I am known for writing long pieces. And I usually start off knowing where my entries will go. But this one — this one is going to have a life of its own. This one is going to run wild and make trouble. This one is going to exemplify the very people it is dedicated to.
This one is for the misfits. This one is for my kids.
When I started teaching, I had to put on a brave face and pretend that I wasn’t shaking on the inside. You haven’t known fear until you’ve walked into a room full of college freshmen; until you’ve stood in front of 15 pairs of eyes that stay trained on you like laser beams; until you’ve felt felt young adult judgment fall on you in big, unstoppable waves.
This is what I was told by the esteemed members of the faculty: “Make sure they know who’s boss. Otherwise they’ll eat you alive.”
Which didn’t make that first day any easier.
If those kids had heard my heartbeat that day, they would’ve known the truth: that they owned me. Luckily, my crippling fear went undetected and we have survived the last 15 months without hating each other — which, in my opinion, is something kind of worth celebrating.
I feel this huge pot of righteous anger start to boil inside of me whenever I hear people belittle their generation. Yes, OK. From their generation came the likes of Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus but these kids — my kids — are different. They are artists and musicians and entrepreneurs and big dreamers. They belong in a league of their own. And I wish I could tell you about each and every one of them.
I wish I could tell you about Chiara, who reads this blog sometimes. Who wants to be a photographer of the world. Who is so intelligent, insightful and kind. Who is the little sister I never had. Who creates beautiful things. Who will undoubtedly change the world.
Or Richard, the badass hiphop head from Saipan. When I met him, he had a mohawk and his muscles bulged out of his sleeves. He spit out weekly sexual innuendos just to make the class laugh. I thought he was a typical teenage boy but he has transformed, in a year, into this wise and steady leader. No longer does he resort to cheap tactics to get his classmates to like him — he’s got real wit and substance pouring out of him. One afternoon, when the class beside ours got too noisy, he stepped out of the room and told them off. In that moment, I saw a man.
Or Clara, the school sweetheart, MINT’s songbird. Clara, who is my high school classmate’s younger sister. Clara, who is so shy and afraid to be seen. But when she gets on a stage and sings? When she sings, she changes your life. When she sings, the world becomes golden. When she sings, you fall in love. It is possible that when the angels sing, they sound a lot like Clara.
The truth is that I could go on and on with stories about these talented young people. I could tell you about Patrick, Sid, Lex, Kat. I could talk to you about Justin, Maegan, Romy, Miggy. There are about a hundred kids that I could read to you as if they were my favorite book.
Perhaps I will save all of that for another day.
And I’m writing this all down because during our Creative Writing workshop awhile ago, I asked them to critique each others’ work. And I was taken away by the tender kindness they bestowed to one another.
By: “Your story resonated with me. You are not that girl anymore, you’re so much better.”
By: “You know, you’re not all that different from me. Don’t worry.”
By: “This is beautiful.”
By: “Get your confidence on!”
By the fact that they were being cheerleaders to one another.
By this wonderful camaraderie.
By the regard they have for each other — even if they belong to different groups.
By their inspiring passion.
I am so proud. I am so, so proud. Not just of what they do but of who they are. I can see who they are becoming. And I feel hopeful.
And to be honest, I don’t know if I have a point in all this. But earlier today, as we talked about good writing, I told them that good writing is always based on an experience that moves you. And what I know for sure is that today moved me.