I can’t help but keep asking myself, what if the New York Times got it wrong?
Two weeks ago, the cover of the NYT Sunday Magazine featured an article with the title, “The Lost Year,” and the picture of a very lonely and sad-looking student sitting in an empty classroom. Something about this, aside from the obvious, has been bothering me ever since and I finally think I’ve figured out what it is. What if the NYT got it wrong?
Is this “The Found Year”?
What if this isn’t The Lost Year at all? What if this is actually The Found Year?
What if this is The Found Year when, rather than sending my teenagers off to school at ungodly hours of the morning, only to see them again when they return long after dinner has ended, I get to check in with my daughter about the rigors of AP Chem when she rolls out of her bedroom midmorning in a cute top and pajama shorts to grab a quick snack in the kitchen?
What if this is The Found Year, when my eighth grader with a learning disability gains a few precious hours to surf after the torture of online school ends, and I see him really smile for the first time since middle school started two years ago?
What if this is The Found Year, when the daily frustration of trying to learn from home drives his twin brother to new depths of anger, which forces him to develop new skills to handle the big feelings that come with loneliness and challenge?
What if this is The Found Year, when my children learn that they are not the epicenter of the universe, that life is hard, and that sometimes you have to just suck it up and deal when the inevitable happens and things don’t go your way?
What if this is The Found Year that compels this type-A overachiever to rethink what the role of our education system is in the first instance, and whether it isn’t simply an outdated construct, an anachronism in a digital age?
What if this is The Found Year that teaches all of us, but especially our children, the technological skills needed to thrive in a 21st-century world? More importantly, what if this is the year that further brings into stark relief the deep unfairness of a technological economy where there is unequal access to the tools needed to succeed?
And what if this is The Found Year that shows me, with gut-wrenching clarity, the unthinkably cruel daily realities of my BIPOC family and friends, and forces me to ask myself what I am going to do about it now that I (finally) know better?
What if this is the year when I at long last begin to understand the profound unfairness of white privilege and systemic racism, my unwitting part in it as a beneficiary, and how I can begin to be an ally and part of the solution?
Profound suffering and deep gratitude can coexist
What if this is The Found Year that reminds me, once again, that it is possible for profound suffering and deep gratitude to coexist?
I know that this is true, because I have learned it before.
I know how it feels to be diagnosed with a progressive and potentially deadly disease that has no cure, and how it feels to wonder, in those quiet moments before I get out of bed in the morning, whether I will feel my feet that day.
I know how it feels to sit, helpless, at a beloved child’s hospital bedside while they languish on life support, trying to die for 121 days.
I know how it feels to cry until I am thirsty.
I know how it feels to watch the screen turn black and hear the siren bleat its single long tone as I bear witness to the death of another family’s child and taste the metallic flavor of grief rise in the back of my own throat.
I know how it feels to be so sad for so long that one day, when I don’t cry, I’m not sure if it’s because things are actually getting better or because my body just can’t handle one more day of feeling.
I know how it feels to love so hard and so excruciatingly that you desperately want it to stop, but it doesn’t, so you just keep loving.
And I know how it feels to suffer so much that I finally understand that I am not in charge of anything, and that there is only one real choice left to be made.
We can’t control everything but we can control our choices
Will I allow this to break me, or break me open?
What if this is The Found Year when, in these precious few moments I have left before my teenaged people leave the nest and soar, I am painfully reminded that, as seemingly impossible as it is sometimes, I always have a choice?
And so, today I choose to listen. I choose to learn. I choose to challenge. I choose to march. I choose to vote. I choose to help. I choose to love, with my whole heart.
Above all, I choose to be found.
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