I LISTEN TO HAMILTON ALMOST CONSTANTLY. If you've never heard of Hamilton, you should stop what you are doing and listen right now. And also, where have you been for the last year? Anywho, back to my main point, I listen to Hamilton a lot. So anyway, I was listening to "It's Quiet Uptown" which is a song that would break your heart even if you don't the backstory behind it. The song tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, and his wife, Eliza's recovery from their son's Phillip's death. It also tells the story of their reconnection. Hamilton had confessed VERY publically to an affair, and as a result they had been estranged. Anyway, there's this ridiculously beautiful and powerful line that the chorus sings as Eliza reaches for Alexander's hand for the first time since he admitted to everything. "Forgivness. Can you imagine?" I love that kind of writing -- so terse, and yet expressing so very much. The song itself is such a beautiful portrait of recovery. I've been thinking about that lately -- recovery.
I love those kinds of stories -- a storm blows through shattering everything; shaking the earth at its foundations, but then afterwords there is a silence and peace. One of my favorite authors is Katherine Paterson, and I love her book Jacob, Have I Loved. There is this beautiful poignent moment in the book where the main character Louise, finally explodes at her parents. She is angry and frustrated that she is still living at home while her twin sister has been sent off to college to study music. Furious she demands to know why SHE never got to leave home and go away. Her mother, lovingly and patiently responds, "You can go anytime you want, but you never asked to leave." It is a fabulous moment that leave Louise and the reader spinning. Everything that has come before shifts and changes, as our perspective changes - and all her anger and self-hatred fall away. Oh! She thinks to herself. Oh! Wait, I never asked to leave! The only reason I am still here is because I never tried to leave. There is such a lovely peace in that moment.
I've survived a few storms myself. I'm pretty sure that you have too. Most of the time when you are in the middle of it and everything is confusing and you feel all alone, you can't imagine the other side. It seems impossible. And yet, there you are, a week, a day, a year, a few months later on the other side with a peace and contentment you never thought possible.
Due to the endless ticking of the clock, I've got a ton of former students who are now adults. Many of them are still in touch with me -- they send me graduation announcements, wedding announcements, birth announcements. I am really proud of all of them. I've been fortunate and have taught some of the most amazingly talented and intelligent people you could possibly meet. I keep waiting for one of them to invite me to the White House for dinner.
Let me tell you about one of my kids, who I am so incredibly proud to say I once, long ago taught. I didn't get her permission so I won't use her real name. She was in my 9th grade English class and all you had to do was open your eyes to see how miserable she was. She was so unhappy then. I can remember so clearly sitting in the office with her parents and a completely incompetent principal, as I tried to explain how very concerned I was. The principal, who had been at our school for a mere four months, was more focused on "appropriate classroom behavior" and he just wanted everyone to nod, smile and go away. I remember leaning across the table, and ignoring him completely. I think I said something like, "You are so unhappy. What can we do for you? How can we make things better?" I wish we'd found an answer that day. I wish we'd made things right that second. She had a tough road after that and struggled. She was beset by storm after storm after storm, but she is still here.
I imagine she had many days when she found it impossible to see her life any other way. I am sure she thought she'd make it to the other side. I bet she felt like giving up. I bet she thought things would never, ever change.
She didn't give up though. She is still here, and probably one of the strongest women you will ever meet. I LOVE seeing her post smiling pictures of herself -- not fake smiles, but the reall thing -- a down to your toes kind of smile. She is on the other side of the storm. The gentle winds of restoration and recovery blow all around her. I am so proud of her. It takes so much strength to keep going, and not to give up. I can't wait to see what she accomplishes next; maybe she will be the one to invite me to the White House - I wouldn't put it past her!
I was thinking of her, and all my other kids out there -- fighting their way through storms, trying to hold on. I think the students I have now, and all the troubles they keep hidden; tucked away and silent. We are all like that - trying to make it through. Maybe that is why kindness is so important to me. We need compassion and generosity. If you are starting to feel your courage flag, or if you feel like maybe you just can't keep going, or that things are just too hard -- you can do it. Keep going. You got this. C'mon, pal, you can make it.
"I believe if I knew where I was going I would lose my way.
I believe that the words that he told you are not your grave.
I believe that we are not the weight of all our memories.
I believe in the things I'm afraid to say.
I believe in the lost possiblities you can see.
I believe the darkness reminds us where light can be.
I believe that tomorrow is stronger than yesterday.
I believe that your head is the only thing in your way.
I wish that you could see your scars turn into beauty.
I believe that today it's okay to be not okay.
'Cause I have been where you are before
And I have felt the pain of losing who you are.
And I have died so many times, but I am still alive.
This is not the end of me, this is the beginning."
-Christina Perri and David Hodges