As my family were leaving my apartment after spending Mother’s Day together, my youngest brother turned to me and said, “You must be lonely here by yourself.” I did not know how to respond; I mushed the side of his face, propelling him through the door a bit faster than he anticipated, causing him to stumble. Don’t judge me. I am a great big brother…I am.
Though it has been a few weeks, I have returned to his words often because he was right. While he was referencing the fact that I live by myself, his words carried more heft than he anticipated. In his infinite wisdom as a tween, he was able to, with pinpoint accuracy, name a feeling that I have felt since I was roughly his age. It began in middle school, when I could not hang out with my friends from my neighborhood because of school work. It has not ended.
I listened to her share her senior project to a crowded room of interested friends, faculty, and family. We were all there to hear excerpts from her comparative essay about the life of a middle schooler, one from private school and one from public school. She thoughtfully named the piece, “A Tough Act to Follow,” alluding to the “acting” that she noticed throughout her time with the students. She followed both students for a week, recording notes from conversations and observations. Propping my chin with a closed fist, while my elbow rested on my thigh, a few tears escaped, rolling down my cheeks from the corner of my left eye. I clearly understood and identified with her range of emotions: she expressed the anger she felt when she realized her bubble of privilege as a private school student; she spoke of the gratefulness to have the opportunity to complete this assignment; she struggled with her journalistic desire to be objective while writing her essay because she had clear, strong feelings about what she experienced; she mentioned the hope and enthusiasm that she witnessed within both school settings; most importantly, she spoke of the loneliness she felt and how it affected her final days of her high school career.
I wept for her because I could her the raising and falling pain and joy in her voice throughout the presentation.
I wept for the many before her and the many after her that will undoubtedly feel that feeling as they move through the private school stratosphere, moving from one elite institution to another, each step taking them further away from what they knew. (Editor’s note: the presence of friends from similar backgrounds/experience helps alleviate those negative feelings…sometimes.)
I wept for myself because as my little brother correctly stated I too know that feeling.