Last week I received a compliment that I have never received before in my life. My boss in a little 'feedback on my first few months in the job' meeting said, and I quote, 'Well, I can't fault you on your work ethic.'
How times have changed. I really have spent most of my life, and certainly most of my school and work life, looking for ways to get out of it. I was a huge wagger and skiving off is still one of my favourite feelings. I love that sense of not being where you are supposed to be. The irony of my new position is not lost on me - I am the attendance officer in a secondary school. Ha! Karma is playing out.
I work surrounded by teenagers and I have to say, that is a privilege I never before understood. Everyday I am surrounded by life, energy, beauty, anxiety and the most heartbreaking vulnerability. These kids are, for the most part, from privileged backgrounds and, for the most part have achieved more, have given more community service and have better manners than I will ever have. If they are our future, I am comforted for its safekeeping.
But there is another side to this world. The pressure to achieve. The lost. The kids trapped in anxiety or drama. The kids trying desperately to hide or run away. Lots of kids going through the same thing, alone. They are me and I was them and the tragedy is that in the huge sad eyes of each one, I can read the lie I remember, the lie they tell themselves, 'I am the only'.
I hope it does not take these precious, fragile, beautiful children quite so long as me to call this a lie.
Better to be in life, than to glimpse it from over the edge of the doona. Better to turn up. The thrill of skiving off is dulled by hindsight and the gnawing irritation of 'what I could've achieved'.
14 year old me would not have had a bar of that, no matter how well explained. She would've done anything to stay away from the hostilities of school and life, the daily risk of humiliation, convinced that she was the only one who couldn't face it.
Maybe karma has placed me in the job as a lesson and a warning to the struggling youth:
'Turn up. Turn up physically, mentally, emotionally. Get help and turn up and face your fears. Or you too will spend your forties turning up five days a week to stand face to face with the turgid miasma of your teens.'
So much more easily said than done.