There's been a running thread of thoughts peeking in and out of my mind all summer, and it seems that lots of things conspire to keep me thinking along the same lines. Or maybe since I'm already thinking of "it", then my devious mind is making connections to various experiences I have.
Start: early in the summer I got a call that a previous colleague had committed suicide in the past few days. Aside from being horrific and so sad, it started the thoughts in my brain. This person seemed fine. This person was a great teacher. This person had tons to contribute. This person seemed happy with life. The public face I saw of this person gave no indication of the turmoil that must have been going on inside.
Now this is not a post about suicide, but I guess more about how we perceive the experience of others' lives. I'm guessing you have interaction(s) with people, and you make a judgment about how you think their lives are going. Many times you think: wow, they have a great life, or how lucky are they, or look how much they have or have it together. I'm wondering what percentage of the time you are wrong, and maybe it's a much higher percentage than you would think.
Next: I don't have cable TV at home for various reasons: husband severely dislikes TV, I don't get home until late, if I had convenient TV, I could see myself sucking away a ton of time channel surfing and watching. Anyway, that's not to say I don't like TV. When I go away on trips where I happen to be alone, one of my treats is to channel surf away late into the night at my heart's desire. On my past trip I came across the MTV show, "If you really knew me". I guess it was episode 101 (from the pictures on the website). Here was another instance on the same theme running through my head. You may see these students daily and know their public persona but not the struggles they're going through.
Next: During the same trip I was reading, "Mrs. Perfect", and the main character looked as if she had a fabulous life, but ..... well you get the picture.
Next: Love math, but also love other non-math blogs and check them either daily, or frequently. On one such blog, I came across a link that AGAIN added to my pile of thoughts on this topic. From browsing her other posts, she's an author and teacher and I picture her as seeming to have a ton going for her. Then you scrape a little deeper and see that she's going through this gut-wrenching continuous heartache.
Finally: I've been to a workshop these past 2 days, and in the course of it got to meet 2 new educators to our school. The first day they seemed outwardly fine about the coming school year. Now I just have to say that my new-to-me-school-of-one-year is an intense school with high expectations of everyone. I only mention this because of what happened the 2nd day of the workshop. I don't know how the conversation got started the 2nd morning, but one of the teachers said, "after yesterday I went home and started panicking and doubting myself about being able to do a good job next year." The second new person heaved a relief sigh and echoed that she had the same thoughts. Now if they hadn't shared this, I'm guessing I'd have continued to see them in a certain light of "everything's fine and functioning as it should be" instead of "take extra care to make sure they're okay".
So while this is continually popping up in my thoughts when I was wandering around Philadelphia, I took time to look at people I passed. There was the usual person type of "I look smashing", "I have it together", "my life is great" mixed in with others. But I have to wonder and most likely, no, they could possibly be going through some painful events and they're just continuing to function.
What do I come away with for all this wondering? I guess more of an awareness and a thought to treat everyone as if they're a precious commodity and not make assumptions as to how excellent things may be going for them (which may lead to me not treating them so gently or making me question my life experience more). For various reasons life is hard many times in different ways for everyone, and though it may not solve everything, hugs and smiles and kind thoughts towards others may help.