You would absolutely freak if you heard that noise that sounded just like a gun going off in the corner of the office today- a little faint, sure and probably a Nerf gun if I had to guess. But you would definitely run to the bathroom as fast as you could and shake with anxiety and without stopping because you were never great at convincing yourself that it wasn’t your greatest nightmare. Don’t stress it- I did the same thing.
You definitely will want to avoid big groups after you hear the news, so you’ll probably go ahead and skip the school dance. That’s okay- I’m already thinking of ways to avoid my next trip to the grocery store.
You’d hear Orlando, Florida and think to yourself “I just can’t believe it’s getting closer to home.” You have no idea that someday you’ll think of Orlando, Florida as home.
You wouldn’t do well this week. I hate to tell you that- I know you want to hear that you’re doing better, but you still have a lot of counseling up ahead. I think a lot of us do.
I can’t promise that this is something that you’ll grow out of when you get older. I think I’m probably what you think of when you think older, and I haven’t quite grown out of it yet. But I promise someday you’ll do better than you’re doing now. I hope that helps a little? You’ll think about it less and you’ve got lots of great memories you can distract yourself with when you feel like you can’t do anything but think about the horror.
Keep hating the way that they talk about the shooter- you’re young, but you’re right. Nobody wants to celebrate him and it’s not okay that he’s getting all (or any) attention.
You feel free to stay focused on the victims. You’ll feel sad, I know, but they were people and they hated Colonial Drive and they loved this city. . It’s pretty likely that someday you’ll share a Publix with some of them, or maybe even a dance floor or two. I probably did. They have families and friends and middle school chums that are coming out of the woodwork on Facebook that are hurting so much. You know someones who know someones on that list so knock it off with the whole thinking of it as a list thing. You can do better. Learn their names, learn their lives. I know you’re so scared, but focus on them and their stories. You can learn about the unique and beautiful lives they lived without focusing on the ugly hate that took them. They were complex people that were known and loved and had distinct laughs and favorite pairs of jeans and they all went out for a night of fun and it’s not okay what happened to them while they were dancing. They were brave, and as for their loved ones? What’s next for them takes courage so keep rooting for them, okay?
I know you’re not great at the prayer thing right now. It gets easier, but not on days like this. I’m told we shouldn’t worry about it too much though. There’s no right way to do this, I guess. So if you’re up for it, pray like crazy. But don’t beat yourself up if you can’t for a couple days. I get it. I’ve been there.
Be a part of showing love when you can, you got it? I know it all feels really personal and close, but this is something affecting everyone deeply. Don’t minimize your own fears and experiences that make it hard on you, but don’t you for a single second forget that there are people who are fiercely grieving a loved one. That there are people in the hospital holding onto their lives with all they’ve got. That there are people who have dropped everything to provide care. Who ran into the chaos. Who haven’t slept since. Don’t forget that you have friends who are genuinely terrified that because of who they are they could be next. This isn’t just something you’re scared of anymore that you talk through in the school psychologist’s office. It’s real for so many people.
This is yours, sure. I wont try and take that from you cause no one knows better than I do how well that’d go over. But it’s not just yours and there’s a lot of bittersweet freedom in that. You should be hearing other people’s thoughts and struggles and fears. Remember how that’s how we silence some of those ugly voices in our head. Be helpful and silence other people’s too. I’d bet there’s someone that needs you to be strong enough to share your weaknesses and to embrace them in theirs.
Your friends that helped you through the other week- ya know, the whole Virginia Tech thing- they’ll be the same ones that will call you when they hear. That’s pretty cool, huh? I thought you’d like knowing they’re still around. And good news- you’ve got a handful of new friends too that have stepped into something with you wholeheartedly. You better hold onto both of these groups tight. They’re good people and they’re yours.
I wanted to tell you one more thing, cause I know you’ve got a lot of teenage angst to get to and probably some very important updates to make to your Myspace. Just one more thing.
Don’t hide. Don’t withdraw. Don’t isolate. It’s a scary world out there, and more than ever people are feeling like it could happen to them anywhere anytime. I know you know that feeling, so relate but don’t regress. You need to remember how hard you’ve fought to overcome some of this stuff and to never ever give in to those fears of yours again. That’s letting them win, remember? And we don’t want them to win. So. Throw on some clothes (please, not the pink and black board shorts), grab that geography book (maybe glance at it real quick too?) and get to school.
You’ve gotta lot of learning to do and so do I.