She’s 15 1/2 and there’s an intensity about her that doesn’t belong in a child. Everything about her radiates defiance. Her gaze is an open invitation for me to do something that’s anatomically impossible. I laugh and ask, “How pissed off are you to be here?”
I never know what folks are expecting the first time they’re in my office. I only know I’m not it.
Her expression suggested I was supposed to be judgmental, boring, and talk about touchy feely shit in impossibly clichéd ways. Instead I share my observation that she’s the only healthy person in her family. Validation involves calling a spade a spade.
She’s impressed but trying not to show it. She asks if I’m going to analyze her? I explain that analysis is boring and that it’s better if I just go with my gut. I study her eyes and am surprised that she doesn’t look away. Hell, this kid doesn’t even blink. She throws the gauntlet down and demands to know what I see.
“You’re intuitive. You know how to read people. You know when someone is lying. You’re detached from most of your emotions. You used to worry a lot and now you’re trying pretty hard not to care about anything. You went too far though – you meant to detach, but you ended up losing yourself in the process.”
She shrugs. “What else?”
“You’re scary smart.” She rolls her eyes. “You’re just saying that to be nice.”
She didn’t object to my read on her survival skills so I turn it around and invite her to read me. “Do I seem like someone who tells people things to just be nice?” She studies my face. “No. You just tell people what the truth is.”
“Right. So, what do you want to know?” She looks around my office and her eyes land on a painting of a woman coming out of a dark place. “I like that one”, she points. I tell her a story about transformation and rising above where you come from.
She changes the subject. She tells me how fucked up the world is and why there’s no point in caring. I take in the whole rant about her generation being screwed before it was born and agree. She came into the world at a pretty weird time and we’ve been at war most of her life.
She waits for my response. “Apathy is a reasonable defense given the world you live in, but ultimately it leads to not giving a fuck and that’s depressing. Besides, the world didn’t break your heart. Your family did. You feel alone in the world and that’s really sad.”
“You swear a lot.”
“Yeah, I do. I like strong words because they convey strong feelings. I’m a passionate person and I say what I believe. I believe you’re pretty angry, bored, and disappointed. I think you want to have a voice and be heard. You want to talk with someone who can actually challenge you.”
“To do what?”
“To believe in yourself, to care, to invest in you. Everyone tells you that you have huge potential but no one tells you what to do with it other than to do good in school.”
She’s suddenly sheepish, “I don’t really get what potential is.”
“It’s what you could become. It’s what you’re capable of. It’s your capacity to learn and change and overcome. It’s about giving a damn even when it hurts to. It’s about putting everything out there and not being a slacker because you want to have a kick ass life.”
She’s curious, “I think I might want to do what you do. What do I have to do to get a job like yours?”
“You have to get right with yourself. Oh, yeah and then there’s college and stuff. It’s probably more important that we deal with your rage and .”
The hour is about up. One more jaded kid whose shell holds her back. One more father who fucked up and didn’t invest. One more single mother working two jobs. One more kid who gets Green Day playing in my head:
I don’t care.
I don’t care if you don’t
I don’t care if you don’t
I don’t care if you don’t care.” – “Jesus of Suburbia”
We’ve got a whole generation to invest in. Let’s stop leaving the job to the teachers, social workers and half assed substitutes for a father like a good therapist.