Thursday, October 18, 2012

You Are Special

"High school is never over."

I seldom remember quotes from movies, but this line had me in stitches when I heard it in "The Jane Austen Book Club."  Perhaps it became memorable in my mind because it is true, and, paradoxically, not true.  I was lucky enough to have, in retrospect, a pretty decent high school experience.  My parents sacrificed financially to send the three of us to private school, a decision that was also difficult given that both my parents were educators in the public school system.  It was a fantastic school, and I have many fond memories of my years there.  I was never one of the popular kids, but I had good friends.   Despite my relatively fortunate circumstances, high school is never easy.  My teen years, like those of most people, I surmise, were emotionally intense, fraught with social anxieties, skewed self-image, and a sense that my identity and how people viewed me were solidified for all time.  I don't know that I ever truly realized at that age that I was still growing and changing, and that I would continue to do so as a person for the rest of my life.  After spending the majority of my time with the same group of peers every weekday for so many years, it was hard to imagine a life outside of that social structure.  I assumed, even if I didn't consciously process it as such, that I would always be the Andrea who was told to speak up in class, was hopelessly uncoordinated in team sports, and was a shoe-in for the public-speaking spoof award.  Who was the brilliant one who approved giving spoof awards to self-conscious teenagers at a school event anyways?
Fourteen years later, I am a different person.  And, as a side note, how old does it make me feel that I graduated fourteen years ago?  Quite old.  Life changes us; people change us.  High-school ends, and the memories of the box I was in fade.  And yet, on a rare occasion, something will trigger a resurrection of high-school me.  A random flashback, or a chance meeting of a high school peer will flip a switch somewhere inside me, and I can momentarily remember what it feels like to feel so...alone, even in the midst of people.  And for a moment, I realize that there's a part inside me where high school is never over.
I'm heartbroken about the almost-sixteen year old girl from my area who took her own life this past week.  Every time I leave town, I see the banner created in her honour stretched across the underpass and I wish there was a way to turn back the clock and pull her out of the deep end.  I wish she had known that high school does end; there is life on the other side.
High school does end, and on the other side, you come to realize that you are not alone.  You are worth so much more than you can imagine, and you were created for a purpose.  Away from the constructs of high school and the insecurities of being a teenager, we have more in common that we think: we endeavour to find love, careers, purpose, and family.  We all, sooner or later, face heartbreaks, setbacks, and learn to fight for those we love.  There will always be unkind people who build up their own self-esteem by tearing down others, but bullies are generally in their prime in high school.  Life as an adult is not always easy, of course; there are still relationships to navigate.  The falseness of popularity, however, melts away over time, and you can choose whom you want to spend your time with.  You might even get a podium to eloquently put bullies in their place someday too...

I have to admit that I'm already nervous about sending my sweet, sensitive oldest child to kindergarten next year.  We sometimes read books about bullying, because we encounter kindness and unkindness pretty early on in life, whether we label it bullying or not.  My favourites so far are One by Kathryn Otoshi, and You are Special by Max Lucado.  We all need a little reminder sometimes that we are special, n'est-ce pas?  We are lovely because our Creator loves us.


  1. I have a blog draft back in the spring where I started to review a couple of my favourite kids books - "One" being the top one! I even have YouTube links for it in there, too. Funny - I may still get around to posting it later in the year . . . . Great message, great book and important topic, bullying. And yes, it is so heartbreaking what's happened to Amanda this past week - so wish things could have been otherwise. Its also sad that for some, bullying doesn't end with the end of high school or its effects live much longer than that. I count myself fortunate that despite having icky high school years, they were just par for the course and not the result of intentional negative attention. I wish people didn't have to live through unkindness and everyone could be nice and considerate. Sigh.

  2. I wish so too. I think that a lot of unkindness and comes from one's own insecurities and feeling threatened. I know bullying doesn't always end after high school - I've encountered bullies in the workplace and socially too. I think we just usually have more choices about where and with whom we spend our time after high school. I think there is something about the nature of being insecure as a teenager that produces bullies, who belittle their victims to build up their own self-esteem, and also produces a mass of bystanders, who are afraid and too insecure to stand up to bullies. I think (and I have nothing other than a gut feeling to back this up) that the percentage of people willing to intervene increases in step with people's growing self-confidence as they mature. At the very least, bullies don't have a captive audience after high school, and that's what gives them much of their motivation. Sigh, indeed. I hope that it gets better for most people after high school, at least.

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