Despite the hormonal surges threatening the weak and strong alike, all young people must navigate puberty in order to reach adulthood. Unfortunately, as Jordan discovered early this year, the journey is complicated with unmapped crossroads and few guides.
On this path, friends can be cruel and so can other observers. Mercilessly they can torture you with your mistakes, as if they have the authority to determine the importance of each. And when those mistakes involve controversial issues, such as pornography, understanding and assistance become unlikely perks.
So it wasn’t surprising that Jordan’s classmates ostracized him after they discovered the pornographic material he’d amassed. He’d kept it in his school bag and was unlucky enough to walk away, leaving the open bag just long enough for them to view the contents.
When he returned to his desk and realized that they’d been in his bag, he could not bear the humiliation. An exposed Jordan gathered all his belongings and left class without looking back.
Numbed by the negative attention, and realizing the seriousness of the situation, he could not think of a better move and was overcome by fear. After all, what could he say or do to quiet the storm when, undoubtedly, it would be a powerful one? And probably too powerful for a shy, quiet youth.
At that critical point, Jordan in fact had several choices, but he chose to run and burrow deeper to hide his mistakes. Unsure of his own self-image he’d given others the opportunity to create it for him.
Self-image issues relating to sexuality are rarely discussed openly(except maybe in health class if you have a brazen teacher, like I had, who would discuss anything from wet dreams to sexually transmitted diseases without batting an eyelash); therefore, those, like Jordan, who are unsure of how to deal with sexual urges, are left to navigate amongst societal norms, fantasy, realism and idealism.
If he were lucky, teachers, parents or other astute individuals who spotted the opportunity to help him develop his self-image and overcome his challenges would’ve assisted him.
At least one of his friends tried to help him, and it is through her that I know his story, but her efforts alone were not enough.
Schools pivotal in helping youth through self-discovery
Unfortunately, the kind intervention that would’ve been helpful, was absent when Jordan eventually returned to school later that semester. So while he should’ve been commended for championing character over pride, the “mistake authority” would not allow it; instead teachers and administrators, who knew of his fall, rebuffed his initial display of strength, failing to help him recover and build his character.
“What are you doing here? You don’t belong here!” said one teacher. Either he did he not realize, or simply did not care that, with those words, he would reactivate Jordan’s fears and possibly send him back underground.
Unsurprisingly, Jordan has not been back to school since, and indicates no immediate desire to do so.
Maybe he’s waiting until his story becomes stale news and his embarrassment subsides; hopefully, he won’t wait forever, for in doing so he robs himself of many other opportunities which he undoubtedly deserves.
That teacher’s failure to get the child help and bridge the divide between embarrassment and recovery is pivotal in his descent to the outskirts of society. He missed an opportunity to find out more about Jordan to help set the boy on the right path.
Working with understanding, he might have learned that Jordan was a victim of emotional abuse and worthy of kind attention more than cold ostracism. And if he wasn’t capable of intervening, he could’ve referred the issue to counselors who could.
Well-connected to government services, school administrators have access to the resources that can light the path to recovery for lost youth. Helping young people like Jordan pays dividends in the future; unlike the harmful practice of judging and condemning children who make mistakes.
Let’s be honest…
Most teenage boys are expected to have sexual fantasies as they recognize alternative sensations in their plumbing and develop an insatiable curiosity about its functioning, but all of this can be overwhelming, particularly without a guide or other supports.
On the journey of self-discovery one can expect unintended outcomes. In response, some will pretend the incidents never happened; others will brave shame to see their mistakes as lessons designed to build strength and therefore character.
Character, Helen Keller reminds us, is not developed easily; It is through “trial and suffering” that we are strengthened and inspired towards greatness. Moreover, willpower, along with family and other social supports may play the biggest role in how a person recovers from a mistake.
Message for Jordan
Mistakes, both grave and minor, present, along with woe, recovery opportunities and a means of learning about our world and our self. It is our responsibility to recover by any means necessary, for mistakes are just a part of life.
In our youth all mistakes seem insurmountable, but it is not so. Mistakes simply demand resourcefulness and hopefully a good dose of compassion and common sense to aid in the recovery.
I realize, Jordan, that in the pornography we may have glimpsed the curiosity of a searching mind and body; but it does not reflect your soul. Furthermore, within your soul is the strength to pursue something greater than shame: recovery. So hold your head up and respond to all mistakes by taking the high road, however difficult it may be. You can do it!