YOU ARE NOT ALONE: A Column by Mr. Boruff

Mr. Boruff, English Teacher, Positivity is everywhere

Mr. Ben Boruff, Guest Columnist

The past twelve months have easily been the most challenging of my career, and the evidence is everywhere. It can be measured in caffeinated drinks, painful silences, half-finished hobbies and hours of lost sleep. Even tears. One former student kindly noted that I seemed “wearier” than usual this year, which broke my heart a bit. Not because it isn’t true—it is—but because I want to be the best teacher I can be, and weariness does not feel like excellence.

I have struggled recently, and I see no value in sugar coating that fact. While in quarantine last year, I learned about the concept of “toxic positivity,” which refers to a type of superficial and often assertive positivity that dismisses the struggles of others. Toxic positivity is a mutated form of optimism, often appearing as advice to “be happy” and “look on the bright side.” Empathetic positivity can heal, but dismissive positivity can create scars.

As I sat on my balcony last spring thinking of names for all the geese that wander around my apartment complex, I remembered William Carlos Williams’ poem “Between Walls” and the idea of beauty in brokenness. Positivity can be found in times of struggle, but the “broken pieces” need to be acknowledged first. For that reason, I taught “Between Walls” to my sophomores earlier this year.

To any student who has struggled through the past year: remember that you are not alone. Your feelings are valid. Your experiences and struggles matter. Your mental health is important. You are not alone—far from it.