I've been talking with my Mom for a few weeks about life, my upbringing, and how the past decisions look from 40 years down the road. She's been struggling with feeling guilty about giving me up for adoption, and I've been trying to explain how or why I have never blamed her. This morning in the shower, it all clicked in my head.
My past, my childhood, my upbringing has created me. I am a stronger person than I ever really thought I could be. But the big "aha!" today is this.
I can look a student in the eye and say "I know. I've been there. I've lived your life, and I survived. I am a happy, well adjusted grown-up, and you will be too." They have to believe me because I share my life openly in the classroom. I'm not talking from a book. I'm not preaching from a lesson. I tell them my life, my experiences, and how I feel looking back.
When a student says to me "My parents won't let me shower more than twice a week, and the other kids are making fun of me." I can hug them and tell them about the girls who left shampoo in my locker, and the teacher who checked me for lice every week in front of the class. When a student mentions that her family thinks she's going to hell for being friends with a gay guy, I can talk to them about the day my dad told my younger sister that maybe her desire to be a guy was caused by demon possession.
If I didn't have my past life, if I hadn't been raised the way I was, I would be a completely different person. Not necessarily a bad person, or even a better person, but a different one to be sure. Right now, in this place, my students need ME. They need the Me with My Past. This is why I AM.