Friday, September 19, 2008

Some Things In Life Should Remain A Mystery

Junior year Psychology class was one of many classes that I remember from High School. On one particularly interesting afternoon, the teacher told us: “These are the best years of your life, so enjoy them because after this--it’s over!” Not something that a psychology teacher should be telling young, impressionable 17 year olds who are neither wise nor emotionally mature enough to handle it.

One of the students, and a close friend of mine, looked at her incredulously and said, “Well then Mrs. T., I think we should just throw in the towel because if it gets any worse, then forget it!” I looked at Mrs. T. the way that I look at everyone who strikes my interest; I smiled at her and was eagerly waiting to hear how she was going to crawl herself out of the massive hole that she had notably dug herself in.

She stared at this student and made a sound that resembled a nervous laugh and fashioned, what seemed to be, a constipated-like smile, and proceeded to say:

“What I mean to say is that you should consider yourself lucky that you are living a charmed life right now; you are living in a nice, small town protected from the harsh cruelties and realities of life and attend a school with a wonderful reputation … ” (Note: memory may not be as good today as it was then, but this was pretty much the gist of her comments.)

It is interesting how I never forgot that moment and those words. It’s funny how some thing just stay with you—one of the powers of being a teacher, I guess—hear that all you teachers?

I remember this not only for her apparent misstep in trying to teach immature 17 year olds the true meaning of life and the burdens and responsibilities, therein—because let’s face it, if she hadn’t recovered from that little fiasco, then the headline in the morning paper could have read something like: Mrs. T’s 6th period psychology students found dead in murder suicide. Mrs. T. (Psychologist) can you explain this??

I remembered her words, now almost 25 years later, and thought about them often while I walked through the years of my life; through all of the ups and downs and the harsher discoveries that I had to face—and learn from. Looking back, I think she was right in some respects and wrong in others. But I do know what she was trying to teach us: that we needed to appreciate our “easy” teenage life (in retrospect)—for the short time that we still had them; but, sadly, that lesson was just too big for teenagers to handle—there are just some things in life that should remain a mystery.

I did see Mrs. T. again at a restaurant in my hometown a few years ago; she was a frail, older, grey-haired woman, and she was peacefully sipping her wine while staring out into the harbor. And when I was approaching her table I thought about reaching out to her and delicately touching her shoulder to say hello. I was certain that she would remember me, as I am certain that all teachers, likewise, remember their students; but as I approached her table I thought about what I would say to her. Do I tell her that I understood what she was trying to tell us that day in class—a day that maybe she, too, was going through a tough time in her own life; or do I say nothing more than a quick hello and leave my life a mystery—as some things just should be; or do I merely walk away without ever touching her shoulder or saying one word, and choose to be remembered as the happy, smiling girl who always enjoyed her 6th period psychology class.

So I walked away, as if I hadn’t seen her; but I duly noted her peaceful smile while she looked out into the harbor.

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