Reader comment on Paul Buchheit's passage ...

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    On Aug 28, 2011 Ricky wrote:

    I would like to share how I help teens apply this.  Labeling is a way for preteens and teens to try to make sense of what is happening around and within them.  It is a survival skill, based on a notion that if the world and everyone and everything in it can be placed in logical containers, it becomes manageable.  Based on this assumption, statements arise within thought and/or deed.  She’s smart, he’s athletic, my teacher doesn’t like me, my stepmom doesn’t understand me, I’m fat, I’m not interested, I don’t matter, it doesn’t matter, we don’t matter, I can’t change, I can’t affect anything, I am a nobody, I’m different, no one cares…and, since all these things are true then, I don’t have to interact; I don’t have to excel; I don’t have to be held accountable or take responsibility; I can be left alone; as long as I am gossiping and talking, I don’t need to know about the other side of the story; since you exist in this little container labeled ‘loser’, ‘queer’, ‘stupid’, ‘jock’, ‘math whiz’, ‘science geek’, ‘hick’, ‘health nut’, ‘gangster’, ‘gay’, ‘goth’, ‘weak’, ‘white’, ‘black’, ‘brown’, ‘red’, ‘yellow’, ‘rich’, ‘poor’, ‘slow’, ‘gutless’, ‘homely’, ‘homeless’, ‘filthy’, ‘smelly’, ‘blind’, ‘deaf’, ‘smoker’, or ‘freak’,  I don’t have to relate to you…

    The idea that we are separate and therefore unaffected by others usually compounds teen depression and anxiety, especially when they come to realize that deep down, others carry wounds of words and labels too.  Sometimes they pick up a label insensitively hurled in their direction and justify carrying this burden because they are insecure along their personal journey, and the label helps define their experience at that moment-scarring them for life even. 

    The power of words, and the tenacity with which we cling to these words, results at times in a lonely and suffering existence.  Sometimes we believe our own negative self-talk and insist on labeling ourselves with our thought patterns.  The writer’s conclusion of ‘I am nothing’ is quite powerful.  Frankly, we are at the same time nothing and everything, small and not small, empty and expansive, experientially finite and infinite.  As teacher, I get to help my students, these teens, realize this and begin to reach out and connect to others in the most significant and life changing ways.  To help them negotiate through these years with ease and empathetic understanding is my extreme privilege and honor.  This is how I too let go of the labels pushed on me.  And I love it. 


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