I believe school should include curriculum that teaches children to tell their stories, share and connect with their pain, and learn from it.
When most kids are in class listening to a teacher lecture, I am sitting in my classroom spilling my most personal stories to a room full of classmates. I am trying to breathe, but concentrating hard on what I am feeling…shame, anger, fear. My teacher tells me to push myself and to let it all out. Then she asks me, “How did you cope with the feelings you avoided?” I focus hard, and let myself dissolve into the folds of my memory, churning out an effort not to stop myself. At times I think it’s too painful, that I’m going to burst, but I know where to go in my head to find the answer.
I travel to my four-year-old self in my imagination; she’s the one who went through it all, far too young. She knows everything about me, that I put down others because of my guilt and powerlessness from feeling so small, and that I need help because I’m blocked by my feelings. I have searched for an answer without her, but it never works. Once I ask, she eases out an answer, smiling at me, roles reversed, she, the older, wiser one, and me, a little kid with so much left to learn.
Without connecting with my innocent little kid I would be unhappy, selfish, and haunted by my own feelings. By sharing life experiences, supporting each other in the classroom, feeling the feelings and letting our innocent kids write and share our stories, I’ve seen my friends go from reckless and sullen, to vibrant, self aware and responsible. I’ve made this transformation also. I deserve to be happy and whole. By spending time with my pain, I am finally free of my own inhibitions and fears. If I feel emotions fully, the pressure on my heart will ease, and things will begin to look fixable. I can love myself and be happy. I deserve more than a life of dissociation and denial from a popularity struggle, a bad grade, or a bitter fight.
In this class I can be silly and serious, brilliant and a failure. But that’s not important if I’m not myself, or I’m pretending to be something I’m not. In this class we learn the seemingly effortless art of being ourselves. Simple enough, a good goal to have, there seems to be nothing wrong with striving to be you. There is nothing better than a support system that includes your best friends, your worst enemies, and most of all yourself. When you’re strong enough to have a voice it sure feels great to have a group that relates to your struggle, waiting to catch you if you fall. I believe to find peace inside yourself, you have to travel through the chaos, and revel in the freedom on the other side of the pain.
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