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The Adult in the Room

Today, I did not want to be the adult in the room.

Today, I cried. I screamed. I said a very dirty word in front of my mom.

It’s been a week, my friends. One week ago today, we found out mom tested positive for COVID-19. She was showing symptoms and both my parents immediately quarantined. I’ve harbored a lot of anxiety about them being so far from me and my brother even though there’s nothing I could’ve done even if we’d been two blocks from them.

Five days ago, I started my first hybrid college semester. I attend one of the few colleges that chose to meet in person this semester. Every class I’m in is required to have an in-person portion to the course. So I meet on campus for some classes some days of the week but not all classes every week and each week is a different day or time that I meet in person. In short, I’m not sure that the administration or trustees (or whoever it was that makes the decisions around here) thought to ask an actual real life student that goes to classes whether or not this particular method of schooling was conducive to their education and other class schedules.

It is not.

Two days ago, we had our Fall Kick-Off at the church I work at. Normally, the Kick-Off includes a parking lot party for our youth and/or community and a presentation of all our Sunday school classes for that semester and a whole lot of hugging and enjoying seeing each other again after a long summer apart.

Instead, our Kick-Off was a drive thru where we busted our butts all week long to prepare materials for each of our ministry areas for certain months or even for the entire semester. While it was an amazing event and I’m so proud of everyone that worked on it and pulled it off…I went home and cried that evening. I cried because this season won’t look like last season and because I miss hugging my kids’ necks. I cried because I keep getting newsletters and emails and notifications in my inbox of youth my own kids’ ages that are falling deeper into depression or anxiety because of the isolation they’re experiencing right now. Simultaneously, I know we can’t be in person.

I did not have the emotional bandwidth to hold those two clashing emotions so strongly at the exact same time.

And today. Today I did hybrid school, going back and forth from campus to my home office, from about 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. As I was driving home after grocery shopping, dead tired but trying to perk myself up enough to do homework tonight, I saw people on the sidewalk ahead. If you know the area, I was in downtown Conway where the speed limit is slow due to pedestrians and tons of small shops and restaurants. I could see a group of protesters on the steps of the police station about two stop signs ahead of me. It didn’t surprise me, as this has become a norm in our lives now, but I hadn’t heard of anything going on tonight so I wondered when it had been announced or if they were planning on marching to another part of town.

As I made my way down the street, I was only looking at the “Black Lives Matter” signs to my left and holding a closed fist out my driver’s side window to the crowd of sweaty protesters. It wasn’t until I was slowing to a full stop that I looked to my right and saw the counter-group on the sidewalk across the street. About two or three feet from my vehicle were a crowd of men in bullet proof vests, wielding Confederate and blue line flags with one or more semi-automatic weapons strapped across their chests. Most of those weapons were bigger than some of the sweet middle school babies I work with.

I froze at the stop sign with an open mouth, staring out my passenger seat window. One of the men standing closest to my car stared back and waved. I snapped out of it and sped through the stop sign, lucky no one else was coming.

My chest was so tight and so hot that I couldn’t fully grip my steering wheel. I was afraid. I was afraid and I wasn’t even one of the people on the opposing side walk bravely holding a #BLM sign and megaphone, staring these men down. That fear bubbled into anger and confusion and I started crying.

While on the phone with my mom, the story of Sydney, the 25 year old woman who was kidnapped, raped, and murdered in Newport, AR last week also came up. That fear and anger and confusion erupted out of my mouth as I screamed at my mom that I could not “have a calm and rational conversation about men who carry weapons the size of a fourth grader down the sidewalk of my small town in front of bystanders, babies, and God herself and I could not have a f-ing calm and rational conversation about men that believe they have the right to rape and murder women”.

I could not be the adult in the room.

This world is too much for me to handle right now. And I feel a sense of shame as I write those words knowing that I am still not carrying the kind of weight that others in our communities are…yet it is too much for me in this moment.

After my screaming match with the void, I thought that I would feel better being able to sit at my kitchen table with my brother and a drink and talk about it all.

But I couldn’t.

Because he represents the blue line in the flag that those ignorant, angry men flew on the sidewalk of my town today.

He does not represent those men or the ideologies those men carry. They have perverted what my compassionate, brave, strong brother represents.

But I felt the clash of emotions again as my soul stood on the left side of that sidewalk and my brother, the blue line in the flag they so proudly waved, sat at my kitchen table trying to comfort me.

I cannot be the adult in the room.

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll be able to wipe my tears and be the adult in the room. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll remember that reading the Bible helps my brain and my heart calm down. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll be able to pray without being angry. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll be able to keep myself from saying the bad words in the midst of my emotions. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll be the adult in the room.

But today…

Today I have only lived 26 years. I have only inhabited this Earth for 26 years and I have never in those short years had to carry the emotions I carried this week in such a short time frame. So I will sit with them and I will hate them and I will feel them and I will try to untangle them.

And tomorrow I’ll be the adult in the room again.

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