Today marks such a momentous occasion for many of our young people. It is the day our senior students complete their final formal lessons as high school students. They are not ‘out of the woods’ yet as such: they still have exams, formals and graduation to go. However, their days of life being governed by school bells, uniforms, lunch breaks and formal schooling are essentially over.
The baby birds of twelve years ago have grown into fully-fledged eagles ready to stretch their wings and soar.
I love seeing all the excitement, fanfare and sense of achievement these young adults are enjoying. They have all had their personal difficulties along the way, and deserve to be able to share their success together at the end of their schooling journey. It is a privilege to be involved in their celebration. It pains me though, knowing that there are others amongst them who do not share this same sense of success: those who do not feel the freedom to relish this moment, appreciating who they are and all that they have achieved.
My heart is heavy this week for a young person I know who is going through a tremendously difficult time. I have watched her struggle and seen the pain on her face week in and week out as the weight of life usurps the joy that most in their final stages of schooling face. You see, this young person was born a boy. I met her as a boy. She tried so hard to be a boy, and in fact, all but a select few of the school community know her as a boy.
She has tried so very hard for so very long to be the boy that her parents, her friends, and everyone around her wanted her to be. Her body feels alien to her – she feels displaced – like the personification of some kind of catastrophic chromosomal error. She has finally come to the realisation that the physical form she was born with does not match the person that she believes with every fibre of her being that she truly is. And the temptation right now to dwell and dissolve into the sense of failure, disappointment and shame for being so very different and ‘unnatural’, is so very real that it eats away at her every single day.
It is not a completely different situation to those faced by other individuals in our school community. We have a growing population of students who find themselves in a similar position during their teenage years. Many of us don’t understand, and that’s perfectly ok – we don’t need to. Why would we, unless we had experienced it for ourselves or been part of someone else’s journey? The point is, however, that our collective ignorance of this experience doesn’t make it any less real or painful for those coming out the other side.
This young person I know is right now facing the challenge of her life – she has left her cocoon of safety and is trying out her bright, colourful new wings. The sad thing for her is that her family is grieving the loss of their caterpillar.
And whether or not they will ever embrace their winged beauty remains to be seen.
So to you, my young friend, with your stunning array of colours, lift your head and fly high with your new wings. You are valuable, worthwhile and very, very loved.
Go forth with your friends and your beautiful colours and allow yourself the freedom to soar.