I’ve been MIA on this blog for a few weeks.
What is it about an airport,
that everyone’s soul shines through?
I see it through the little holes in their socks,
and their bare feet at security.
Who doesn’t think to wear socks on airport day?
I see it through their sweet voices,
explaining to their five-year-old,
why must we go through this security line –
“to check if anyone has snakes or spiders in their bags, dear”
I can see a world in which that is why we must all bare our feet
for TSA to peek through our shoes
and find our secrets.
I can see the soul in the woman whom I’m begging
to switch my middle seat to an aisle seat,
I see her long day, her long future,
I’m tired, but so is she, and I am not the first, nor the last, to beg her for something that is not in her control.
I see the soul in the man who sits beside me,
who talks about the old days
when corporate airlines didn’t charge for hot meals
I smile at him and I reach out to buy some headphones because I’m not doing this middle seat flight solo.
What is it about airports?
They say airports are a no-mans-land, no country can claim it, and perhaps that’s what it is.
None of us are home, yet none of us are lost, we are all in between the beginning and end of a journey.
And we’re in our socks.
For some of us, it’s bare feet.
And we all hope there are no snakes in someone else’s bag.
It’s been loud for weeks.
I’m home now.
My home state, that provides a new backdrop for my writing. A reminder of how many stories were spun in the woods of New Hampshire, how many poets secluded themselves in the mountains, breathing only fresh air, speaking to no one.
Alas, I am far from secluded in the evergreens. As the summer begins, my childhood home is filled with family, and often, chaos reigns. And amidst the noise, and the hustle and bustle, and the lists of what needs to get done, there is a single bird, who lives in the tree right outside our home. He spends hours each day slamming himself into the window. It is mesmerizing to watch as time and time again the bird foolishly throws himself at the window – why? As he bounces back off of it, he looks again at the window, as if this time, the result will be different.
How is it possible that the bird does not learn from his mistakes?
How does the pain of the never bending window against his feathered wings not teach him to stop?
The science of it is simple. The bird sees his own reflection in the window, and regards the reflection as an enemy. As all he holds close and dear to his heart only lives a couple of feet away, this is his attempt to protect from an intruding bird. His dedication to his little nest is so fierce that no pain will stop him – as long as he believes there is danger, he will stop at nothing to be the protector.
If only he could understand the science as simply as we could.
If only he realized that what he perceives as the enemy is truly only himself.
I’m that bird sometimes. Sometimes I get confused about who the enemy is. I see the enemy in the reflection, and I charge, I try to fight it, to protect what is dearest to me, and I end up hurting even more, confused, sometimes even with a broken wing that requires tending to, to heal from.
It is an endless, life-long process to master the balancing act that is putting yourself out there, and protecting your most inner world.
Most of the world you interact with each day won’t have the time, or the patience, or the ability to understand and grasp who you truly are.
There is a reason humans seek companionship, and why we seek that one person that “gets” us. For some of us, there are plenty of people who get us. For some of us, that number is much more miniscule, and that much harder to find.
As a result, some of us turn into that bird, fighting anything that seems like the enemy, because so often, it feels like an enemy. So often, others don’t see who we are, or are dismissive of what we hold dear. So we protect it. We go on defense.
But maybe, like the bird, we have become so caught up in protecting ourselves, we don’t even realize that the enemy has turned into us.
Perhaps I spend so much time assuming that others do not “get me” that I forget to just be me, whether they are listening or not.
Little bird, one day, that window could seriously injure you. Perhaps rather than looking around you, ready to protect your nest from imaginary enemies, stay near your baby birds, and revel in the life that you have.
It’s a good one.
Today is my grandfather’s 4th yartzeit (anniversary of death). It’s obviously unbelievable to truly recognize that, but when he passed, I had just been a year out of high school, unsure yet of where the future would take me. A lot has happened since then. I’ve changed. But, in passing, my grandfather has been a constant, and I still remember him exactly the way he was when he left us. I lived with my grandparents for my final two years of High School, in New York. I lived side by side with my unassuming Zeidy, getting to know him well between quietly shared breakfasts at 7 am, or through conversations in the living room, as he spoke Yiddish and Hebrew fluently, and I stumbled through attempting to use my tiny knowledge of those languages, always resulting in me just speaking in English, much to his chagrin.
1. Keep it simple.
2. Joke around.
3. Talking less, but talking when you should.
4. Doing good things, quietly.
5. Overall, I think about myself way too much.
Next June will be here before I know it, and I’ll be marveling again, and all I pray is that come each June, I have the joy of marveling at how much beauty, how much good, how much growth traveled the days with me.
Some weeks are for looking inward,
A walk down memory lane
can be filled with pot holes
and thorny bushes.
I close my eyes,
trying to avoid the things that hurt me.
when you walk down memory lane,
guided by one of the people
who was there with you,
recognizes the same cracks in the road,
and can remind you of your voice,
and who you used to be,
becomes filled with beauty.
You can remember the flowers,
and the sound of silence,
rather than scary,
and the walk down memory lane,
with those special souls,
shows you the length of how far you’ve walked,
how far you’ve come
and how much you’ve grown.
I’ve been trying to write this for weeks. I’ve started this post probably fifteen times, with various different angles and approaches. They all sounded cliché, and exactly the way I didn’t want to start this post. But recently, I was sitting on a bus, just having this moment of recognition that this is as young as I’ll ever be.
There’s something sad about that. Because my life is pretty great, and knowing that this time of ease and ability to be living for myself is slipping away kind of makes me want to dig my heels into the ground and make it stop.
I like being young.
I guess everyone does.
I didn’t always love being young. I spent my first 18-19 years wishing to be older, wishing for someone to take me seriously, waiting for people to stop telling me that I’m too young for things.
People don’t really say that anymore.
Somehow, I’ve edged myself into the world of being old enough to have an opinion, to be heard, to be trusted.
It makes me think about the days I lived out as a teenager.
Sometimes I tell people that I was the most teenageriest teenager, with every hormone, every really, really bad day, every tear soaked diary entry.
I also was a teenager who had opinions, constantly, who spent late nights writing, and long days arguing my point, and primarily asking a big question: why do adults not listen to the young?
I constantly ran into scenarios in which I had to explain myself, defend my actions and opinions, apologize for my feelings…things, I’ve realized, I haven’t had to do in a while, and I’ve finally realized it’s because I’m growing up.
And that makes me sad.
Because my feelings today are no more valid than they were when I was 16.
Sure, I may have a few years more of life experience, and yes, I often look back at the way I thought about certain things back then and laugh at my misled ways.
I am grateful for the experiences, for the way I’ve grown, for the perspectives I now have that I didn’t have back then.
But none of that invalidates what I thought back then, because if that were the case, I’d never be able to catch up.
In five years, my beliefs now will be ridiculous and uneducated. In ten years, those thoughts will follow suit.
If we’re constantly striving to be the most educated and the most confident, we’ll never win.
So why are teenagers treated like the children they no longer are?
When I first began toying with the idea of going into the field of counseling, after a lifetime of foreseeing my career as a writer, I was immediately attracted to the idea of working with teenagers.
I wasn’t sure why, but I had to explore it. I began working as a creative writing teacher for teenage girls because I needed to know how I worked with teenagers. Did I hate the experience; did I love it? Did it give me energy, or drain me of it?
Pretty quickly, I discovered that it was exactly what I had hoped it would be.
Challenging, terrifying, incredible, enlightening and enriching.
You know why?
Because teenagers are the best of what we are.
I can have real, exciting, intriguing conversations with my students.
They are blunt and open, and willing to talk about difficult topics.
Once, during a conversation with someone, I fell upon this idea that I’ve carried with me ever since – growing up is simply about learning boundaries.
Now, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. It’s precisely the difference between maturity and immaturity, and maturity is a wonderful thing. But there is this unique boundary-less way that teenagers live that gives them the exact power to change the world, and be the incredible voices our world needs.
Sure, teenage girls often live their lives amidst drama and chaos, tears and fights, but their emotions are so wide open, so honest and real, so vulnerable. Those are things that adults begin to put up gates around, and that is exactly why I find teenagers to be so refreshing.
Perhaps I’m too close to teenagerhood to be speaking like this – but perhaps it is specifically because of my proximity to the age group that I need to speak up.
People are afraid of teenagers, because teenagers detest ingenuity, tricks, and lies, and they won’t be afraid to tell you that.
It’s possible that I’ve been privileged to get to know a unique and incredible group of teenagers, which is not something I’ll deny. But I have a strong feeling that more teenagers fit into this description than don’t. Even the ones who feel like they are the only ones like themselves in the world, even the ones who are struggling with their mental health, even the one who feels like a loner, or the one who is the most popular amongst their friends.
The teenage years are by no means easy ones. Sure, lots of adults will hurry to interject – they don’t have to deal with full-time jobs, or pay taxes, or raise children. That is certainly true. But they are in the midst of laying down a lifelong foundation, and some people are telling them that these years are crucial, and some people are telling them that these years are meaningless, and the truth is, it’s a little bit of both.
Life is hard for everyone, at every stage, in different ways.
Children, mostly, are hopefully protected from the bigger struggles in life. Adults, throughout their life, develop a hard protective gear to deal with struggles, whether that is coping mechanisms, tools, reliable support, etc. Teenagers are between these two worlds, still exposed to the elements, not yet filled with a protective toolkit, but yet, they are facing real adult difficulties – betrayal, confusion, and the potential of making mistakes that can have a real impact on their future. The combination often leads to outbursts, pain, hurt, and the pull towards bad choices. The desire to belong right now is so strong that harmful decisions are easily made.
But, oh, the passion. The vigor, the excitement, the one-track-minded belief in something. That is what I call power.
Again and again, teenagers are belittled, distrusted and not given the validation and tools they deserve.
They are not listened to, they are not believed, and their unique perspective and depth are not valued.
How can we take an entire demographic that is so full of life and dreams and goals, and basically tell them that they cannot be children anymore, that play and imagination and exploration is something of the past, yet also tell them that they cannot be adults yet, and therefore everything they believe, and learn and are passionate about is not yet important?
I was a teenager who found herself filled with passion for so much, who was told time and time again, bluntly or subliminally, that my opinions don’t yet matter.
Today, I get to spend a little portion of every day with incredibly deep and strong teenage girls whom I have come to admire and expect greatness from. Not in ten years, but now. Every single one of them. Even though each one is so different from the other. I started teaching to find out if I was just as scared of teenagers as so many other people, but I’ve discovered that I kind of really never want to stop.
Imagine what the world would be like if everyone believed in our teenagers, rather than expecting the worst from them.
I, for one, would love to find out.