though, the best part of teaching Greek mythology is that soft ‘huh’
coming from behind you as you’re finishing up a diagram of the gods and
the relationships they have between them.
“Is something wrong?” you ask, turning around while you try, and fail, to clean white chalk off your fingers.
just,” the boy says, and then he blushes a bit, because people taking
Latin are usually good and shy and the last thing they want is to get
into a fight with a teacher. “Those two characters here - aren’t they
And okay, at this point everybody’s paying
attention except the resident class child - that one girl who still has
to uses four different colours for everything she writes and will get
upset if you point out she should only use black or blue when filling in
exams. So, yeah, you look at the boy, and then at everybody else, and
then you turn back, pretend to check.
“Yes, they are,” you say, frowning, as if you never had to answer that question before.
“So why is there a double line between them?”
they were in a relationship at some point. Double lines are for sex, remember? Single
lines are kids and parents, and double lines are lovers.”
giggles. The two kids whose parents bring them along to weird art
exhibitions - the ones who’ve grown up hearing frank political discussions and the occasional dirty joke - are now looking collected
and a bit smug. The others are losing it, and fast - they look at the
board, as if only just noticing the thing, and then at you.
they were like, gay?” someone else asks, and it’s always a girl asking
this question, because 'gay’ is just something boys aged 14 and a half
never use - a Voldemort word, something that’s on your lips today and on
everybody else’s tomorrow.
And this, of course, is the
moment you’ve been waiting for - what the lesson was actually about. You
wouldn’t plan a lesson around that, but you will mention the subject if
it comes up, and so you start talking, about all of it - about sexual
orientation being a cultural construct, about the Greek language not
even having a term for 'gay’ and 'straight’, about warriors falling in
love with each other and neglecting their teenage wives, about the fact
our society is still coming to terms with something people have known in
their hearts for millennia - that there’s no choosing and no free will,
not about this. About how the most important thing is to respect
yourself and each other, and the rest doesn’t matter all that
Statistically, in every class there’s a kid
who’s struggling with this. Maybe two. Here things are not as bad as
they could be, but it’s still hard, especially when you’re fourteen and
you think you may be the only one and you don’t want to be different and
how the hell can you even have a conversation about these things, with anyone?
sometimes when you talk about these things - and dedicated teachers will
find a way to include this speech somehow, because you never know who
might need an ally, and who might need to hear it said out loud - teachers who loves their kids will mention the issue when discussing Michelangelo and
Leonardo and Shakespeare and the Iliad - sometimes you see exactly who
these kids are. Sometimes you see them looking at you, wide-eyed and
fearful and yet full to the brim with that Go on look that’s so
endearing on any kind of student. And sometimes all you see is their
floppy hair, because they will keep scribbling in their notebooks and
pretending like this is uninteresting and embarrassing and Oh my God,
but the tips of their ears are getting red, and you find yourself hoping
they’ll get a hug today, because they really need it.
I love the fact that we can believe Tyler when he says “it gets better” because he understands. He’s one of us. He’s been at one of the lowest points possible, has found hope, and is using that freedom to help us. He’s saying “Look at me. I’m living proof that it gets better. The light will always defeat the darkness.” and we can believe him. He got better, and look at him now. If he gave up in those moments of darkness, if he had submitted: this music, this band, this clique, would have never existed. He’s fulfilling his purpose, and he’s asking us to join him - and maybe we’ll find ours too.
Cheers to the aftermath: because it sucks, it absolutely sucks being left alone to save yourself from drowning in your own tears; but this is not the end, not even close - it’s only merely the beginning, and believe me when I say, “you’re going to be okay.”
c.f. // “I know you don’t believe it, but it does get better”
Speaking as someone who’s been out of high school for over ten years:
High school is not the best time of your life. Your hormones overwhelm you with emotion before your frontal lobe’s given you the tools to deal with them. You’re given tons of responsibility with none of the freedom that comes with being an adult. You have more work and stress than most of you will have on a daily basis ever again. Yes, being an adult carries financial and health related stress that you don’t have now, but there’s so much more that you have the freedom to enjoy as you get older. So don’t listen to adults who tell you your best years are now, because they’re still coming. Hang in there.
Stoplight artist of the week!
Bahja Rodriguez, 19
This former member of OMG is a vocal power house! Her EP It Gets Better reached #6 on the iTunes R&B chart. She is definitely a force to be reckoned with. Follow her on Twitter & IG @ bahjarodriquez and watch her videos on Vevo @ bahjarodriquez and she’s on Tumblr @heyimbahja
I hope you all love her music as much as I do!
Fav tracks: Jealous Type, Next One