It has been a really stressful week, the kind that gives you knots in your stomach and makes you feel like happy will never come back. As much as I love the work, the system is starting to take its toll.
I love the kids I work with, but the people and institutions I have to work with are challenging. There is a lot of power and control and games that I don’t want to play.There is a reason I have been a freelancer most of my life!
The crazy heat wave here in LA did not help.
Around the Jewish High Holidays I get particularly homesick. I miss Israel, my home, and my family in a way that is hard to describe.
It has been a hard week.
I wasn’t as kind as I should have been to a few people and some doors closed so hard in my face that I almost lost my balance. It definitely made me lose my focus.
Today in Juvie we talked about the choices we make, about when we could have made a different choice and how it would have affected us. I ask them to complete three sentences:
“If I could have…”
“Then I would have…”
“So now I will…"
I ask them to fill in the blanks, not to make them regret, but to make them see that they have the power to make change.
“If I could have a high school diploma.
Then I would have the advantage to go to college and graduate.
So now I will have to accomplish these goals to be who I want to be in life,” writes one girl.
And another says, “If I could have my family back together,
Then I would have a better life
So now I will accept the fact that things will never be the same and move on.”
Oy! My girls are honest and candid; their stories are not easy.
Today it was a small group. I am hurt and angry at the administration, but I try to be as present as I can with the class.
They tell me their mistakes. We talk about how the first step is to own our mistakes. Only from there can we move forward.
One girl, totally off topic, says,
“Ya know, Ms., I did your politeness thing that we learned last week with the meanest probation officer alive. I said ‘please’ and I was nice, and, damn, it worked! She couldn’t help but give me what I wanted!!”
We all laughed.
Someone tells a story of drunk driving.
And then another said, “Actually when you are drunk and you drive, it’s good ‘cause when you are drunk you are super focused and you pay real good attention.”
I look at her.
“That is crazy!” I say. “There is nothing good about drunk driving!”
“No, no! Listen!” she says.
I must have been making a face because one of the girls started laughing and said,
“Look! Look at her face. She’s thinking, Wow! These are some crazy bitches!”
I laugh and say, “No, that’s not what I think. I think there is nothing good about drunk driving. And I don’t think you are crazy; I think what you just said is crazy.”
“Okay, listen!” she says. “Sometimes when you are off or out of it, that makes you focus and be clear. That’s all I am saying. It’s like this…” and she acts out a drunk person getting in a car and then she says,
“Oh man, I am drunk! I need to be careful!”
She sits up straight in the chair pretending to be fully alert and paying attention.
Everyone is laughing.
It is completely surreal.
“Okay,” I say. “Funny, but really, you know better right?”
“Listen,” she says again, as if I have been doing anything BUT listening.
“Sometimes when shit goes down, Ms., all you can do is look forward and focus on where you need to go.”
I am quiet.
“And if you don’t know where you need to go, just move forward. Be in fucking motion.”
I am staggered.
“Don’t worry, Ms., I don’t like to drink anyway, and I will not drink and drive.”
And I add, “No meth, no weed, no nothing and driving, okay?”
“Look at you,” she laughs. “Not bad, Ms. Not bad.”
I sat in the gym as the girls left absorbing the words they shared.
I need to just move forward and maybe that is what it is about – being or staying in motion.
My “drunk driver” comes out of the bathroom.
“You okay, Ms.?”
“Yes,” and I smile.
She asks, “Are you mad at me?”
“No, not at all,” I answered. “I’m just quiet today. I’m thinking.”
“Listen,” she says one more time,
“If I could have 100 wishes
Then I would have riches, fame, fortune, and unlimited everything.
So now I will look for a genie in a bottle.
Just keep looking, Ms., you will find what you need.”
I look at this girl, who thinks that driving drunk keeps you focused and that somewhere there is a genie who will solve all our problems.
She will turn 15 next week - in jail.
She is young and hopeful and, honestly, a sweet, sweet girl who has made some really bad choices.
She smiles the biggest smile and says, “Will I see you next week?”
And when I tell her yes, she says, “Well, stay focused.” And then she adds, “Just maybe without the booze.”
She laughs and walks away.
When I get home, I look at the paper she filled out with the writing assignment and on the bottom she doodled
“I love Relationships 101.”
And right there my happy came back.
It has been a stressful week, but next week will be better.
The heat wave will break. I will figure out how to navigate the dragons and their fire and I will stay in motion!!
Who knows? Maybe I’ll actually find what I am looking for!!!