One of the better slogans / campaigns around is the one "it gets better" If you visit the link they ask you to agree to the pledge: "Everyone deserves to be respected for who they are. I pledge to spread this message to my friends, family and neighbors. I'll speak up against hate and intolerance whenever I see it, at school and at work. I'll provide hope for lesbian, gay, bi, transgender and other bullied teens by letting them know that "It Gets Better."
And they are absolutely right. Everyone I speak to, whether they had a different sexual orientation, were a "misfit" of some type, had learning issues, were bullied, or just had normal teenage angst, whatever, all agree it gets better as you get older, and particularly after you leave school. A person I was talking to today also made the comment that as you get older it's really liberating to be able to have friends who are much older or much younger than you are. Something that is difficult, if not impossible when you're 10 or 12 or whatever. It was a point which was also brought home in the book "The elegance of the hedgehog", which has been made into a sweet film which I went to see with my daughter on Friday. The book would be a rather challenging entry point to a young girl, so, although the movie doesn't cover nearly the breadth and depth of the book, it was a good overview. And I was quite impressed when my daughter pointed out the theme of "beauty and the beast" (7 basic plots!)
Even The Economist this week celebrates "misfits" in an article. But I get back to my question of why it can't be good now? What is it about the interplay of youth, immaturity, fear, the need for belonging and an institutional setting that makes things so hard for so many people? Why don't teachers see what is going on? Why aren't children taught to uncover the layers of interactions? Why is that despite our western ideas of individualism and independence a lot of our actions are geared towards belonging and some pretty raw and primitive emotions? Is that why it gets better? Because our frontal lobes have had more time to develop? Because we're more in control of our emotions? Because we're exposed to a wider range of people and the whole age thing doesn't matter anymore?
People sometimes ask my why I put my kids into such a large school. We've done the small school thing. IMHO small schools are like small villages. There may just not be enough opinions and views and ideas to go around. The pressure to conform may be just that much too much and the caring just that bit too little. And of course the economies of scale and spreading the cost over more tax/fee payers.
But the big can also be alienating. And it just takes time. Time time time to find the like minded, or even the not like minded but other connections. Time to feel comfortable with who you are and where you fit in so that you actually know what you're looking for. I'm wondering about that process now. Does it peak in your middle ages and then decline?
Sometimes, looking at older people around, particularly not expatriates it looks like there is an upper limit to things getting better. And then you no longer meet new people, you start losing your friends to divorce, disease, death, you start losing your mind to dementia. You voluntarily or involuntarily lose your job and your world starts closing in on you again.
To close - a lovely poem - taken from: Poets.org (from a list of "Carpe Diem" poems)
|by Sara Teasdale|
Life has loveliness to sell, All beautiful and splendid things, Blue waves whitened on a cliff, Soaring fire that sways and sings, And childrens's faces looking up Holding wonder in a cup. Life has loveliness to sell, Music like a curve of gold, Scent of pine trees in the rain, Eyes that love you, arms that hold, And for your spirit's still delight, Holy thoughts that star the night. Spend all you have for loveliness, Buy it and never count the cost; For one white singing hour of peace Count many a year of strife well lost, And for a breath of ecstacy Give all you have been, or could be.