Things are hard right now. I know. You’re grieving your best friend. You are mad at everything and everybody, and it comes in waves; you are mad at your brothers, your mom, your dad, your childhood. You are not thinking clearly or making the best choices. You are angry at the world. And here I am, some teacher who “doesn’t get it” trying to encourage you to stay in school. Some lady who just doesn’t get it, right?
Here’s what I get: I get that you are smart. So smart, that you figure out ways to act like you aren’t. So smart that you are able to miss weeks of school at a time, but then pick right up and understand the work. So smart that you don’t want to show it. I get that your family track record for finishing up school is not the greatest. I know your brothers. I know your mom, and I’ve seen your mom cry before because she loves you boys and feels like her hands are tied. I’ve seen your mother break down and cry the ugly cry at a parent teacher conference because she didn’t know what to do with your oldest brother. So don’t pull the “my mom doesn’t care” card here. It doesn’t work. She does. And when I talked to her at the wake the other night, all she talked about was you. How worried she was about you. How much she wanted you to finish school. How smart you are. And she’s right. But if you use this death, this terrible untimely, tragedy of a death of your best friend to seal the deal and never return to graduate, you’re taking the easy way out. It’s easy to sit at home and do…whatever the heck you will do. Maybe you’ll clean up around the house while your mom is at work. Maybe you’ll go look for a job. Maybe you’ll help take care of your little sister. More likely, you’ll play video games all night, sleep all day, and then repeat the cycle.
Here’s what else I get: taking the easy way out now, the whole “my life sucks, I give up” way out will make your life a thousand times more difficult in the long run. You’ll meet someone one day. You’ll have kids one day. You’ll need to support the people you love, and yes, I’m sure you’d get by by finding employment somewhere. But man, I’ve been on both sides of financial security in my life. I’ve been part of the working poor and I’ve been financially stable, and I can tell you that being part of the working poor is no way to live. It’s stressful, it’s a burden that is always on your mind, it’s demoralizing, and it works its way into every activity that you can or cannot do with your family. By deciding today, that you can’t finish school because “it’s too hard” is putting your future family at a disadvantage from the start. Treat the people you love with more respect than that. Especially your mother, who goes to work every day to provide you with a life that you seem to be perfectly OK in showing little respect for.
Another thing I get: your best friend loved you like a brother. You two were so close that you called each other’s mothers, “mom.” You were so close that all I had to do is say two words into a sentence and you would know what story I was about to tell about the other. You were so close that every decision you made, you made together. If one of you missed school, the other likely was absent that day as well. He is gone. And it is devastating. It is terrible and sad, and his void will leave these classrooms a little quieter. His laughter and wit will leave the school a little dim. And it sucks. I know. But your spirit doesn’t need to die too. Do great things with your life for him. Sit in your classes, show off your intelligence, make us laugh, make us proud for him. Live your life and all the great experiences you will have for him. Live your life for both of you. Make him proud of you, because that is exactly what he would want. Your potential is worth more than playing video games all night long.
And finally: it will be hard. You will be out of your comfort zone, and being uncomfortable is often construed as being “hard.” And when things get hard is when people quit. But YOU.CAN.DO.THIS. You need to do this. You need to this for your mother, your brothers, your little sister, your best friend, your other friends who are watching you, and the nay-sayers who have brushed you off. Prove those guys wrong. Prove all of us that yes, you can rise above the crap circumstances of your life and do the things that are hard.
You are stoic and tough. But when I hugged you at the wake, your voice wavered and cracked and you rested your cheek on top of my head, and I know that you need us. You need to know that you don’t have to be tough all the time. And those who believe in you, those who know you can, are here to support you and help you along the way.
So listen to this crazy lady who “doesn’t get it” and all of the other teachers and adults who feel the same as me. We.believe.in.you.
Now get your butt back in these classrooms and do the right thing.
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