I will say both of them kind of hit home with me. I am from a lower working class household, we’ve had government help at one point of our lives or another. But now with age, I am more aware of my white privilege. The first article reminded me of how when my friends (many of them of color, many of them in low income households, many of them foster homes) were big on getting the new fangled iPhone in my junior year, and how even nowadays, when people comment about “welfare queens” sitting in the lines of Social Services while getting food stamps. Nowadays a smart phone is a lifeline– you need to be connected to the internet in some sort of way these days. Applying for jobs and many other services in 2017. But as we said last week, iPhones still hold themselves as a status symbol, just like that name band suit or designer purse. They want to try to look the look, walk the walk because in order to get somewhere, it counts. It’s terrible but it counts.
Now Molly’s article resounded with me deeper. I was her in high school, being in a post Columbine and post 9/11 high school. Our school was one for people on the autism spectrum, as well as other mental, and learning disabilities, focusing on behavioral modification (which was a hot mess in itself), and therapy (which took me until my senior year to find a therapist in the school that understood and listened to me). We were a school full of “at risk” children stuck in a program that didn’t exactly benefit the majority. Talking to the few friends I still have from then, as adults we realized how much the program could be improved but unfortunately, nothing we can do. I made more development and improvement in undergrad and being at ITP than I ever did at BOCES.
I was that ‘rebel’, that so-called smartass who refused to stand up and make a pledge, questioned things, and yet, was somehow Valedictorian. I had that “age dysmorphia” she described. At home, my parents were open-minded, liberal people, and encouraged this maturity. My household was authoritative in parenting terms. Obviously there was some authority with my parents, but they gave my space, my privacy. Curfews and such were negotiated and talked about.
But at school, it wasn’t so. Any strict authority was considered part of the “behavior modification”. And they couldn’t understand why I was so angry there. Why I chafed and acted out in anger. Why I didn’t act like Andrew.
My brother was like me– top student, involved in groups, more or less the school’s poster boy. I let my feelings be clear. Andrew internalized it. He was hurting so much, and we all never knew. He took his own life in 2004– a year after he graduated and my freshman year.
Every little bit of sadness from me was treated like high risk, people walked on eggshells, shadowed me. I was the first one they went to if they found a suicide note (which few were found–I hope whoever had written them were helped), and even was hospitalized because “they didn’t trust me”.
Me, fifteen years old, stuck in a school who was the program’s poster child. Not a hall or classroom was not without a reminder of him. My home situation became very intense, as my parents had to contend with CPS trying to take my sister and I away because they believed my brother’s suicide was due to neglect. It is hard to cope with grief when there’s a chance you might be taken from your home at any moment. So yeah, I had moments. You can only walk on eggshells for so long. You need a safe space, a place to vent it, or it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The whole thing is broken. They make more risky kids than stop them, ignore the real issues. Leave girls cyberbullied until they kill themselves. Focus on people that could be fine in lieu of handling those who need it. I can only think of how many Andrews were left hanging for every time someone was too busy smothering the Mollys and Kars out there. And it upsets and frustrates me greatly. So much that I’m in tears as write this.