A week ago my close friend Thecla asked me how I was dealing with leaving Miami and the thought of not teaching my students anymore in the fall. My only response to her was that I was honestly dealing by not dealing; that pretending for the moment that this life in California is all that I have known and living in the present is what keeps me going through the summer. I am very good at this. I have done this before. I know compartmentalizing and pushing aside for later may not be everyone’s choice or the best choice, but as human beings we adapt to fit our personal survival, and this is mine.
I was reminded today though, in what was one of the longest Mondays I have felt in a long time, that reality always catches up with you, always finds a way to sit down beside you and force you to stare it straight in the eye. A silent reminder of its power, its palpable presence.
Today was an intense day as many students’ tension was running high and there were a few incidences of events that came very close to physical violence and would have had I not had the experience and thought to restrain them. But that is not where the true intensity came from, which has always been true of my time so far in education. There are two girls in the program who have severe and deep emotional trauma running currents of pain through their lives. And at the young age of thirteen, they don’t know how to deal with situations that most adults would cave under. They bring this to the classroom and lash out at peers and teachers alike and then cry for what I can only identify for the person that they truly wish to be, but don’t know how to find.
And I KNOW them. I sat with them five days a week in a dark hallway of a sad looking building in a beautiful-souled and broken community. Over three thousand miles away, and it all still finds me.
One girl in particular today voiced how her mother had killed her father’s girlfriend, and how she had always known this but she had only recently read all the articles associated with the incidence and the gruesome nature of the tail has thrown her into a vortex she is unsure how to come out of. She cried while articulating her fear that the type of horror her mother was capable of lived inside of her. That not only does she know a monster, that monster gave birth to her. It choked all of us adults to hear such a young soul be beaten down by such horrendous and vivid thoughts. And then one of the directors said what always jerks me back to reality, slaps me in the face with that splash of cold water–there’s only so much we can do for her.
There is so much beyond my control. So much I try and reach out with my hands that i have convinced myself are just the right size for capturing pain, yet I watch repeatedly as excess after excess seeps through the creases of hands that are strong enough to reach out, but not enough to capture everything.
I sit in my room with the words ‘I can’t do enough’ making slow circles around my brain with the only real solace being that at the end of the day, this is my life and this is the work I choose to do. There’s still no amount of pain that could make me stay away.