Friday, May 25, 2012

Things I Learned From Middle School

And you thought I was kidding.
I have knee and hip issues, at the age of 24 :)

The last three Wednesdays have changed my life. For those of you who don't know, I'd been invited to a Middle School to speak about the trails in my life, and talk about the fact that I'm still standing. I'm not on drugs (instead, I'm on Osteo-Biflex and Vitamin C), I'm not contracting STDs, a whore, and for the most part, I like myself...most of the time.

While I was there, I met some incredible young ladies. Week 2, I proposed a Board of Inspiration because it is one of the things that goes with me EVERYWHERE. My sister, years ago, laid the groundwork, moved and left the board behind with quotes that said, "We inherited a broken future, so we're building a better one," and "Change is Good," and "You can't lose." I took it over, and started adding my own pictures where hers had been.

Nearly every day I find something I'd like to put on it (and actually today I posted some new things I found during the move into the new place).

I told the students to put things that make them happy; quotes, pictures, etc. Things that when they're sad, they can look at and know they're loved, and the life is worth living. That was it. From there, the teacher and I let them get their papers, tape, and scissors. I walked around the room a bit and saw quotes, and TWLOHA, and many other things. My heart lifted.

Week 3 was this last week, and they did presentations. I was blown away by each girl, not only just because they were volunteers (I hate public speaking and getting in front of crowds, it makes me anxious).

With that said, here are some things I learned from or because of these young, amazing, women:

1) YOLO (You Only Live Once)-I'd never heard this saying before. The first week, several of the girls were throwing it around. The second week, many were putting it on their boards. Most were still saying it. They told me it stands for You Only Live Once, and I kind of like it. (Now, I hear myself saying it in my head, which means it's only a matter of time before I say it out loud...ugh. :) )

2) Wise Beyond Years-There were some girls who were putting (what I considered) questionable things on their boards. I wanted to ask why they were putting these pictures, pictures that broke my heart, on their boards, but left it alone and waited for the presentation. One of the girls talked about one such picture, and fully explained why it was there. I literally teared up while she spoke. She is in 8th grade, and wise beyond her years. I am glad that I didn't suggest not having it there, because she was right, and I was wrong.

My more-so updated board
There is a blank spot on the lower
left for a picture of the students.
The letter near the bottom is from one :)
3) Strength-After the first week, I sat with many of the girls who broke down and told me horrifying stories of their lives at home. Lives that are too close to what I've been through. Yet, they're still in school. They're still pushing. I was humbled by the girls who felt safe enough to cry in front of me. All of them had a story, whether they wanted to be an author, or they just wanted someone to love them.

4) Life Has Changed Since My Day-When I was in Middle School or High School, we passed notes. They chat on Facebook or gmail now. I can feel the generational gap already.

5) Bravery-During one of the presentations, a girl looked at the audience after explaining a picture and said, "I'm not sure any of you know this...but you do now." When I was younger, it was incredibly difficult for me to talk to peers about what I was going through. These girls started to own what they've been through, started being brave and talking about it. It's part of life. They shouldn't be ashamed.

6) I Can Make Teacher Approved Handouts!- The first week, I talked a lot about suicide, depression, and cutting. When I was done, the girls asked me how I continue to keep going, and I gave a short answer, 'Set goals, give yourself something to look forward to...' etc. I had two weeks after to consider what I'd said, and made my first ever hand out. It consisted of 10 coping mechanisms (happy mechanisms?) that I employ on a daily basis. I hope it will actually help some of them.

7) I Can Make Permission Slips!-I made permission slips to make a video on YouTube for TWLOHA. At the school there are a lot of legal rules with using the girls' images, videos, etc. I had to get my slips approved by the principal. I felt like such a big kid. (Video is not made yet, will have it up when it is).

8) Love, Hope, and Inspiration-When I left the second week, there was a swarm of kids in the hallway. One of the girls took me by the arm, screamed, "Get out of the way, Lynne's coming through!" and it was probably better than walking down a red carpet. When I returned Wednesday, one of the girls came up to me in the hall and asked, "Can I have a hug?" (I didn't know if I was allowed to hug students, weird sexual harassment cases and all.) When I checked my e-mail later that night, I had e-mails from some of the girls telling me that I was an inspiration to them.

9) Never Stop Pushing-I cannot stress this enough. There is always a choice; keep going or give up. My choice because of meeting these girls has been taken away. There is no giving up, I want to show these girls that they can do anything they want to, no matter the circumstances they've been through.

10) Each Story Is Important. No explanation needed.

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