The hard things about transitioning to adulthood for Schuyler aren’t always necessarily the big stuff like getting a job or independent living or relationships. I mean, don’t get me wrong, those are big questions. They are like the kaiju of questions. (Ask a nerd what that means.) Sometimes the greatest challenge for Schuyler is simply wrapping her head around the life stuff, understanding the things that happen to other people and the world that she herself experiences fully but with a perspective and comprehension that feels mostly unknowable to me.
This has been something of a heartsick week for us, with a lot to digest. A close friend suffered an unbearable tragedy last week, a calamity that deeply touched everyone who knows their family, I imagine. Schuyler has watched me all week as I work through my own feelings of empathetic helplessness. She’s tried to process with me, both because of her very real affection for our friend and also out of her own dawning awareness of an uncomfortable fact: It turns out there really are devils among us.
Schuyler continues to build a world around herself, and sometimes that means making space for the monsters and the earthquakes and the hidden traps that wait to spring out and destroy the careless. As a parent, it’s tempting to try to soothe the world’s edges, but of course that’s counterproductive, particularly with a seventeen year-old, even one as different as Schuyler. She sees the grief of others and she tries to take it on herself, partly because she is literally the most empathetic person I’ve ever known, but also, I think perhaps she’s trying it on a little. Terrible things happen to good people, Schuyler observes, and so she plays with that grief and that heartbreak in her imagination, just in case she ever needs it for herself.
It’s not much fun for her, but perhaps it’s not a bad thing. Perhaps it’s necessary.
The past few months have been challenging for Schuyler. The true nature of many of her relationships at school have been unclear to her, for instance. And like many of us, the election confused and depressed her, coming as it did after that horrible video which made such an impression on her. Towering above all else, the future looms ahead of her like a sheer cliff standing conspicuously unclimbed.
Next week, she and I will be presenting on a panel about inclusion at the SXSWedu Conference and Festival. Schuyler will have her own spot on the panel, and about half an hour to kill. We’ve been working on her presentation, focusing on the different aspects of her life and her inclusive experience in public schools, and so she’s been compelled to formulate her thoughts and feelings on a lot of aspects of her life that she’d previously just been sort of experiencing without reflection.
One of the things I’ve always struggled with over the years is trying to understand Schuyler’s world. That task feels more crucial than ever for me, because it seems like her world is becoming more of a mystery to Schuyler, too.
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