However, there is also an emotional weakness that is taking over my mind that sometimes is more powerful than my physical impairment. I have been listening recently to a lot of my students' personal stories and they have been weighing on my mind. A new student is trying to get a new start after leaving her husband who was abusive and a drug dealer. However, she also had a past of abuse from members of her community when she was younger which has greatly influenced her life. She comes into class crying sometimes because her husband followed her to the library or she is just having trouble starting over. She calls me her guardian angel because I am working a lot with her and her son to make sure they get a fresh start and a better life. While I love to have that title in her life, I get extremely worried for her and feel anxious when she doesn't come to class.
Similarly, when we discussed Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with our students, many of them were upset and frustrated because the discussion of Civil Rights and slavery brought up unhappy memories of their past. I heard two stories of rape from two different students and one student told me about how she was abused by her father when she was growing up. All of these stories have been impossible for me to get out of my head. I can't seem to pull them off my shoulders since they were placed there.
But as I type this, I realize something. I wanted to say that I should just move past it or get over it; that is what society ingrains in us: we should become immune to pain and pass over it as nothing. But, since I feel such strong emotions for these students, these women, I refuse to do that. I cannot just let go of the stories I have been given. They trusted me with them for a reason. I shouldn't really see it as weakness, as I originally saw it. I am not weak for letting myself feel emotions over truly heartbreaking scenarios; nor am I weak for holding onto them. These women have told me they love me, there is a mutual understanding and a mutual respect between us that I refuse to give up. So my emotion is grief over someone I love or someone I respect and cherish being disrespected.
So now the lively debate of whether or not emotion makes you weak. At first, I thought it did because I couldn't swallow the pain. But now I see that I am stronger because of that pain. I am not even close to strong compared to the students who I talk about in this blog, but I think listening to their story and standing with them shows strength. I also think refusing to bow to the pain shows strength. These women were abused, ridiculed, and shamed for most of their lives and yet they have children, they are starting over through education and new social endeavors. There is strength in weakness because you might realize that you cannot be broken and you are still standing at the end of the day. Similarly, there can be weakness in strength because you can be using it your strength as a facade to go about life, like my student's husband was probably doing while he was abusing her. So maybe I can be strong, I can be weak. Maybe I can be both at once. But the important thing is to recognize which you are and accept yourself for who you are in the moment. If you're strong, relish it! Be proud of your strength. If you feel weak, try to understand why you feel that way and how you can see yourself in a different light. Because, as my poster says at the bottom, no matter who I am, which side of the spectrum I am on “Heaven is where I belong.”
My song for the week is so perfect and almost brought me to tears when it came up on my shuffle while I was having a stressful day. “Remind You” by Andy Grammer is about having another person there to remind you when you feel weak why you are amazing and why you matter. I hope that each and every one of you has a person out there that can be that reminder for you because we all need a little reminder sometimes. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a video with the lyrics, but you can find the lyrics here.