1. the ability to do something that frightens one.
2. strength in the face of pain or grief.
In my opinion, there should be a third.
3. the ability of a student to wake up every morning to a new day of school.
Adults will say that high school doesn't matter. They'll say that we'll get over it, to just walk away, and put a smile on our face. They're too afraid of what will happen if just one teenage kid decides to actually think for themselves for once.
If for some reason you think this story is about the fact that high schoolers are "Brave" and deserve to be recognized? You're dead wrong. Instead, this is about how a majority of students have been molded into bold-faced cowards. That includes me.
Today I told my mom that school was great. I mean, why shouldn't I? It was just a normal day after all.
The boy who sexually assaulted me when I was ten sat next to me in English. My friend behind me made a rape joke, and everyone laughed. I did too.
The girl who bullied me in freshman year called me her friend, and asked me if my brother was still single. I said he was. Maybe she actually likes me now.
At lunched I watched one friend not eat, and another one disappear to vomit up her lunch. The school counselor asked us how our food was. We all laughed and said it tasted great.
I was in the cafeteria when the paramedics ran in. Apparently some kid I didn't know overdosed in the school locker room. Nobody even looked shocked.
A girl in gym class was called a whale, and fifteen minutes later I was helping her conceal her cut-up wrists with athletic tape. No questions were asked. I already understood.
My friend who gets beat by his momma was grabbed by a teacher, and he flinched so badly at first I thought someone punched him. The teacher never apologized, but my friend did.
In Spanish the teacher asked where four of the students were. Nobody answered but we all knew. Two were in an inpatient facility, one was still crying in a bathroom stall, and another had dropped out three weeks ago.
My friend got a B+ on her math test and she said "I want to die". It was followed by a chorus of "Me too" and "Same". Teachers don't seem to understand that a B- is failing in our eyes.
It was on the news that morning that a graduated senior had been stabbed down in the cities. He's dead now. Half the kids made jokes. Half the kids didn't even know him.
I watched a snapchat of two boys calling a gay couple "dykes" and "faggots". There was an uproar when they were suspended for a day because I guess they didn't do anything wrong.
A boy told me to kill myself and I just shrugged. "Been there, done that" I responded. He looked at me, gave a half-frown, and said "Me too".
I watched a girl have a panic attack so violent about public speaking she had to go home. Her paper was so beautifully written...but the teacher still gave her an F.
The freshman girl called a prude when she wasn't blowing every guy she saw, and labeled a whore when she came to school pregnant.
All in all? That was just a pretty normal day. In one day all that happened. I think it's normal. I mean, it doesn't shock me at all. It doesn't make me hurt. I've been brought up to believe that boys will be boys, kids will be kids, and teenagers will be damn stupid. I hear stories about teenagers destroying property, drinking, smoking, and having sex. I think it's because we so desperately are crying for attention but terrified to ask for help. My parents say it's because they're just teenagers, and that they deserve what they had coming.
It made me wonder if holding a girls hand in secret made me deserve the stares and the shoves and the look in my fathers eyes as he asked my mom how he could raise a faggot. In the end, I always get the same answer. I do deserve it. There is something wrong with me. There is something wrong with me for liking a girl yet still going to church every Sunday. There is something wrong with the way I panic every time I see her in the halls, so damn terrified that she'll yell out my name and somehow word will spread all around school.
There is something wrong with all of us teens.
I'm a coward, because I see all of this every day and I never say anything.
I'm a coward, because I cried the first time I kissed a girl.
I'm a coward, because I didn't do anything when my father and brother made racist jokes at the dinner table.
I'm a coward, not because I AM one. No, but because YOU see me as one.
You view me as a coward. You view all of us as cowards. You view all of us as trouble-makers and whores and no good idiots. You forget that you were us once.
We're not the cowards you say we are. We are brave. We are the third definition and all of the rest as well.
Because on Febuary 24th I called 911 and saved myself from commiting suicide. On March 19th my friend stepped in front of his little sister when his mom swung at her. On May 2nd my brother put down the bottle and stopped drinking himself to sleep at night. On July 30th my best friend ate her first full meal in days, and kept eating. Every day we make choices. Every day we wake up and go to school. We choose to keep going. We choose to rise up. We choose to live another day, hold another hand, and dream another dream. We stand united against all of those who push us down, even if those oppressors are ourselves.
Every morning my alarm goes off, and I ask myself if it is worth it. To keep going. To keep pushing through for that tiny glimmer of hope I somehow latched onto in a world where hope is beginning to be hopeless. Each and every day for 5,764 days I have had the courage to say that it IS worth it.
So has my brother. So has my family. So has the guy that you buy groceries from, and so has the college student accepting his diploma. So has all 7.2 billion people on the planet right now.
So have you.
So that, is courage. Not a hero in a story. Not a voice that stood up. Not a saint or a volunteer or a soldier. All of them are brave, yes, but as a whole? We ALL are. So I believe that courage should rewrite it's definition. Not to students or grief or pain. Instead?
1. the most astounding trait that binds all humans together as one.