I just couldn’t stop thinking last night.
And that happens a lot, and to a lot of people. Worries, obligations, to-do lists, revisiting the day– all of these keep us awake from time to time, or even many nights a week.
Last night was different though, because I couldn’t stop thinking about him.
He’s a student in my class, an overachiever, a pleasant kid with a quiet disposition. Many would have good things to say about him– hard working, cooperative, responsible.
But he’s hurting.
A couple of weeks ago he missed a few days. No big deal, but I noticed. And when he returned, my kidding around was met with a harsh edge of abrupt responses.
But things improved and I didn’t think any more about it. Until he missed a couple more days about a week ago.
Yesterday I had a rare opportunity. The seniors were gone so I had two hours at the end of the day to work and get caught up.
He came to see me about a missing assignment, and since I didn’t have a class, I asked if he wanted to just work on it there so I could answer any questions.
We both worked, he asked an occasional question, and the mood was calm and serene. During this time, another student came in to turn in a project and she commented on the lone student.
“Aww, poor you! You’re all by yourself in here!” she said.
“It’s ok. I don’t mind being alone. Some people don’t like it, but I do. Sometimes it’s good to be alone.”
After working most of the hour, making small talk, he finally said, “Did I tell you why I was gone?” And the way the question was asked, it was clear that he knew he hadn’t. It was clear that this was a question posed as a means to share something important. It was clear that he had been struggling with how to approach this.
“No, what’s up?”
He shared that a good friend had recently passed away. An older friend who had just finished his first year of college. It was sudden. There was no time to say good-bye, no time to say how much the friendship meant, no time to prepare.
He shared that he always went through a mini-depression this time of year, and he had already been dealing with that, and then this happened.
He shared that he went into a tailspin, and had taken a couple of days off to recuperate. He was looking forward to the end of the year to rest and decompress after a stressful year of hard classes, standardized tests and the general pressures of being a teen.
I never take it lightly when a student confides in me. Never.
I offered condolences and empathy. I asked how he was doing now. I emphasized self-care and said I’d check in with him after the weekend.
And now I’ve been up all night. Piecing the absences and demeanor together. Developing a timeline of events. Questioning what I said. Wondering what I should have said. Replaying the conversation over and over. Planning conversations for next week. Hoping I didn’t say anything damaging.
It’s a holiday weekend. Three days to relax and hang out and rejuvenate.
And I’ll allow myself to do that.
But he’ll be on my mind.
*Some details have been changed to protect the identity of this individual.