So, I’m still an avid reader. I stopped reading for enjoyment during my quest for that Masters degree. After school was over, I actually started using my Kindle to download books. Holy cow, I can’t believe I thought I preferred turning pages and holding a book in my hands. I have access to a world of literature at any second, I can read in the DARK! It’s become something of an obsession, I still don’t sleep until close to 2am because I’m busy reading. That is ME time, unless of course Jenna wakes up and needs to sleep completely on top of me because nothing else is good enough.
Sometimes I will read a book that I find amazing. Life changing. Powerful. Thought provoking. It pops into my head during the day if I leave it unfinished. I can’t wait to get into bed at night and get back to it. I watch the little corner of the screen to see how much of the book I have left, happy and sad to be close to the end, not wanting it to end, but NEEDING to know how it ends.
Sometimes a book will not be exactly enjoyable, but necessary.
I finished such a story today. One of those books that gets in your head and leaves you feeling a little “off” if you have to stop and attend to real life while the story just hangs there, waiting for you to come back. I knew it would have a message, but didn’t expect the impact. It was a book about a girl in high school, she commits suicide and leaves a message for 13 people to hear after she is gone. These people all had some impact on her decision to take her life, some big and some little.
I found it hard to read, and hard to put down. It made me remember things about high school that I would rather forget.
The book is called Thirteen Reasons Why. Written by Jay Asher.
I’d never heard of it before, but you may have. Looks like it has been a best seller at some point.
As I read, and as I finished, I thought a lot about how we treat each other at that age. In high school, middle school. It can be brutal. We focus more on bullying now than ever before, but so many of us have experiences that we will never forget, things that may not seem like such a big deal to anyone else.
I remember being miserable in high school at times. Didn’t help that I wasn’t thrilled with life at home either. I did think of suicide, but I never actually had a plan. I would bet most kids have had at least a fleeting thought. Isn’t that part of being a teen? SHOULD it be??
I will not tell the silly details of how I was bullied, the times I felt stupid, ugly, insignificant. I remember some moments very well, but these are not the things that come to mind when I read this book.
Instead, I think of a shameful moment I will never forget. A moment that I will always regret.
Sitting in class one day. A girl behind me who was a sort of friend. Less popular than even me. Maybe I was feeling particularly low that day, needing to make someone feel lower than me.
I turned around, looked into her eyes. And told her she was UGLY. That’s it. It was like I was telling her the time. I don’t believe it was premeditated at all, I wouldn’t have ever had the guts to carry that plan out. Her face crumpled. I scoffed, said something like “Come on, I’m just kidding!, Geez!” Made light of it, I remember her confused smile. She wanted to believe I was joking.
Why did I DO that?
Not only have I never forgotten that moment, I swear I think of it more now then when it happened. And if I can remember it so vividly, do you think SHE can? When she thinks back to her school days, will I forever be the girl who called her “ugly”?
I saw her years and years later. We were “grown up”, in orientation together for our new nursing jobs. I thought about what I’d done to her, thinking maybe this was my chance to make up for that. She was nice, just like before. Didn’t seem to remember or at least didn’t seem to care about that horrible moment. I never brought it up, embarrassed and also not wanting to hurt her again. There was no sense of resolution for me, didn’t lessen my guilt or shame, even if she didn’t remember.
I hate the me that did that. I have used that example in trying to teach my own teens about how/why the kids in school are sometimes so horrible to each other. Especially in high school.
Check out this book. If you have ever been in high school, I think you won’t be able to help relating to it. Let your kids read it, if they are old enough. Remember, the things we do and say can have a power beyond what we expect.