I was thinking the other day. I know scary right?
I am a lot of things. A woman. A red head. A mother. A wife. But first and foremost, I am a Texan. It's not my fault that I place being a Texan as my identity. It ,like so many of us children born and raised in Texas, has been ingrained in me since my very first days. Even in school we were taught for the first five years in history class all about Texas. Until we all knew everything about Texas's past and it becomes a sense of belonging, a sense of pride. It is almost a brain washing to some extent. Want proof?
Ask a Texan, any Texan, what the state flower is, the state bird, the first and only president of Texas, and or the state capital. They can name them off from memory without hesitation. Start to sing "Deep in the heart of Texas" out loud in Texas and watch how everyone stops and finishes it with you regardless of what they were doing before you started singing it. Ask what the state rose is or how long their family has been in Texas. All of us know when our families first became Texans. My family has been in Texas for almost two hundred years. Yea, really, I am just that Texan. ( Except I moved and married a wonderful but ever deemed "Yankee" so my children are only half Texan even though they have never set foot in that state) It is treated as not just a place but also a pedigree.And even though we have a pride of being from the deep south we have even more pride of being specifically from Texas. We have to be, it was taught to us to be that way from our parents, and them from theirs, and so on and so on. It becomes more than just a place that we are from and becomes part of who we are.
Ask a Texan what is the greatest state in America. Ask a Texan if they are a Texan ( HINT: you wont have to, we tell everyone we are a Texan in the first five seconds of any conversation when we are out of state) And even though we have many military members that serve America you can bet that most of them identify as being Texan before they identify as being American. Not that they don't love America with every waking breath, it's just that they love Texas more. We are a proud people and that is why every ten years or so there is the same talk of succession. Not that it will ever happen, not even sure we actually want it to, but we Texans just like to get all riled up at the possibility. It was taught to us to love God first, Texas second, and then America. That may seem wrong in some people's eyes but it is a tradition that has been passed down for hundreds of years and will probably continue for hundreds more.
It becomes something to belong to. If I see a license plate of Texas where I live, I feel the need to wave to the driver. Because even though I do not know them personally, I feel as if we are some how connected. Like we have something very important in common. We are Texans and we are brethren. Not from genetics but from location. We are tied together from our experience of simply being from the great state of Texas.
Now you may say, we get it Nelly, you love Texas but what the hell does this have to do with mental illness?
So glad you asked.
It got me thinking. The reason we are so proud of Texas is because it was ingrained in us to believe such. What if we took that same teaching methods and turned it to a belief system that is positive for future generations. What if we taught small children that beautiful doesn't have a size or a color or a religion? What if we taught that beauty is on the inside? What if we could give these children a reason to feel that they are worthy ,beautiful, important individuals that belong in our society? Would fourteen year old girls that weigh eighty five pounds still post selfies on facebook claiming that they look fat? I mean if they believe that weight doesn't depict beauty, would they be so hard on themselves? Would at risk youths still join gangs because they want to belong to something other than the only painful existence that they have ever known, if they already felt they had a place in today's society to belong to that didn't end up in violence, prison, or premature death? Would there be so much bullying if children were reinforced with the idea that different is a good thing and not everyone should try and be similar? Would there be so many suicides if people that suffer or feel lost and hopeless felt that they were not alone and that what they felt and had to say was valid to the rest of the world?
Would people like us, that suffer from mental illness have to be afraid of stigma if stigma was erased and replaced by compassion? What if we could eradicate discrimination in all of it's forms?
After all children are born free of such things. Stigma discrimination, self hate, and even pride are things that are taught and learned not genetically predisposed.
What if we could somehow take all of the things that make us broken adults and teach our children and their children that it doesn't have to viewed in a negative way? That people are human first and individuals second. That we all fundamentally desire the same things. Love, acceptance, respect, hope, friendship, and happiness. What if we could give them the sense that they belong to this world no matter what life has burdened them with, no matter what they look like, what family situation the are in, what belief system they have, the color of their skin, or the struggles they may encounter? That they are beautiful unique worthy beings that have the power to change the world with one simple sentence, "I love you."
What if we could teach love and a sense of belonging the way Texas teaches it's children to love and feel a sense of belonging to Texas? How different would our world be? How different would our children's lives be? Could we make our fractured children become whole if they were taught to love rather than ostracize? Have compassion instead of annoyance? To believe that they are worth more than what ridiculous unrealistic magazine articles and misguided self beliefs say they are? To believe that they matter because every person in this world matters and has the right to know that they do. They belong, you belong, I belong, we all belong and we are all important.
Just a thought....