It's been quite a day.
I'm getting my Peer Mentoring program off the ground. The mentors, about 12 high school students, have been chosen, and they're a really great group.
But this post is not about that. I am sure you'll hear about my projects in more detail later, when they're up and running.
There is a boy in my program. He is really bright. He is very compassionate, and he is motivated to help people. I am proud to have him in my program.
I had a conversation with him and it was ... I have a lot of feelings about it. But first, I want to talk a little bit about my life.
I've had a good life. I've had really excellent parents (shout out to mom and dad- what's UP), and a near perfect childhood (still wish you guys would've bought me that EZ Bake Oven). My parents are damn good parents. Heck, they even went to almost every single sporting event that I had, even through college- traveling to Texas, Canada, Washington, Utah ... they've been there for me a lot. My parents supported me in practically everything I did, except for when I dyed my hair red. Mom didn't support that.
I've had a lot of privilege, and not only because I was the youngest child. First of all, I grew up in America. I'm beginning to understand the implications of what that means. Second, I was born with white skin. As much as I hate what it means to say this, that has given me a tremendous advantage, and will continue to give me an advantage, in most parts of the world. I came from a supportive, functional family, that has been financially stable. The only other factor that would have contributed to the privileges bestowed upon me from the world, would have been being born a boy. Of course, I am not saying that I would have had an easier life, but instead that I might be earning $0.15 more an hour as a male.
Growing up, I was pretty smart, athletic, and didn't have any severe disfigurements. I had a blessed life.
Despite all of these things, during my adolescence I was severely depressed and even suicidal. This was a major episode in my life, and it has played a huge part in who I am today. I can't totally pin down all the reasons why I was depressed- but I can think of a few.
First, I was angry that I wasn't perfect. I am not going to lie, this still irritates me a little to this day. But only a little.
Second, I couldn't hang with the superficial world that was high school. I wasn't the prettiest girl, I wasn't the most popular, and those are the things that seemed to matter most at the time! Ridiculous, I know, but I think that I had a fundamental resentment towards the whole situation. I knew there was more to life, but couldn't quite put my finger on it, and it was frustrating.
Third, and I think, perhaps most important, I was angry at God. I didn't grow up strictly religious- but my grandma used to take me to Sunday school, I was baptized, etc. Entering into the real world from childhood is not an easy thing- especially when you had one as reasonable as my own. Once you start recognizing that all the world doesn't operate on reason, and with a sense of fairness and justice- that is an awfully hard thing to accept. I hated that there was suffering in the world, and I thought that God was just being a big, giant jerk.
I've grown up a little, and come to a few realizations on this matter, but I wont go into it. Basically, I will now just say that, God and I- we've come to an understanding.
But beyond all of that, there was also an underlying sense of guilt for feeling the way that I felt. I felt miserable for so long, and for reasons that I still sometimes think are a little bit silly. Of course, that didn't mean that they weren't real feelings, and that they weren't justified in their own way. What it did mean, though, is that I knew that I was living a charmed life, but STILL couldn't stop suffering feelings of profound misery.
Thankfully, those feelings are in the past now. The experience of being suicidal was not an easy one to go through by any means, but to this day, I consider it to be one of the best things that happened to me. I learned a lot about myself in that time, and I think I came out of it as a better person.
I've brought all this all up for a reason, I promise.
Today, I had a conversation with the aforementioned boy. He came to me to talk about life. We sat down, and he started to unload some of his story. This kid ... he's been through a lot. When he was 12 or so, his mother ran away, and later died of AIDS. He used to get beaten, and is currently being emotionally abused at the house he is staying at now. His father is sick.
Here he is, though, this incredibly bright boy, with so many challenges in his life. Just the simple fact that he is where he is, living how he does, speaks volumes of his resilience and wisdom. I believe that in his heart of hearts, he truly wants to face his demons, and help others while he's at it.
At one point during the talk, he admitted to me that he had had thoughts about ending his life. I couldn't help but feel a profound connection with him on that level.
Part of me thought to myself "how could you even have the AUDACITY to compare what you went through with what this boy has gone through?" The other part of me acknowledged that all beings suffer.
I think that that has been one of the greatest gifts that has been bestowed upon me. I have lived an extremely privileged life. But despite all of my privilege, despite my caring and competent parents, despite my relative social grace ... I was still miserable. I've learned that privilege does not necessarily equal happiness, and that has been the greatest privilege of them all.
I have learned that the only way for me to feel like I've earned any of the privileges that I've had is to do whatever I can to help other people to have the same ones, or even better.
I don't know how to end this entry, because I don't feel like this is the right place, or the right way to end it- but I cannot think of anything more to say.