As all my students know, I am not a philosopher. Class discussions about real life trauma are not a thought experiment in which I remain clinically indifferent. I will cry. I will get angry. But then…..I will do something about it.
I can’t guarantee that I’ll do the right thing because that is subjective but they know for damn sure that doing nothing is not an option I care to entertain.
This is one of those times. If you were in my class I would tell you that we are going to bypass the option of waiting fo this to blow over or just holding tight until things are back to normal.
I would ask you to pretend that this is urgent because it is. My students aren’t here right now, so I’m asking you. Example answers are provided for you but you already know my rules about copying.
You are in charge of the entire world. People will die of Coronavirus if we don’t lockdown, but people will also die of starvation and violence if we do. Do you lockdown or not? (keep in mind there is no solution in which zero innocent people die)
Do you know what comparative suffering is?
Comparative suffering means, I feel sad about what I am going through but I shouldn’t because someone else is going through something worse. This is not helpful. You are capable of having compassion for yourself while still exercising empathy for others.
Do you know what apathy is?
Apathy is saying “it is what it is”. Just by saying that you take away all of your own power. It simply is and don’t think for a second that you don’t get to have a say in what it will be.
How do you feel right now?
You probably feel bored (#1 answer of all teenagers always), angry, scared, annoyed, responsible for younger siblings and older family members, lonely or unpopular because you haven’t been able to see friends, hopeless, untethered. You tell me.
What kind of person do you want to be?
You can shake your fists at the sky about all that is unfair in the world and still not choose to take an eye for an eye. You can be angry but also fair and practical. You can be generous and kind through pain and you can also be forgiven for the times you weren’t kind and generous through pain. You can stand up for yourself without throwing someone else under the bus. You can be the kind of person who doesn’t let suffering go unnoticed whether it’s yours or someone else’s.
What can you do today that will move you closer from how you feel to the kind of person you want to be? (It can be simple and easily attainable or audacious because you contain multitudes)
This is personal. I can’t tell you how you feel anymore than I can tell you who you should be in this big world that has a you shaped hole in it…….but I can tell you that momentum is real and if you take a step in the direction of the person you want to be today, then tomorrow it will be slightly easier to take that same step. And I want you to tell me about it because you are not the only one who’s proud of you.
And lastly, to quote one of the greatest principals of all time, Linda Cliatt-Wayman, “If nobody told you they loved you today, you remember I do, and I always will.”
To anyone: Email me your answers to all or any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. (I promise I won’t grade you on it.)
Love, Teacha Katie