A few (just a few) years ago, in a classroom, stood a middle aged man who was pointing at a blackboard. The blackboard was covered in squiggles. Of pluses, of minuses, of x’s, of y’s. He jabbed, he pointed, he expounded, he directed. Heads of gel and pigtails nervously bobbed up and down, frantically taking notes. He stopped. Looked around the class, looked them up and down. He saw everyone. Everyone but the new girl, seated in the far corner, her head down, working industriously. She was quiet, she was focused, she was overlooked.
She flunked maths.
But why? Because she was not frantically writing down silly maths equations with no apparent use. No, she was writing to friends left behind. She was describing the bore in the front of the room and the cliquy girls sitting in front of her. She was drawing on what she knew to stay connected to a past that brought comfort and familiarity. She was clinging to a life that no longer existed.
She moved again, and again, and again. And her patterns remained the same.
Tomorrow my daughter is going on her first school camp and I am mildly terrified. It seems ridiculous considering that earlier this year she travelled by train from Copenhagen to Berlin as part of her choir. She stayed with complete strangers and survived to tell the story.
Tomorrow she journeys by bus, for a full half hour, to stay in cabins with her new peers (she alternates the friend/not friend status so regularly that it is safer to use a neutral word). She requires no passports, no mobile phones, no foreign money, and no bag of goodies for the journey. Why, oh why, does this make me nervous when Berlin did not?
It’s the girls. It’s the kids. I remember what it’s like to not quite fit in yet. Every time she tells me the horrors (??) perpetuated on her by the kids in the school, I shrink a little inside. On the outside, I’m calm, I give her hugs, tell her to get a grip. On the inside, I cry. I see the virtue in homeschooling. In wrapping her in cotton wool and never letting her out again.
Today, I see my friends struggling, as adults, with the loss that is almost unbearable. Of wanting to be part of the old life but no longer fitting in. Facebook is cruel in its constant reminders that we’re not there. I can then flick across and see the lives of older (of acquaintance not necessarily age) friends who managed to survive the pain of my departure. Who picked up the pieces and found new friends.
This pain has dimmed and the ache is less than it was before.
I choose to believe that this makes us strong. It makes us wise. It makes us cherish what we have been given.
It gives me the strength to hug a sad little girl, wipe her tears and tell her tomorrow is another day.