I recently had one of kids I work with give me that “You don’t know me” look. And I thought, “You are probably right. But, you don’t know me either.”
For those of you who have read much of this blog know that I work at a residential treatment facility for teens with anger management issues. Most have been sent by the court because their families and caregivers can no longer handle them and the violence that surrounds their lives. Most have been through many therapies or other facilities that feel this child needs more help and structure. So, they are sent to us. We house and feed them, have a small school so they can continue their education and offer individual and group therapy. We work on creating better coping skills, reuniting with family whether foster, adoptive or biological and give them support to develop a better life. These kids know the street and their amount of trust in people who look like part of the system, like me, is minimal.
Later, on my drive home, about 2 hours, I was thinking about this kid’s face. He was so sure of my reaction, of how I would be intimidated and how hard he would look to me to show I am oblivious to his emotional state. In his mind, if he looks tough enough I will back down out of fear. But I saw it differently.
Most people will tell you I am very fun and have no problem being the center of attention. But I used to be a small, fearful observer of life with a hard exterior – like a bug. I wore my skeleton on the outside to protect all the terrified mush inside.
Now, I am still small and fearful, but with experience I know that having mush makes you human. The ability to show some of my mush shows my strength. That’s what I wanted to show my tough friend. What I want to share with the world is more than feeding people healthy food. I want to feed inspiration – being able to inspire people who were like me. The idea that my inspiration stops at chocolate pudding is frustrating.
Sometimes I look at these kids and I think, Feed off my insecurities, my screw ups, my life lessons. And I know that these kids and other people who are going through their own exoskeleton lives would feed on it because I am honest and open about what I have done and what was done to me and what I allowed to be done to me.
I know this because I used to feast off others who had the honesty and openness to tell their stories of screw ups and life lessons. That let me see that I was not alone or stupid or any worse a person than anyone else. That allowed me to put my bones and nervous system back under my skin. Skin that is more pliable, softer and took far less energy to move through life. Feasting off others’ stories allowed me to do what I now want for this kid – The chance to re-write his own.