This post has no expletives, unlike the much liked and first ‘Letting go‘. Maybe this is just a poor sequel, like in the movies. But just like the orginal, I write this with some emotion.
I write after a message from a friend in the USA. She is grieving over a tragic loss of two teens at her school. Violent loss of horrible kind, by the hand of someone they should never fear (sadly, only a few days ago, I too found out that a dear friend from former Yugoslavia died a gruesome, self-inflicted death a few months ago).
I write remembering my first ever lesson as a teacher 12 years ago. As part of ‘get to know’ you, I asked kids to write significant good and bad events in their lives. ‘My mum died and dad went to jail’ one 13 year old wrote and asked me not to read it aloud. Later, I found out that the father went to jail for murdering his wife in front of the kids.
I write remembering crashing the school toilet cubicle where a 15 year old girl lay drunk and unconscious in a pool of blood running from her slit wrists (she was saved).
I write remembering restraining a 13 year old schoolkid from suddenly jumping off the first floor balcony after being teased and bullied.
I write remembering the day when a young, 14 year old Indigenous student ran out of my class, only for me to physically try to stop him hanging himself a few minutes later. As we calmed down and walked towards the sick bay, his classmate hugged him and said: “It sucks when it doesn’t come off doesn’t it?”
I write after asking a class of a dozen teens to put their hand up if they know someone close and young who got killed or killed themselves – and a dozen hands went up.
I write knowing I could keep writing, sadly so.
I am not making this stuff up or embellishing it to extract some kind of sympathy or pity. None of these people wanted that either. All they probably wanted was empathy, someone to listen to them, understand them and maybe help them if needed.
We swim in anxieties and fears, seduced and accelerated by various ‘races to the top’. We are made increasingly anxious in accelerated societies obsessed with control, measurement, achievement, performance and ‘continuous improvement’. We blame the youth as ‘narcissistic’ and ‘immoral’ (what’s new…) but fail to acknowledge the surrounding rise in our collective seeing of relationships as calculations of their utility: what good is or could this person be to me?
In such environments, occasionally letting go of the fathomless striving, norms and expectations, just slowing down a little, listening and considering is a hard thing to do (and no, it can’t be measured). Before you think I’m romanticising, ‘letting go’ has its discomforts and pressures. From not being ‘part of the team’, potential material and symbolic losses to the extremes of ‘letting go’ in destructive ways mentioned above. These were people who had been ignored, pushed, brought to the edge by themselves or others. But safely letting go and seeing what is really, really important is vital. Literally.
Please, listen to the kids in your care. Laugh with them, challenge them, pull them by the bootstraps when needed, cut them some slack other times. Find the vents in them and yourself to ‘let go’ in a safe, but neither in a fakely sterile nor utterly destructive way.
Please – do not ignore them, no matter how rich or poor or dark or fat or young or blind or white or deaf or smart or troubled they are.
PS This one is for you Pam, the school community and the families of the kids lost. Thoughts with you all.
If you or any people you care about experience crisis, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 (Australia). Other countries have a similar service too, please find out and share the number to call.