I recently watched a TED talk entitled, “Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Adichie. It talks of carrying biases and prejudices of others based on where they come from or the life they have lived. It struck me that we are not our experience, rather a result of our resilience to our experience. At least that is what I got from the TED talk.
It made me reflect back to the beginning of this school year when I sat down with my administrator as she discussed some of the students in my class with me. We talked about autism, divorce, custody issues, step parents, food allergies, helicopter parents and struggling learners. After she finished talking to me, I looked at her and said, I’ve got this covered. I’ve lived everything you just described to me. She looked at me and for a moment didn’t have words. Then we both laughed as I said, yep, I am “that” person. She was quick to reassure me that I was a good person and a good teacher, regardless of my experiences.
I have thought a lot about it over the last few weeks as I have had the opportunity to talk to parents as they have come in with concerns about their students needs being met. I talked to one parent of a child who has severe food allergies. I listened patiently as she described everything her child could and could not have. At the end of our conversation, I told her that my own child had some intense food allergies and that I had been in her shoes. She sighed a big relieving sigh and told me that she was so relieved that someone understood.
Another parent came in a few days later to discuss her child’s quirks while dealing with autism. I told her that I was the parent of an autistic son, with many of the same characteristics and eccentricities. Her eyes got wide and her jaw dropped and she gave me a big hug. She said, “Then you get it! You really get it.”
I have had conversations with divorced and divorcing moms, step parents, parents of challenge kids, parents of English language learners, parents of biracial children, working moms, moms with so much on their plates, that they don’t think they will ever get on top of life. You know what, I get it. I understand them and connect on a level where most people that have lived perfect lives can’t understand.
Sometimes I am embarrassed about my life and where I have ended up in life. Sometimes I joke about it and make is sound over dramatic and claim to be from the Ozarks. Seriously, how can this many things be part of one person’s life. At least that is how I feel. I feel like a misfit in society a lot of times. There really isn’t an exact place for me to fit in. However, when it comes to relating with people, I so often can say, “I understand. I’ve been there.” I haven’t experience many things, and I am grateful for that, but some of the things that I have, have been struggles.
I am trying to teach myself that I am not defined by my experiences, but that my experiences have helped shape me. I can choose what my experiences will do to me. They can break me down or empower me. They can consume me or help me springboard into something amazing. I am me, a good hearted person who has tried her best to overcome and persevere to someday become something great.