And then I listened.
And the stories flew over me like gasps
stories that made me forget the spaces that I had been in before
stories that erased the thoughts I had and replaced them with new ones
And I took deep breaths so as not to apologize for things I had never said
for words I had never even thought
and I had nothing but disbelief at the vast space that was explained to me
the space of existing in a place where you are never reflected in others
where you are never reflected at all
a space that my life didn’t approach
I heard tales of expectations and misinterpretations
I heard words like different, weird, and not allowed
and could not manage responses beyond sheer disbelief
the burdens of people I could not lessen weighed on me
and still it was nothing compared to theirs
“sassy”, “overachievers”, “rappers”, aggressive”
were words used to discribe people as though they were themselves the group
children spoke of triangles in square peg, round hole worlds
children spoke of being whole.
the words, “does is get better?” were unanswerable by me
I don’t know, I replied, I will help, I replied
I will climb towards your space
never really being there with you
I will help you build a home, here, in the place between
I will try to follow where others have led
and lead when I can’t find a path
but I will never live your stories
I will never be in your space
So I will listen as we build something better together.
**this is the second of what I hope will be many reflections from NAIS’ People of Color Conference in Washington, DC. If you teach at an Independent School and haven’t been here, get on it.