Monday, November 18, 2013

The intensity of growing up

As a high school teacher I have been confronted by too many moments of teens in crisis.  I worked with at risk students for 5 years and now I am in a high school with not so at risk students however, the dangers of adolescence often reveal themselves in earnest.  Today was one of those days.  The first was with two of my advisory students, 9th graders who are slowly learning the the idiosyncrasies of confidentiality or lack there of.  Girls talking about girls and it causing drama.  One of the girls was so emotional, the crocodile tears streaming down her face because she didn't want to fight with the other girl and that this experience was reminding her of the bullying she received in middle school. She admitted that the other girl was unhappy with her because she had been talking about her behind her back.  

In the end they squashed the beef and hopefully this will lead to a healthier relationship as we move through the next 4 years together.  However, I anticipate many more conflicts over the years between my 11 girls.

As a drama teacher, we often ask our students to dive into feelings and memories that might not always feel comfortable or safe.  After watching To This Day by Shane Koyczan (shanekoyczan.com) (See the animated version on the right.) I asked students to write down one line from Shane's poem that resonated with them.  Then we put all the slips of paper and each pair drew out two lines to serve as the beginning of the improv to develop a written scene.  One of my students began to break down- this drama work and the poem brought up so many memories and feelings of things that happened in the past.  I felt so powerless.  There was nothing I could do or say to console this young man who had experienced intense bullying in middle school.  

There is nothing easy about growing up.  I don't care who you are, what you look like, who your friends were or how much money your family had.  Growing up is hard.  Listening to both these kids today, so different from one another yet grappling with similar issues.  It brought up lots of feelings for me.  For so many years I didn't do things because of my weight.  I didn't go to school dances even though I love to dance.  I didn't date because no one wanted to date me.  I was the funny fat girl who had lots of platonic friends.  It was not until college, after I had lost those first 100 pounds, that I began to feel attractive, not lonely, and went out dancing on Wednesday and Thursday nights in a wonderful sweaty bar where we danced until early morning hours.  It was in college that I began to get reciprocated attention from people I was interested in.

Today, it all came back up for me too.  I was modeling the activity with a partner and the line we had selected from the hat was, "despite a loving husband she doesn’t think she’s beautiful". I said this out loud and felt it. It hurt to say because it was something I have felt in my heart so many times my entire life regardless of weight or relationship status. The feelings have decreased over the 8 years with my husband. I know he loves me and thinks I am beautiful. He means it when he says it. I remember early on when we were dating and he was explaining to me that he didn't see a size but rather a person- he saw me.

Now, as I am in the last week before my surgery (I go for pre-op at the hospital tonight) there are so many thoughts swirling arounds and I am reminded of all the times I was bullied through out my life. The time a man on campus in college, after I had gained the majority of my weight back, told me I looked like a beach ball on two sticks. Nice eh? People are cruel. I didn't have it as bad as some kids but I think my imposed bullying took a far greater tole than I ever could have imagined.

My hope, with this new transformation, I will be able to atone with the grievances I have committed against myself and be ready for a new era free of the negative self talk that has plagued me for most of my life.

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