I recently found this painted rock at Cancer Survivor’s Day, hosted by the cancer institute that saved my life. “Broken crayons still color.” I love that quote because it so accurately blends my identity as a teacher with the magnitude of the enormous situation I’ve faced over the course of the past couple of years. You don’t have to have had cancer, however, to identify with the quote. Teachers have an amazing responsibility to leave whatever weight they carry at the doors of their classrooms and instead shoulder the loads their students bring to them.
I pouted to my husband the other night about how I feel different from my peers. I told him I wished others could relate to and commiserate with what I’ve been through — not that I’d wish it on anyone else. It’d just be nice to talk to someone who understands. “It’s isolating,” I said.
He stopped eating his salad, looked up at me, and asked: “What would you tell one of your students if she were to come to you and tell you that?”
“That’s a really good question,” I said. It was a great question, because I know exactly what I’d say. I’d say it must be hard to feel that way, but what makes you different also makes you unique. You’re not like everyone else. You’re special.
Pictures of baby showers, weddings, and vacations fill my news feed like a Black Friday crowd — and that’s great. Baby showers are great, weddings are great, vacations are great. I like “different” people, though, and the older I get, the more I like them. I want to know their stories. I want to know their struggles. I want to marvel at their imperfections because their imperfections make them human beings. I don’t want to see another perfectly assembled, Pinterest-worthy party spread. That’s boring. I want to see pictures of how the dog drank the punch and ate the cupcakes and knocked over the flower arrangements when no one was looking. That’s funny. That I could get into.
Some of us are bright, shiny, and sharp. Others have been worn down. There are probably more than we realize who feel broken, but we all come from the same box — and we all still color.