To the girl in the black hoodie,
I see you. You sit in the back of my classroom with your earbuds in most of the time. I try to engage and say hello and sometimes you’ll even say hi back. Eye contact is a stretch for you but it’s happened a couple times. I’m not gonna push it. I will keep trying to make my class a welcoming and safe space for you, even though I know you might not feel safe anywhere.
I notice you wear that black hoodie 4 or 5 times a week. That hoodie might mean safety for you. It might just be the only warm thing you own. It may be the one thing that is consistent in your life. Maybe that hoodie is just baggy enough so people don’t notice you, like a cloak of invisibility. Whatever the reason, it’s ok.
You don’t always turn in your work and I know that sometimes you have days where you don’t pay attention because you absolutely need to be on your phone. I get it. This world can be cruel, unfair, unforgiving, and wildly inconsistent. Sometimes that little screen is the only thing that is keeping you out of your own head because that’s the absolute last place you want to be. It makes sense.
I notice that during class a whole hour can go by and not one person says anything to you. Although you put out some “Leave me alone” vibes, I don’t think you really want to be isolated like this. Maybe people are just that scary to you. I wish I could help.
Yes, this is school and yes, my job is to teach you, and yes, your job is to do the assignments, and yes, the goal is a high grade, and yes to all of that. But sometimes life gets in the way and I think that’s where you are right now. I think maybe you’re just in survival mode. I think you want to just hang on until it gets better. I don’t know what “it” is but I can tell that “it” is real and “it” is impacting most every move you make.
Maybe someone hurt you. Maybe your family life is the worst. Maybe it’s a giant ball of anxiety clawing at the base of your brain. Maybe you feel alone all the time. Maybe you look in the mirror and hate what you see. Maybe you feel like you’re living a lie. Like the person on the outside isn’t the person on the inside. Maybe it isn’t anything specific but you just are full of sadness. Maybe it’s a bunch of things combined. But I know it’s something. And I want to recognize you.
So here’s the thing. You need to know that I respect and admire you. Honestly. It takes courage to do what you’re doing. You’re showing up and sometimes just showing up is hard. But you’re here and that takes guts. It means that you haven’t quit. It means that deep down there is hope. And there should be.
I don’t know much about much but I know for a fact that things get better. I know that anxiety passes. I know that hurt can heal. I know fear can be overcome. I know that being a teen is tough and trying to figure out who you are and what your place in the world is going to be can be absolutely the toughest thing ever.
Until all of that happens, just keep showing up. Keep wearing your black hoodie. Keep being brave. I see you.