This is me.
I love that song. In fact, so do my children. My seven-year-old daughter loves belting out the ballad while riding in the car, and my lovely two-year-old son follows suit, crooning, “This is me!!!” while waving his chubby arms in the air.
This is me.
The senior class I advised this past school year chose that powerful melody as their graduation song, and honestly, when I first heard of their choice, I was a bit mystified. It’s an awfully challenging tune to sing because, well, lets face it, Keala Settle has the voice of a soulful angel. How would a group of a hundred-something seventeen-year-olds perform the tune? And in synchronization?
In the end, the class worked out the logistics of getting everyone swaying in time and singing together, and whenever I hear those lyrics, “I am brave, I am bruised, I am who I’m meant to be–this is me,” I am reminded of this eclectic class and how that powerful ballad really was the best choice, as everything about the tune is rooted in them–the lyrics, the power, the emotions are all THEM. The song also reminds me of one other thing:
HIGH SCHOOL IS DANG HARD.
No joke. Freshman through senior year may seriously be one of the most challenging moments in any person’s life. As a high school English teacher, I often times forget that a student’s life does not revolve around the symbolism in To Kill a Mockingbird or the irony of Mark Twain. Romantic relationships are being formed and broken. Identities are being tried out, retired, and then tried out again. Family bonds are shifting. Pressures to belong to a certain group of friends are mounting. Throw into the mix the stress of athletics, clubs, church (if one attends), AND academics, and it’s easy to see how navigating (and just surviving) through four years of high school is enough to drive any student a bit crazy.
There were many times this year when I wondered to myself, “How can XXX ‘just forget’ that there’s homework?!” Well, it’s actually pretty easy, now that I have time to really sit and think about what high school is like. Or what MY high school experience was like.
Trying to “dress unorthodox and unique” in Dr. Martins and short skirts so that I could outwardly show that I “didn’t care” what others thought about me, when all I wanted was for a friend to not bat an eye at my throwback to Courtney Love’s grunge style and instead like me because I was me.
Analyzing every inch of my face for blemishes or big red zits so that I could erase those marks by scrubbing, exfoliating, and clay-masking the clogged pores, almost as if I was attempting to erase all of the outward imperfections in my life.
Praying for a boyfriend, some guy to walk to the snack bar with and hold hands with so that others would see me with a cute boy and think, “Wow, that Lauren, she must be something if THAT guy likes her.”
Notice the theme. I was consumed by how I presented, how others perceived me, how I wanted them to see me. It was exhausting, mentally, emotionally, and physically.
And I’m pretty sure that same issue–desiring an outward appearance of perfection and acceptance–is an issue that many of my students are grappling with. Everyone wants to belong. Everyone wants to feel needed and loved. It’s human nature. But to have to go through the process of finding true friends, maintaining strong bonds, and discovering strength in oneself during these incredibly trying and stressful high school years is daunting.
And so when I hear “This is Me”, I too belt out the lyrics with gusto, and more times than not, I get a bit teary-eyed when I sing, “When the sharpest words wanna cut me down, I’m going to send a flood, I’m going to drown them out…this is me.”
I think about the different individuals in this past year’s senior class who lived out the lyrics to this song. I see how life’s challenges could have broken them down, yet in the end, although a bit bruised and scarred, they came out stronger and more resilient. I see how many of them didn’t just survive the four years of high school, but rode the ups and downs of adolescence head on and came out that much wiser and ready to face the next chapters of their lives.
I think about the seventeen-year-old Lauren, who nineteen years ago had a high school diploma in hand, but lacked the insight and strength that these 2018 graduates have.
I think about how long it took me to come to the realization that God molded me perfectly and wonderfully in His image, that the things I saw as imperfections were actually beautiful and unique because they were created by the ultimate creator.
They are brave, and although it’s taken me a bit longer to catch up to them, I too know I am brave. They are bruised. And so I am I. But one fact remains.
This. Is. Me.