Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Cry Baby

Flickr Creative Commons image by LMAP
I am a cry baby. Always have been. My younger sister would sneak in to steal a toy, and I would cry. Didn’t get my way or change our plans, and unstoppable tears would rush over my fat cheeks. I remember making a decision, perhaps at eight or nine, to stop crying. I didn’t want to hear another exasperated sigh escape from my dad’s moustached mouth, wishing under his breath that I would just stop.

So I did.

But somewhere between nine and thirty-nine, I realized how devastating that decision was. It wasn’t that I stopped the hurt or emotion behind the tears; instead, I stopped sharing. I stopped revealing. But on becoming a teacher, working with emerging writers, I have came to understand how dangerous that pressure to conceal can be for writers in particular.

A writer’s power comes in connecting truth, in revealing in ordinary moments the larger themes of our connected lives. To do this well, the writer, whether nine or thirty-nine, must reveal themselves. I am the odd one in my solidly Midwestern family. I cry at diaper commercials and fundraising campaigns for the ASPCA. In class, when my students share their personal This I Believe essays, I cry. Students write about their experiences with loss: losing a mother to cancer, a grandmother to Alzheimer’s, a father to drug addiction. Students share their fears, their loneliness as much as their pride and joy, often sitting side-by-side in one essay. And I cry.

The courage that it takes to reveal oneself, whether that be to a teacher, to peers, or to an unseen audience via the web, is awe-inspiring. I have grown more not only as a teacher but as an individual by opening up opportunities for students to revel and reveal in their writing. Sometimes that brings me to tears of joy, other times to tears of commiseration. But now I share them freely. Unashamed.
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