Saturday, December 14, 2013

When Life is Fuzzy, Can You Still See the Flower?

When I was in seventh grade I knew something was wrong with me. I was too stupid to ask anyone what it was. I was too stupid to know what to ask even if I would have had the courage to come up with an intelligent question. I even had the gall to think I was the ONLY girl in the world to think I was going through this horrific sensation of "not-rightness" of body and mind. So I suffered in silence for years like EVERY OTHER teenager with hormone issues. Urges I didn't understand. Physical and emotional changes that frightened me. Emotions so powerful they drowned all reasoning. On an almost daily basis my world would come to an end, only I'd wake up every morning and everything was still there and I'd have to live it all again. What a world, what a world!

And I kept it all inside, shadowing my darkness behind a smile and a joke for anyone watching.

Why? Because that's what you're supposed to do, right? Pretend everything is okay. Pretend nothing is wrong. Because if something is wrong then you're not in control. You're bad. You're a pariah. And to a teenager that's worse than death.

Why do we do this to people, specifically children who have no tools to deal with the emotional and physical toll puberty brings? Studies have shown the age of puberty has been pushed back several years, so the kids I work with in fifth and sixth grade are now experiencing what I did in seventh. They feel something is wrong but they don't know what it is. They can't define it, can't understand it, don't know how to deal with it, and certainly can't and won't ask for help dealing with it. But this is exactly WHEN we need to be helping them deal with it, to let them know they are not alone, they are not freaks of nature, and that what they feel and experience are things every other teenager has felt since the dawn of time. They are normal and will live through it and be stronger for the experience, no matter how difficult it is at the time.

This, I feel, is one of the goals of certain middle grade and YA books: to discuss these issues in a non-threatening way. Children need to read about other children experiencing and overcoming the same problems and gain the power from the knowledge that these issues can be overcome.

It is my hope that the novel I'm working on now, Shadow of Redemption will begin that journey for someone. Or several someones. While Emily parallels my own struggles with self-confidence and depression, it also shows how she grows as a person to overcome her issues. I think that may be the reason writing this book is such a passion, and sometimes such a difficulty, for me. Just like Emily, I'm not finished growing. I'm not finished fixing my issues. Revision is a constant battle, both on paper and in life. But isn't that what makes life beautiful? Can you still see the flower even if it's fuzzy? If so, there's still hope.