I had planned to post about kindergarteners calling me “Mr. LaTurkey” or how Brian’s mom was just the worst because she got him the $15 plan for his iPhone instead of the $25 plan. But last night I learned that a sophomore woke up on the Martin Luther King holiday, left his house, and walked down the street. And he kept walking until he was in front of a freight train. He was 15.
Substitute teachers don’t always have the luxury of getting to know their students. However, I would always pause and smile whenever I had to call his unique name for role call throughout the years, and his shock of blond hair was pretty memorable.
I am well aware of the swirls of sadness, rage, and confusion that can take over a fragile high school brain, but it’s devastating to think of a 15 year old so overcome with pain that he believes destroying himself is his only option. High school is an unnatural state in the natural order - the school campus turns into a minefield of social awkwardness, and relationships with parents get stretched to the breaking point with every roll of the eyes and smartass remark. Yet, high school also carries with it beautiful moments of friendship and self-realization, those brief, flickering thoughts of the future and limitless potential that carry a person into the next phase of their life.
Suicide is an extremely disconcerting concept that people spend hours debating and arguing. Instead, please take some time to remember your 15 year old self’s view of the world and be thankful that you kept going, and extend that knowledge to any teenager you know of who might need to hear that things will get better. And finally, please take a moment for the student, and hope that he found some peace of mind.
Student- The food sucked. You know Alexia at the high school? She’s my stepsister now, and she was running around dancing and screaming the whole time. She sucked worse than the food.
Mr. Lighter- Ouch.
Student- But it was cool, because when I got home the next day, my stepdad took me fishing and we caught a sturgeon.
Mr. Lighter- Oh yeah? That’s awesome, sturgeon are massive! My friend caught a delicious bass this summer. Your stepdad’s cool, right?
Student- You know Mr. Lighter, to be honest, sometimes I like my stepdad more than my real dad.
Mr. Lighter- Hey man, I get it. I know things get a little crazy at your dad’s sometimes, and now there’s all this change with new family and a new house, so of course you’re going to like the place that stays the same and you know the score. It’s okay to feel that way.