. Without my blinders of pride, I could finally see opportunities to create meaningful bonds. It taught me to feel and to love without fear.

To struggle is not to fail. And to fail is not a bad thing. Vulnerability is not a weakness — it’s a quality to lean into as we mature and subconsciously put up walls to the world around us. It allows us to experience life to the fullest, sit in our discomfort just long enough to grow from it and form genuine and trusting relationships with each other.

Returning to school in person, changed my perspective entirely. My tangible goals and accomplishments now paled in comparison to my desire for friendship: to be there for my friends and to let them be there for me. I learned to put my energy into things I am sincerely passionate about. To always put my best effort forward while understanding  that I have different strengths than others and to not be afraid to fail. I fell in love with the process regardless of the results.

I have newfound compassion both for others and myself. I give myself grace to mess up, even in front of others, because it makes life a hell of a lot more fulfilling than it was before. And I have never felt so surrounded by love. Now, I want nothing more than for the people around me to succeed. I am constantly filled with gratitude for their talents and personalities, and the fact that I got to spend four years with them.