Updated: Aug 19
My experience as a teacher has given me the opportunity to witness and understand complex feelings on a daily basis. My classroom is an open, safe, supportive environment and my students are free to speak with me about any issue they are dealing with. I have found that the majority of my students are happy, some are overwhelmed, and a good amount feel trapped one way or another. The one that stands out to me often is this feeling of being trapped, because it’s something I feel we can all relate to.
I had a girl in my class a couple years who asked to speak to me privately. She had tears in her eyes and was clearly in agony over something. I had a free period and told her to come by then and talk to me; I am there to listen.
The second everyone left the classroom, she completely let go. She was crying and so upset over this boy who just did not have the capacity to love her the way she needed him to. She did not understand why he treated her the way he did. He was talking to other girls, ignoring her messages, and saying that he didn’t have time for her.
I closed my classroom door, sat down next to her, and handed her tissues. Yes, I had other things to do, and no, this was not the conversation I had expected; but this girl needed me. You see, being a teacher doesn’t mean I just teach the curriculum the state tells me I need to have done by the end of the year. I also act as a mentor, confidant, and helping hand for my students. I am happy to lend a sympathetic ear and be supportive, especially when they’re feeling overwhelmed and trapped.
She went on to explain that they had been dating pretty seriously for a few months and she was just so confused. She couldn’t understand why he was treating her this way when she had gone out of her way to help him, care for him, and sacrifice her time to make his life better. She continued to tell me about the clothes she bought him, how she got him pajamas because he didn’t have any before her, and how she made sure he had access to food every day. She brought his favorite snacks to school for him to eat because she knew he wouldn’t eat otherwise. She made him playlists, sent him funny memes, and planned fun dates for them. She felt overwhelmed and trapped in this relationship because all that she was giving to him wasn’t being reciprocated.
I let her get through the whole story, all while handing her tissues and listening without judgement. When she was finished, I handed her a Nutrigrain bar (I suspected she wasn’t eating because she was tormenting herself over this), erased my whiteboard and wrote ‘Pro’ on one side and ‘Con’ on the other. I gave her the Expo marker and told her to write out all of the pros and cons about this boy.
I returned to my work and let her write. She turned on her music and got to work.
I could have said so many things to her like, “he’s a loser anyway”, “you’re worth so much more than that”, or “you will find the right guy eventually”.. but I didn’t. I just listened to her, gave her tissues, fed her, and gave her something productive to do. I let her get out her emotions and gave her a structure in which to deal with them productively. I gave her a safe place without judgement, where she had the tools, support, and felt empowered enough to come to the realization on her own.
I think at some point in our lives we have all been in a situation where we feel trapped like my student did. Maybe you’ve felt trapped in a dead end job, an unhealthy relationship, or a one sided friendship. Think about what your habits tend to be when you find yourself in that situation. Do you shut down and not make any changes because it feels easier? Do you continue the relationship because it feels safe? Keep the job because it feels too overwhelming to look for another?
Overwhelm can hit you at any time and completely take over your life if you let it. It finds its way into your mind and poisons your thoughts. It makes you want to isolate yourself, but all that does is leave you feeling more trapped. What’s interesting is that this feeling of being trapped is really just an illusion. It’s a state of mind, not reality. You have the power to find strength and move forward.
Sometimes, all a girl needs is support. At that moment, I knew what my student needed. Emotions, relationships, and hormones are hard; but we could make it a little easier by just being there for each other.
My group classes are all about being there for one another and providing a safe place for women with no judgement. We help one another be productive with our feelings and understand them better too. If you would like to join some other amazing Grown Up Girls, click here.