I’ve been ruminating a lot as of late about the people who have unexpectedly and perhaps unknowingly left a significant mark on my life. It’s strange to think that some of these people may have already completely forgotten that I exist, but that actually gives me a level of comfort that I can’t fully explain.
The first person that crosses my mind every time I drift through these kinds of thoughts is my 8th grade English teacher. Let’s call her Ms. K. In 2008 I experienced my first real breakdown at school. I was on the way to English class, extremely distressed and trying my hardest to suppress the growing tension in the back of my throat. Then right before entering the room, I did a full 180 and fled. There was absolutely no where to be alone but the bathrooms so I ended up locking myself in there before drenching my textbooks in tears. I let myself cry for nearly 20 minutes straight until student-anxiety kicked in and I started panicking about all the possible repercussions of cutting class. Reluctantly, I dragged myself back towards our English room. Before I could fabricate a plausible excuse for being late, my history teacher jumped in front of me, gaping at my puffy eyes and swollen red nose and asked with much genuine concern what was wrong. She eventually found Ms. K, who took me upstairs to the fancy teachers’ lounge I didn’t even know existed.
It was just us two, and for the first time I felt permitted – no, it felt okay – to talk about what I was feeling. I can’t recall a time since that day where I’ve found myself able and at my own volition to speak honestly and unfiltered whilst emotionally inundated. She was ready to listen and help and I was so intrigued by how accepting she was of my messy blubbering state that I continued spilling out everything and didn’t really give much thought to what may have been too personal. I told her things that I’ve never told anyone else and it took me a few years to realise why.
I felt no pressure to not look weak in front of her and I knew she wasn’t going to discredit my feelings or thoughts. That alone was enough for me to voice what I only realised after our talk was okay to think and okay to feel.
Aside from the unfamiliar but definitely welcomed compassion and readiness to listen, Ms. K’s continued support after our talk left a real impression on me. We organised a few catch-ups over lunch or during free periods so she could help me with my work, and I ended up dedicating a lot of time and extra effort into that last English assignment of the semester (and my last at the school). Whether it was entirely deserved or partially out of bias and as a nice farewell note will forever be a mystery to me, but I got full marks on that assignment. It was a creative writing piece, and yeh, it was actually pretty fucking good. And, I rarely ever think that about anything I do. I’d say it almost gave me some sort of validation and emotional relief from this really low space I’d been sitting in for a long time. Even if it was just to boost my confidence or help prevent me from imploding, the little things she did for me were things I really needed at the time and that will always stick with me.