Apologies in advance to all of the high school kids I’m about to annoy, but I am so excited for school to start again! No, it’s not because I’ve got children of my own and I’m dying to get them out of my hair (that last phrase should be an indication of my suitability as a parent). I’ve had a mini-epiphany recently that led to an idea that led to a project, however, it requires the presence of juniors and seniors during their Social Studies class.
Let me back the train up for a moment. When I started writing about my life with my mum, my original idea was to do a book that was half memoir and half information and resources. I really, really wanted there to be a helpful, practical component to the work, knowing that there are tens of thousands of people out there who have a family member with schizophrenia and who are probably going through some of the same crappy crap I went through for way too many years. But the problem was that book structure didn’t feel right, and the mental visualization of me trying to communicate that type of information as a speaker didn’t jive, either.
Still, I pursued it. I read The Perfect Storm and Into Thin Air to look at how Junger and Krakauer wove the telling of disastrous events with background information on fishing boats and mountain climbing. I did a whole bunch of research on my mum’s illness (not a bad thing) and pondered how to present the information in my book when services, support and laws differ so much across states, provinces and countries. And then finally, I let the idea go, and concentrated on writing my story, the memoir. I decided to trust that something else would emerge that would give me an opportunity to act as an educator.
I’m really glad I put on my Patience Pants because one day, suddenly, a new idea came to me that the best way to make a difference was to tell my story to high school students. After all, those were the toughest years for me and my sister, our most confusing years. How many other kids are out there who have a mentally-ill parent and who don’t actually understand that they are mentally ill?
One of the first things I did was email Eleanor Owen, a fellow writer and one of the co-founders of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). She also happens to live in Seattle, lucky me. Her response came back telling me her son (who has schizophrenia) routinely speaks to high school students and that schools love to have visiting speakers. This all brings me back to where I started—I’m so excited for school to start again! In the meantime, I shall be crafting my presentation and looking for a test audience.
They say a life with purpose is a happy life. Now that I’ve totally recovered from my failed aspirations as a Spice Girl, I’m starting to feel a fresh happiness take hold. The idea of singing ‘Wannabe’ in front of a crowd of thousands never really felt right anyway. This new idea feels different. I think this one may just work out.