When I think of the things I’ve regretted, so many of them come down to things I wish I had said or things I had done. There would be situations where I’d feel the words on the tip of my tongue, sentences already formed and ready to go, but I never said them. Or situations where I’d see something happening and my feet would slow, but I never stopped. The reason why would come down to a single second when I thought about saying what was on my mind. Always, there was a moment of resistance and hesitation. In that infinite second, I had time to contemplate all the ways I could be misinterpreted. And I would let it silence me and go on, saying nothing. The moment would pass, and I would go on with my day. The classmate would never know how much I admired them, the old friend would never know how much I missed her and my parents would never know how much I needed them. It didn’t even matter how badly I’d want to share these things. That moment of hesitation, and the instinct to heed it, was enough to let any opportunity slide away.

It has only struck me recently how tragic it is that so many important things are left unsaid because of a single moment of hesitation. Surely it would take more than that to deter us from expressing our feelings. Regardless of how hard and stoic we like to paint ourselves, it is in our nature to seek emotional connection with others. Everyone feels this way. That hesitation is a result of extensive conditioning that has long suggested that emotional vulnerability is weak. Psychologist Dr. Leon Seltzer points out that, whenever we reveal our trueness to others, we must have a great deal of trust that the other person will treat us kindly. Unfortunately, human beings are not always so nice. What if we are dismissed or rejected? Then, we must again trust that this time that we are strong enough to cope with being treated badly. Fleeting as it is, the moment of hesitation is a kind of self-defense where we subconsciously protect ourselves against getting hurt.

It is so effortless to give into the hesitating second. If we hold back, the moment where we might share something real will pass, and life will go on in the safe way it has before. It takes what might be called a “push” to overcome this hesitation and overcome the comfort of being certain. If we dare to tell people how we feel, it is uncertain what will change. Perhaps it will be more awkward afterwards, or our feelings will not be reciprocated, romantically or otherwise.

There are so many times in the day where I want to make this push. The ways we all touch each other’s lives are so complex and easy to miss. If we don’t tell each other, how will we ever know the impact of our actions? It is too painful to always keep quiet, and some things should be said. In telling people how great they are or how we truly feel about them, we remind ourselves that we are human and that the world is not simply a bunch of stimulating pictures, but a meaningful place to live. The older I get, the more tragic it seems for me to give in that dangerous, little second. There is a value in challenging ourselves to express our emotions, however fearful it may be. Likewise, it is beautiful to discover how you have passed into someone else’s daily experience, perhaps in unexpected and extraordinary ways. I have met people that I cannot forget, even years later, because they have contributed to my sense of self. How strange it is that they do not know this. It seems to me that they should know.

Are we so withheld that we are willing to let our conditioned response overcome the good and powerful things that might comeout of it? What might our experience of the world be like if we all made the push past the hesitating second? We would be citizens of a rich world where there were less left unsaid and fewer regrets. We would open ourselves to feeling the deluge of hurt but also the joy of holding nothing back.

I had an overnight layover in London once, and a friend hosted me for the evening. We weren’t particularly close, but we weren’t just acquaintances either. This friend had a habit. Every time we left the house, he would go to his mother and kiss her gently on the cheek, just once. He wasn’t an affectionate person. It was just something he did, every time he left the house. It was a very sweet thing, and I was entranced and endeared by it. Such a little thing. I began doing it with my own mother: a kiss on the cheek before I left the house. I told my friends about it whenever I thought of people and love. The only person I didn’t tell was this friend, not until almost a year later. There it was, the hesitation, the infinite second. I pushed past it, for once, to tell someone how they had changed the way I saw love.

He was surprised. “I had no idea,” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me earlier?”

Isabella Kwai is a Trinity senior. Her column runs on alternate Thursdays.