Today I felt like I am an exclamation mark. Oddly enough, while writing emails I often use the exclamation mark at the end of my sentences – so as to not give the impression to the reader I am giving an order, yelling, or being critical. On the contrary, I use it to show excitement about a particular event, update, or fact. I don’t use more than one exclamation mark because two would be too much and may probably send the wrong message or there’s way too much of an emphasis that it may come across as being too aggressive to the receiver. I, like most, use it when describing a state of happiness, a funny moment, any kind of success such as promotion, meeting your sales target or even nailing down a major distributor for your startup business. It may also be used to describe a big amount of desire or passion for something (hobby, lover, food, kid, pet, friends,), or even to refer to a surprise that occurred. Exclamation marks are fun to use- but aside from thinking that my generation over uses it, and perhaps abuse it at times, we tend to misuse it to cover up who we really are.
Exclamation marks are simple yet profound. Gently used, they make their point. Excessively used merely sends the wrong message and usually stirs up something one could spare if only used in moderation with the proper selection of words. They are a combination of love and hate, peace and war, emptiness and plenty. It’s a merge between a line and dot; bringing two things opposite of one another into one. Just like the rest of the world: black and white, night and day, heaven and hell.
And suddenly, it occurred to me: I am an exclamation mark, maybe like everyone else. We are unique in our own ways but sometimes afraid to show who we really are. We conform to social expectations so that no one thinks we are weird, crazy, an outcast, or odd. We sometimes don’t show how we really feel, fearing that the world will judge us if we are sad, failed, or find it difficult to face and overcome adversity. There’s a fear instilled in us that holds us back from expressing and revealing who we really are and how we truly feel. And when we do, people create labels, titles and stereotypes, and we fear even more to fall in to one of them. We use exclamation marks like we wear masques; to hide ourselves, identities, passions, beliefs, fears and insecurities.
Recently, with the increasing usage of social media, people have lost their real selves. Many of us show our online social networks that ‘we have it all.’ Our photos capture a moment and are instantly shared; the world then assumes one is having the time of their life, all the time. We always end every photo caption and status update with exclamation marks just to emphasize the excitement, happiness, and an adrenaline rush of joy. I am not sure whether the more we use exclamation marks in one sentence means anything; is there a correlation between how people really feel with the number of exclamation marks they use? Are those who use more than one try to prove something? Or is it really their genuine ecstatic feeling that is so hard to describe without a million exclamation marks? There’s a current research exploring the relation between people’s comments and remarks on articles and social media platforms to predict whether they will have higher tendency for heart disease. I think we may need to study how and when people use exclamation marks and whether it truly reflects their current emotional and mental state.
I admit, I often use exclamation marks. And I think I maybe one myself because of the opposite signs it carries within itself. Most of the time, I am an extrovert who thrives in interacting with people and building relationships, and sometimes an introvert, who prefers to curl up in bed, stare at the ceiling, and confine to my sanctuary for days. I am like an exclamation mark; occasionally stretching out of my comfort zone and at times comfortable in walking no further than within my safe and familiar places. Finding the right balance in life is like finding a moderate way to use exclamation marks- you have to know when to jump with joy while allowing your vulnerability to unapologetically show; just like being able to use one exclamation mark as enough to express your happiness and knowing when to use it at all.
But there’s someone behind the exclamation marks. Behind the exclamation mark lies a person with a heart full of sadness. Behind the exclamation mark walks a troubled young girl who didn’t know there was a journey ahead of her which she would have to walk on her own. Behind the exclamation mark is a woman seeking for her passion and finding difficulty making decisions. Behind the exclamation mark is a sister and a daughter that hasn’t seen her family for six years who live thousands of miles apart. Behind the exclamation mark is a friend who lost friendships and made better ones along the way. Behind the exclamation mark is a thirsty soul yearning for peace with her demons. Behind the exclamation mark is someone who dreams big and has so much potential, fears much, and contemplates through observation and conversations. Behind the exclamation mark is a human who aches for others and cries over their pain. Behind the exclamation mark is confusion, imperfections, and misinterpretations. Behind the exclamation mark is a heavy heart surrounded with loneliness and filled with disappointment. Behind the exclamation mark is a pulse learning to let go, move onwards, remember no painful memories, and stop considering failed attempts as regret. Behind the exclamation mark is a stranger that wanders in people’s souls, searches for truth, and strike authentic talk with random people. Behind the exclamation mark is a child who doesn’t know how to bike and an elder version of herself still unable to bike without falling. Behind the exclamation mark is a teen who is trying to pedal her way through the world’s fascinating wonders and terrors. Behind the exclamation mark is a baby who loves the moon yet chases the daylight. Behind the exclamation mark is a seeker of roots and believer of good. Behind the exclamation mark is a traveller through all time and appreciates the past more than the present. Behind the exclamation mark is someone almost completely different than the one seen on social media platforms, statuses, and photos.
Yes, there are two different realities between the one you see signing off with smiley faces and exclamation marks on emails or texts and the one behind the exclamation marks. Maybe it’s time to stop using them and tear this facade down – by using a simple period.