Life has a way of happening in waves. Waves of good times: laughing with friends, enjoying a sunset, or traveling somewhere new and exciting. And, of course, waves of bad times — loss, loneliness, and the like.
I use the word “waves” intentionally: in the ocean, being overtaken by a wave is out of your control. In the wave, you can’t pay attention to anything else going on outside of that moment. Sometimes it can be fun, and sometimes it can be terrifying. Similarly, these “waves” in life are all consuming.
The past week has, for me and many around the world, been a bad wave. It carried an incredible amount of loss: loss of life in Paris, the Middle East, and Kenya.
Closer to home, at my alma mater, we lost an incredible friend, West Summers.
Any loss is tragic, but there is something especially harrowing about the loss of someone so young and full of promise.
Given this, I have found the last few days in Thailand to be challenging. Grieving is never easy, but being away from home, I felt like I could not fully process what had happened. Like many, I found it difficult to walk outside and find the world was still spinning just the same.
On top of that, Thais are especially concerned about others well being, and when I went to school with my fake-as-could-be smile, the incessant questioning began: “Teacher, are you happy?” And, “Teacher, are you sick?”
I never was one for hiding how I felt.
While it is nice to have others concerned for me, I have been in a slump. But today, I was inspired by my students to try to move foreword.
Every day, my class ends with a resounding “Thank you Teacher Janie, see you tomorrow!” in unison (and yes, it is as precious as it sounds).
Hearing their sweet and sincere words in the wake of West’s death, I was reminded of the recent campaign from the non-profit “To Write Love on Her Arms” for World Suicide Prevention Day. The campaign was called “We’ll See You Tomorrow.”
“Above all else, we choose to stay. We choose to fight the darkness and the sadness, to fight the questions and the lies and the myth of all that’s missing. We choose to stay, because we are stories still going. Because there is still some time for things to turn around, time for surprises and for change. We stay because no one else can play our part.
Life is worth living.
We’ll see you tomorrow.”
While my students don’t have in mind this heavy second interpretation, it struck me today that (forgive me, this is about to get cliche) every day truly is a gift. Some days require the fake, everything-is-fine, smile. But things can change, and things can get better.
Moreover, some days are too hard, and we need help to get by. This experience has been a humbling reminder for me to not be too busy or too distracted to be a friend.
So, this is me virtually reaching out across the oceans and continents to tell everyone back home I love you, I miss you, I’m thinking about you, and it’s gonna get better. See you tomorrow.