“They may forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
Mrs. Primm was my English teacher sophomore year in high school. At first I didn’t think too much about her, she seemed like any other teacher I had ever had. But I still remember where I was when I heard the other students whispering excitedly about her in the halls, “Did you hear about that English teacher? She is a badass!”
Mrs. Primm was once a nun. One day she went to a protest and ended up getting arrested. And that is when it happened: She fell in love. A fellow protester was also in jail, and he ended up becoming her husband. They got married and had a beautiful life together. Sadly he had passed away, but she still spoke of him with overwhelming love.
15 was a hard age for me. I was cutting myself on and off, struggling with PTSD, and was extremely suicidal. I remember feeling disconnected to most kids my age, and I hated the crowds of the lunch room. I don’t remember how it started, but it became common practice for my best friend Julianna and I to go hang out with Mrs. Primm after we ate our lunch. She would tell us about her life and about her husband. I recall feeling honored when she brought out a photo album and we finally got to see the man she adored. She looked down at her husband and said, “I would say that I hope you find the best man in the world to marry, but I already took him.” Though she said it in a joking manner, I knew she believed those words to be undeniably true. She would tell us about how they used to take homeless teenage girls into their home and care for them. She was a beautiful soul, and she gave me hope. She was the kind of person that I wanted to be.
I ended up writing a paper for her class that was troublesome to say the least. With some digging I was actually able to find this essay. Here is a section of what 15 year old me had to say,
“After five endless years the hurt is still there, and my mind questions if it will ever be truly eliminated. I am told everything heals with time but I have never been a patient person. My past made my future, I let it. I let it change my view of the world, view of myself, and view of men. The world seemed colder, I seemed worthless, and men just disgusted me. I even let those views make me who I am today. It made me feel the need to take it out on myself. It made me hurt my body. I have stopped, but there are always scars. Scars are permanent things, they never fully go away, and they are a constant reminder of your experiences and on top of all that it is a reminder of my imperfection. They aren’t pretty, they aren’t special, except to the person who has the scar. Sometimes I wonder if what people see is the same thing I see as I look at my reflection. I see a weak person who cannot find their way, but what do others see?”
I still remember the sinking feeling I got in my stomach when Mrs. Primm informed me that she had to send me to the counselor with my paper. I felt angry, betrayed, but maybe a little relieved. You see, deep down I knew I needed help. I was drowning. The counselor called my parents and it wasn’t an easy conversation, but it helped address my depression with my parents who wanted to help. This meeting did lead me to get treatment, and a year later I finally opened up about my past sexual abuse.
To this day I am thankful for Mrs. Primm. She was a mentor and someone I really looked up to. She offered this awkward teen a place to sit during lunch, and gave me a safe place to come to at school. Teachers can have a strong impact on our lives, and I know Mrs. Primm will stay in my heart forever. This past Christmas I got the urge to write her and tell her thank you.
Me: Merry Christmas! I was just scrolling through my Facebook and saw your post. It made me think of how much you encouraged me in high school. I was going through a horrible time when I was a teenager. I was suicidal, self harming, and processing through past sexual abuse. Your story and passion to help others always stuck out to me. It always inspired me, and it still does. I just wanted to let you know, your light shines so brightly. I tell my husband about your impact on my life all the time. God bless you
Mrs. Primm: Thank you so much! I’m glad I was able to be a little light in some of your darkness and even more glad if it continues to be an impact. Do know that I still care. May you and yours experience the joy and the peace of this season.
When I told her I was writing this post she also told me: You made me cry with joy…with joy for our relationship. It is your story and I’m just thrilled I got to play a small part.
I tell this story to convey one message: Say thank you. Say thank you to that person who impacted your life. Your family friend who saw you when you felt invisible. Your coach who let you vent about your life at home. People deserve to know the impact that their words have made on your life. People like Mrs.Primm deserve to be honored and recognized. Who has had a profound impact on your life? How can you show your appreciation to those in your life who truly deserve it?
Also, try to think about whose life you could be affecting today. Are there any young people in your life in need of a safe place? Is there anyone who you could offer a listening ear to? Honor those who helped you, by helping this next generation. Be a light in the darkness and a voice of hope in the midst of their pain.