As a child, I always cared a lot about people. I wanted to take care of my baby cousins, I wanted to wash the dishes so my grandma wouldn't have to stand any longer and I worked with students with disabilities.
My sister called me a martyr in the house. She said I did things for others so they would feel bad for me and give me attention.
At school people thought I was volunteering to be a competitive college applicant -- you know, to build up the resume.
What nobody understood is that I just felt so much, for so many people. I couldn't help but take action.
At the time I didn't know what to do with all the feelings I felt.
I didn't know how to cope with the constant sense of wanting what was best for others, and the extreme sense of failure I felt when I couldn't help someone.
So I became emotionless. It was easier to block out all my emotions than to handle them.
Everything became something I did out of logic, not out of empathy.
As I approach 28 years old, being emotionless no longer works.
It's as if my heart has been filled with love, care, worry and stress for others. Each day, each interaction and each new person I meet takes a place in my heart.
Here are five things that happen when you feel with your whole heart:
1. You can't explain how you feel.
There are days where I feel like I'm going to explode.
It's not a bad feeling or an angry feeling, but it's a feeling I can't explain. It's heavy but reassuring, stressful but affirmative.
My heart feels so full I just want to be alone to hide from the emotions, or I want to fix what's bothering someone else in effort to calm myself.
At times, I can't sleep or think straight because this feeling takes everything in my power to let go of. It's so difficult to think about the silly and shallow when I'm constantly worrying about the hardships others are going through.
But when I do something to make someone else happy I feel light as a feather.
2. You feel personally responsible for the well-being of others.
When I was in my early 20s, I worked with a particular student who was a roller coaster of emotions.
Every day I would stress about how he got home, if he got home and whether he was happy or not.
He would leave cryptic messages, being the angsty teen he was and I felt it was my job to make sure he was always OK.
I eventually learned I couldn't “fix” him, but I still feel a sense of responsibility toward the feelings of others.
This is one of the reasons I've become the critical thinker I am. I try to think of all the options and things I can do make people feel better.
Need a 10 pm phone call? Want me to write a strongly worded letter? Should I talk to your mom? Don't have a ride? Need a space to do homework? Want me to just sit with you? No problem.
I'll leave behind all the things I need to do if it means making you feel better.
3. The news is one of the most overwhelming things.
I had to stop watching the news because it hurt to hear all the negative stories constantly being covered.
I wait until big issues flood my Facebook feed, and then I'll force myself to read the articles.
On the days I do watch the news I tell myself to do more because I'm not doing enough. I tell myself I need to take it upon myself to change the world we live in.
Then I step back and realize I'm doing as much as I can, I'm doing my part for now.
4. Talking about yourself is hard.
This might just be a "me" a thing, but I'm always so tired after feeling so much that it's sometimes hard to talk about myself.
How is my day? It's pretty good. What did I do? Work. Want to get deep and ask me about why I am the way I am? I'm not sure how to explain that.
When you have such a sense of empathy, sometimes it's hard to open up or share your struggles. It feels like an added burden on others who are already struggling themselves.
5. You follow your heart.
My heart leads all. As overfilled as it is, as much as it's bursting at the seams, I do what it says.
There are days where I want to change careers, move out of my grandma's house, quit one of my jobs, drop out of school, forget about my friends and ignore the random students asking me for help, but my heart won't let me.
As much as my mind tells me to take a break, my heart retaliates by telling me I can't.
I'm constantly humbled by those around me who do more, have families to take care of and who don't have the privilege I do. Following my heart has brought me to find beautiful families, new friends and constant inspiration.
So as somebody who loves with their whole heart, I want to say this: I may look tired and seem hardened or jaded, but it's only because I'm so full of empathy. I can't help it, I love hard.