Saturday, March 31, 2007

Play time societies

As I listen to the kids from my apartment complex teeter on their own version of The Lord of the Flies, I hear their taunts and jeers toward one another. “Everyone hates you!” “Go away, _______.” On occasion I have chosen to referee their lawless playtime society. Originally I thought they self-governed well: “Don’t do that ______, your mom wouldn’t approve.” “Be careful _____.” I thought I might even write a general letter to their parents, complementing them on how good their kids are. Then I started to see the fights, hear the bullying, they’re not so diplomatic these days. I feel for the kids who are bullied. Especially when I hear parents arguing through my wall, I know they are guided (or not, as the case may be) by things much larger than their play-time peers will ever realize.

As I heard tonight’s shout: “Everyone hates you!” I thought to myself, no one should ever have to hear that. And I was taken back to a 4th grade play time of my own. Lunch recess, I had just gone to the nurse to take my inhaler, a sign of “uncool” I had yet to realize. I walked out to the soccer field to find my regular group of friends. It was Thursday—white jeans day. I had none. That meant I couldn’t become an official member of the “Angels”—a group SS had thought up. As I walked toward my friends, they all started running away. They figured my asthma would slow me down. At first I didn’t realize they were running from me, so I ran after them, I heard shouts aimed at me to “stay away.” They kept running. And I stopped.

I stood alone on the field only for a few moments. I did not have to run to a teacher, or hide in a corner, or simply hide in the bathroom. I had other friends on the field that day. I stopped and ran to them in tears. Instead of running, KK, RV, AG, and others took up for me. They rallied around me and, if memory serves, even confronted SS on how mean she had been. Nevertheless it wasn’t their actions that marked me, it was SS’s.

It’s ironic how minor moments can have a monumental affect on your life. For years I have said my mantra is “I’m not good enough”—regularly: “I’m not cool enough.” I think those mere moments that day in 4th grade are what branded my heart with that horrible mantra. As I look to the new life/new birth/new beginning we (I) celebrate on Easter I think it’s time to leave two things in the past—1) My resentment (albeit minimal after all these years) toward SS. She was a kid, and she did what kids do—made a place for herself, distinguished herself, and threw a couple of play-time *punches*. 2) I think it’s time to let go of the mantra that has so molded me (especially my habits of self-deprecation). I think I can manage to let go of 15 minutes of history for the following 15 years of my life that they haunted. It’s time for new birth, a new mantra, and new esteem.

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