stare it down

One of the things that my employers requires of those of us who travel and speak to students is that we examine ourselves often and find fresh ways to identify with the kids we work with. That means that when we all get together for any kind of training, everybody cries. Students today go through such an incredible amount of emotional trauma by the time we see them, that if we are unwilling to “go there,” they won’t hear us. If they don’t hear us, then they won’t give us a chance to hear them. My job is all about hearing kids. It’s about hearing them, affirming them, validating their feelings and their pain and their dreams, and giving them the tools to do and to be their best. I got to spend my day hearing my friends. To call them coworkers, after all we experience together and on the road, will never be enough. It gets harder to leave after every time I come here and spend time with them.

One of the ways that I got to begin an examination of myself today was to identify a story in my life that I can share with students. My objective is to help tear down any sense of barrier between myself and the teenagers I’ll speak with. As is normal when I’m training for work, I spent a chunk of the day in- or on the verge of- tears. I won’t go into all the details here, but I’ll ask you the same questions I asked myself today. Take a moment to really consider these questions. You might discover something you didn’t realize was inside of you.

What is something that I’m currently struggling with?
When did the behaviors that led to this struggle begin?
Have I really dealt with the part of my past that keeps interfering with my present?
How has that part of my story held me back or prevented me from finding full life where I am now?

If you dig deeply enough, you will find experiences from junior high, from high school that left some kind of mark on your heart. I am discovering that boundary issues that I am dealing with as a twenty-something stem from habits I formed when I was 14. There are no isolated incidents. Don’t be afraid to stare down parts of your past that you’ve ignored or shoved under the rug. Maybe they’ve been there for decades. Dust them off. Deal with them. Tear down that wall that you built up so that no one could make you feel that way ever again. Really think about how those early times of pain made you develop a crutch that has kept you from being free in your life today. Then, throw the crutch away. Be honest. Talk to someone you trust. Find a place of vulnerability where you can acknowledge those things and then let them go. You have no idea how much your coping mechanisms have kept you from real freedom until you toss them aside. Let’s be courageous. Let’s support one another. Let’s do life together in such a way that we’re constantly making ourselves and those around us better.

I love my job. I pray this kind of challenge and this kind of peace for all of you.

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