Through Her Eyes: The Teenage Perspective is a short series highlighting the written works of two young students from Marshall School. During Marshall’s iTerm series, eight writers took a class with teacher (and Duluth Moms Blog contributor) Heather Call Holst called “The Art of Blogging to Empower Young Women.” They worked on communicating their thoughts through the experience of blogging. We are pleased to share with you a sample of the fruits of their labor–the heartfelt, humor-filled, earnest writings of women on the edge of adulthood.
Read more about Marshall’s iTerm classes in our post here.
Stop for a minute. Think of someone who makes you smile. Someone you love, someone you will love for the rest of your life. Someone you couldn’t bear to lose. Someone who makes you laugh on a daily basis. Someone who makes you a better person. Now imagine not having a single conversation with that person for 17 plus years. You would miss them incredibly right? You would do anything to talk to that person. This is exactly how I miss my older brother, Jack.
I have never had a conversation with him. I miss what we could have had. I miss advice he has never given me. I miss hearing him say “I love you Kel.” I even miss him telling me “you’re annoying.” I miss him handing out black eyes and broken noses to guys for me (to all the jerks out there, consider yourself lucky). This just isn’t our reality. He can’t give me advice. He can’t tell me he loves me. He can’t talk to me.
When I was just three years old, I asked my mom, “Mom, does God have Autism like Jackie? I talk to God and he doesn’t talk back so he must have Autism, too.” For as long as I can remember I have been trying to figure out Autism but I have come to the simple conclusion: Jack loves me. He loves me the same way I know God loves me. Words aren’t needed for me to know the love that is there.
I have always wanted to hear Jack’s voice. I prayed for years that he would be able to talk but this past year I changed my mindset. It is very unlikely Jack will ever talk so I decided that I wouldn’t talk, either. I spent 24 hours being silent–not communicating at al. I stayed off of social media and didn’t use my speaking voice. My teachers were so kind and supportive of me. I appreciated all the positive words I got from friends and teachers and my experiment made me realize how much they support me. The experience was more difficult than I thought it’d be. I felt many emotions during the 24 hours. I mainly felt lonely and sad for Jack. I felt like I was in my own bubble; it is hard to connect with anyone without a voice. It breaks my heart to think Jack possibly feels as isolated as I felt. I only went 24 hours and he has been nonverbal for every hour of his life.
The day I went silent I realized I didn’t think ahead to lunchtime. I forgot to pack a lunch and I couldn’t order myself one, so I didn’t eat anything that day. It made me realize how intuitive my mom and dad have to be with Jack. If Jack is experiencing a headache, or feels sad, he can’t tell us. We have to guess. I can’t imagine not being able to communicate my feelings with my parents or anyone. Think about it: when you are upset there comes a time where you just want a hug, or someone to calmly tell you that everything will be all right. Jack can’t ask us for a hug. He has never been able to tell my parents about his day at school or his day at work.
I admire my parents immensely for the amazing job they’ve done raising all three of us. They were in their early twenties when Jack was born and they did it all on their own. Many marriages fail when a child is diagnosed with Autism but they have rocked this parenting and marriage thing for over 21 years. I don’t think my mom especially gives herself enough credit; I can only hope I am half the mom she is someday. Not only did my parents raise a loud, energetic, messmaker in Jack, but on his fourth birthday they got another baby. Me! Yes, Jack and I have the same birthday. I call him my twin separated by four years. You could say I learned to share at a young age considering I even share my birthday! When I was a baby my mom was often overwhelmed. Jack could be rough with me and it is impossible to stop a quick five year old from knocking his one year old sister down all the time. Regardless of how many times Jack pushed me over, tugged on my ears, and threw toys at me I knew one thing: Jack was my brother and I would always love and forgive him.
When it comes to me, people may describe me as shy. That isn’t wrong, but a big part of why I am quiet stems from how thankful I am to have a voice. I am not sure if everyone who has a voice realizes how great it is to have one. I have always used my voice to say the right thing… or at least try to (nobody is perfect!). Not everyone is guaranteed a voice so that is why I believe everyone who has one should use it positively. Sometimes my obsession with not saying the wrong thing has led me to not say anything. I am still learning and still figuring out who I am, and I know I am gaining confidence every day.
So here is what I want you to do: compliment others, apologize, say thank you. Talk, talk, talk. Say what you mean, mean what you say. Say I love you every single day.