One of the most enduring images of myself in my own mind is me, at 3 or 4 years of age, sitting in a swing at my preschool. I was younger than many of the kids in my class and therefore shorter. My feet dangled from the swing, my legs not long enough to reach the hollowed-out ground beneath it to propel the swing on my own. I had to ask for help to swing, when other children did not. That was when I began to feel as if I were set apart from others.
As a first-year teacher I was constantly told to develop a thicker skin. I was told I would not make it as a teacher if I cared about what the kids said about me.
Well, I'm sorry. I never learned how to thicken my skin. I never learned how to protect my heart. I never learned how to stop caring about the people I met, the children whose lives were even lonelier than mine had been. I never stopped being affected by their pain, even when they were taking out their pain on me.
I never learned how to stop getting my heart broken.
I think I might finally be okay with that.