Have you ever slept in a bed with 3 people in an extremely platonic way? I realize that sounds absurd, and five years ago I would have told you you’re a fucking werido if you asked me that. There are two types of people in this world those that hug total strangers and those that go straight for the handshake. Growing up I had the type of parents that were affectionate towards each other. They weren’t shy about it around their children. We hugged friends, people we were close to. But, when I dated my first boyfriend there was absolutely no touching in front of my parents. It was an insecurity I had, and I was never sure why. I never wanted people to know that part of me. The part that was interested in affection and love. It seemed like such a private experience to me. I also had insecurities about being vulnerable and having someone reject me which I think are very natural.
We started looking at colleges when I was 17. The final choice was a small private school in a rural Iowa town called Luther. I wanted to be as far away from my parents as possible—isn’t that a horrible thing to say? It wasn’t because they were bad parents or because I hated them. It was because I had this enormous amount of potential to be independent and I wanted to grab it. I looked at close to 10 schools to begin my chapter of independence. Eventually I chose Luther, and my first year I HATED it. I know why now but at the time it seemed like it just wasn’t a fit.
Luther was like Neverland. 90% of the student body was involved in music. No, that wasn’t a typo. It was a school of artists, creators, and vulnerability. I was a music student, but I never truly wanted to be the person that held a random person’s hand. Yet, I was forced to. YUP, in choir you HAD to hold hands with the person next to you. Thus began the breakdown of my walls. Think about spending an hour a day with the same people, holding their hands and creating art together. Think of being forced to live in communities with your classmates where everyone gathers every night in September to dance and sing to “September” By Earth Wind and Fire. Eventually you become the person that holds hands with strangers. A place where professors invite you to their homes for dinner, as a totally normal thing. Where your professor and his partner can become your "Gay Dads". (Real thing in my life)
The ability to be vulnerable was a recurring theme in my college experience. When it came to making music, the best performances were the ones in which you had a connection to the text, you felt the melody. My classmates and I had the opportunity to hear often from the Great Weston Noble. Each time he visited rehearsal he would discuss vulnerability. That when we tear down walls, and open our hearts and hands to the people around us, we create great art. It becomes a palpable experience. It makes us unique and different. Eventually the art of vulnerability transcended just my studies. It was so weird because everyone was happy all the time at Luther. Everyone was into making friends. Everyone was #blessed, and finally a year into it I realized I was too. Seriously, I had never experienced a community like that before. I know a lot of people haven't.
Another part of it all, let’s face it, is the big man upstairs. My main man, JC. I haven’t had one of those crazy faith altering experiences. I do consider myself faithful and religious. I don’t go to church every Sunday, but I have faith. One of the mottos of our college was “Soli Deo Gloria”. It means, Glory To God Alone. Being vulnerable made that mission in my life and education easier to obtain. Dropping all your other cares and worries and saying “Holy shit forget about the drama in the world and in my life, look at the community we have built together here”. Sharing that with other people literally opened my heart. Professing your love and faith for God’s creation while holding others is something few people have the opportunity to do. So here’s where I share “O Lord God”. A piece Luther College Nordic choir shares at the end of each performance. They hold hands and invite Alumni to join and sing. Through song we create connection, community and the share importance of vulnerability.
“I will sing to the lord as long as I live”
When I lost my mom, I started becoming more vulnerable. Admitting to people around me that I wasn’t okay, letting them hold me longer when we hugged, grab my hand if I looked alone, or comforting me with a hand on the back. I realized that vulnerability helps us heal and connect with our loved ones, and even welcome new people into our life. That year was the most productive for me musically. I let emotions drive decisions, I was open and vulnerable, and I became emotionally close to many people in my life. That also lets you become physically close with other people—not in a sexual way. Some of my friends call it the Luther Phenomenon. We have this ability to be physical with someone in a platonic way and its weird I know, but it has shaped my life in a profound way.
Did you know physical touch can reduce stress, improve heart health, improve immune function, calm you? And when do you need those things the most, when you go through a tragedy. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to figure that one out. Physical touch promotes a sense of wellbeing and happiness. So, you won’t be surprised to know that embracing others, holding hands, and sleeping next to people has been a huge part of my healing process. No, I’m not talking about hot chef tinder dude, I’m talking about my friends! Though hot chef was nice to hold hands with too… (sorry Dad)
Being vulnerable is a key part of letting go of insecurities, being open, and living well.When tragedy comes in the form of loss, or divorce, or whatever else may come I am reminded that my Luther experience was a #blessing. I know other people have no idea what it’s like to hold hands with a stranger, give someone a warm embrace, or sleep close to your best friends when you’re hurting. Maybe give it a try and see how it lets your bright ass light shine even brighter. Forever thankful for my Luther family. Soli Deo Gloria.