I used to be what some would consider the quiet kid. Not in a cute way either. More like I forget how to talk while some kid is blocking my way in the classroom while everyone laughs. More like I let other kids make fun of me because it’s the only way I’ll be able to fit in in my own twisted way, way. I was always afraid to do anything out of fear of someone using me as the butt of their joke. I was easy prey being who I was at the time. And it’s not like the teachers could do anything to make people like me, they were already feeding into the problem (though unintentionally most of the time). It was so overwhelming I eventually just stopped talking all together. Sometimes someone would approach me out of curiosity but it never really went anywhere. When I ended up going to Homewood I met other kids in surprisingly similar boats.
Kids who would be laughed at at their home schools when they tried to fight back against bullying. Kids whose melt downs only brought another source of entertainment for their peers. Try to imagine how terrible that must feel. To be at some of your lowest moments and the people who are supposed to be your friends laugh at you, some even going so far as to film and put videos on the Internet. I’m not saying that it’s always okay to break down in class or that the behavior is acceptable, but I am saying that if schools can’t even harbor an environment for basic empathy then it’s no wonder why the rates for suicide and school shootings are going up. Each time I told people I went to Homewood I alway got the same reaction. Oh, Homewood, isn’t that the bad kids school?
I used to be ashamed of this even making fun of it at school with my former peers to distance myself from the stigma. When In fact at Homewood meltdowns and freak outs were the norm. It was a place where you could let all the ugly parts of yourself show without fear of it ending on the Internet and ruining your life. I eventually realized that I myself was becoming what I was so afraid of when I was younger. Someone who judges others for their lowest moments. Someone who sees something wrong in those who act differently. It’s sad that so many traumatizing things happen to kids right under the roof of what’s supposed to be like a second home.
Just writing off the quiet or uncontrollable kid as crazy or a lost cause to me is cruel. But I’ve found most of the time it’s the peers of the students that are first to create social outcasts. Everyone has their own struggles and some people don’t even really realize they are struggling when they are.
I used to wonder if they would celebrate my death if I disappeared or if they would mourn and pretend they were my friends all along. Homewood helped me realize that disappearing or dying wouldn’t prove anything. That the only way to prove all the things said about me are wrong is to stay alive and keep trying no matter how much it seems the world wants you to fail. It also helped give me people that would miss me if I was gone. It gave me a family of people who genuinely love what they do and really want to make kids’ lives better. And if that didn’t make the bad times worth it I’m not sure what would. And so to those students who slip through the cracks, who have so much to say but won’t out of fear. I see you. Keep marching on, keep working hard. Prove to them what they think they know about you is wrong. One day we can create a world that kids can grow up in without fear of being alone.