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Friday, November 04, 2005In praise of Jane...
Sometimes you come across something on a blog like
As a teenager I was pretty much the same girl Jane described in her blog. I was into alternative music, into goth/metal fashion while everyone around me was into ghettofabulous designers. I was different from all the kids I hung out with. I was the one that was considered “weird”. My saving grace was that I’ve always had a sense of humor and people were always drawn to me because of it. I marched to the beat of my own drummer. Heck I was my own drummer!
As I was reading Jane’s post I started to think "There but for the grace of God go I". Unlike Jane I had parents and “siblings” who encouraged my so called weirdness. While most parents bitched and moaned about their kids listening to Slip Knot, Marilyn Manson, Korn, my mom not only listened to them but had favorite songs she knew the lyrics to. She made it a point to take an interest in what I was into at the time. My uncles who are more like my older brothers had the room next to mine and were into hip hop and gangsta’ rap. They’d blast their stereos and turn their gigantic speakers in the direction of my room inviting me to battle them with my music. After the battle was over we'd discuss the music we had been playing. They never made fun of me even though it was not their cup of tea. I was different but instead of ostracizing me for it, my family celebrated it.
Jane went on to briefly describe her school years and how isolated she felt. In a high school I had a English Lit teacher who based on my physical appearance decided that I was the poster child for what was wrong with the American teenager. Until that year I had been passionate about English Literature I got into it at an early age and adored Shakespeare. It was always my best subject in school. This one teacher managed to change that for me. He made my life hell during my senior year, for that one year Shakespeare was the bane of my existence. I still can't read Hamlet without thinking of him.
I was a painfully shy teen-ager, I hated drawing attention to myself. Yet not one day could go by where this man did not feel the need to single me out to the class and pile some sort of verbal abuse on me. I suffered it all in silence. Only when he threatened to hold me back and not allow me to graduate did I open my mouth and let people know what was going on. He was forced to pass me because when pressed he could offer no valid reason for failing me.
One of the last things he did to me was on the day before graduation he stood me in front of the class, mocking my attire and warned the graduating students about dressing like me for the graduation ceremony. The next day I wore “normal” clothing; a skirt, heels, makeup my parents were in delighted shock. But his words stuck in my head. I told my mom how I felt. She then gave me a piece of advice that would become my mantra,”To thine own self be true little one. Never let anyone push you into a corner because you won’t conform to their standards” As I read Jane’s blog I wondered how advice like that would have affected Jane at a time in her life when she was most vulnerable.
That day I made a conscious decision to live my life by my mother’s advice, I changed my clothes. When I was called to the podium to get my diploma I ran towards the stage. As I ran down the aisle I unzipped my graduation gown to reveal what I was wearing; a pair of cut off shorts, a wife beater t-shirt and my beat up sneakers. My friends in the audience went wild yelling out my name and clapping their approval, they knew why I had done it. My English Lit teacher just glared at me. My senior advisor and guidance counselor were beaming. They had fought a tremendous battle on my behalf with this teacher in order for me to graduate. My advisor hugged me tightly and twirled me around so all could see what I was wearing. They understood why I did it, I got a standing ovation. That moment was a turning point for me. I wondered what was Jane's "turning point" moment. What was the moment that made her say she had enough and needed help?
In her entry Jane wrote that her dad had told her that until the birth of his son Jane had been his favorite. Can you imagine what that does to a child? The damage it inflicts? Her entry caused me once again to reflect on my life…
When my grandmother died my mom was 22 and my dad was 23 they took on the responsibility of raising her 4 younger brothers. On top that they added 2 more kids to the brood. . So there were a total of 7 kids in the house. Every now and then my parents would grab one of us in a hug and tell us we were their favorite. Then recite a list of reasons as to why we were the favorite on that day. We were then told not to brag about it to the rest of the tribe. It wasn’t until a few years ago that we realized that they used to tell us all the same thing. The funny thing is that they will still pull us to the side and tell us we are the favorite, the thing is we know that they mean it. They have enough love in their hearts to us that we can each be the favorite at the same time for different reasons. The other day I was walking past the living room and saw my mom sitting with my little cousin. He was feeding from his bowl of ice cream and I heard her tell him. “You know you’re my favorite nephew because you always remember to share but ssshhhh that’s between you and me. ” The look on his face was priceless. I remember how wonderful I’d feel as a kid whenever she told me that. I know it’s something he will always remember the day his aunt let him on the secret that he was her favorite. I remembered that Jane wrote about her grandma and how she made Jane feel special. I wished Jane had had more people like that in her life at that age.
The reason I bring my life experiences into this is because when I was around 17 I realized not everyone had been as lucky I had been and it propelled me towards my current area of study. It is so important that parents never lose sight of the love they feel for their children. As parents they have to measure their words with their kids, one hurtful comment can cause a lifetime of damage. Jane’s entry is proof of this …she still remembers that comment her father made. It must have wounded her deeply, taken residence in a corner of her soul.
I come today in praise of Jane, I have faith in her recuperative powers in her ability to stay on track and get her illness under control. You go Jane!!
3 comment from: Aisha, Jane, jen,