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A+SEL, Representation, Student Engagement

Gabriel: Expressing Myself

Gabriel: Expressing Myself

One day, Kofi and I had fun after-school plans. He was going to come to my house and I was going to teach him how to paint, and he was going to teach me how to juggle a soccer ball. I was so excited! But he had to cancel our plans last minute because he had qualified for a competitive soccer team tryout, and I felt bad. A lot of emotions swirled inside me all at once, so it was hard to tell exactly what feelings were there. Sadness? Disappointment? Maybe even anger? When I got home from school that day, I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I went straight to my room and read until dinnertime.

At school the next day, I didn’t really want to talk to Kofi. I still felt so hurt and upset! He came to sit next to me at lunch, but I got up and walked away. When he followed me outside and asked what was wrong, I clammed up. My feelings felt sticky, like peanut butter in my chest, and it felt impossible to spit them out. I didn’t answer even after he asked what was wrong a few more times. Then he sighed and left. I felt even worse than I had before.

Gabriel: Expressing Myself

My mom knocked gently on my door that night to see how I was feeling. All of my feelings got unstuck and bubbled to the surface.

“Kofi made me feel so bad!” I said to my mom. “I feel sad and mad and hurt, all at once!”

My mom pulled me in close. She told me that even though I felt sad about Kofi canceling our fun plans, I was in charge of how I expressed my emotions.

“How do you think Kofi felt when you wouldn’t talk to him today?” Mom asked after I told her about lunchtime.

I hadn’t thought about that. Had I made Kofi feel bad by ignoring him? I would’ve felt sad if I were in his shoes, being ignored by my friend. My mom told me that expressing myself in a way that was respectful and healthy is called emotional responsibility. Kofi had made me feel sad, but I wasn’t entitled to making him feel sad in return. I had to practice expressing all of those bad, sticky feelings in a way that made him and me feel good. It was my responsibility to manage them well. I knew what I had to do.

As soon as I stepped off the bus at school in the morning, I found Kofi so that I could apologize to him. My hands were a little shaky, but I took a big breath and told him that I was sorry for ignoring him. I was feeling sad, but it was my responsibility to tell him how I felt respectfully. He didn’t realize how important our plans had been to me, and because I’d said it was alright when he canceled, Kofi had thought everything was ok. We made up and agreed to practice emotional responsibility together. We promised to always tell each other how we’re feeling, no matter how hard it feels in the moment, and we’ll always remember that we’re best friends. Even if we hurt each other’s feelings or have misunderstandings occasionally, we know that we care for each other. And that is what matters.

Gabriel: Expressing Myself

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