My friend Sandi and I went to the climate strike two weeks ago in downtown LA. We were some of the oldest people there. A teenage girl with long black hair gripped a large white poster board with her message to the world. Each word rested on lines she’d drawn across the board. The lines reminded me of my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Wilson, her hand cupped around mine, as I shaped the cursive letters of my name.
I imagined this young girl bent over her blank poster board, a thin tipped sharpie in one hand, her other hand holding the paper in place, as she formed each letter slowly and deliberately.
She flipped her hair over her shoulders and I read her words.
“I’m not sure I want to be here anymore.”
My eyes swiveled back to the words again and again like a bad car wreck. By ‘here’ did she mean, this earth, this life, this existence? I wanted to ask her, but I knew I’d start to cry the minute I opened my mouth. My throat was tight from holding back the tears.
When I was her age I thumbed through the pages of Seventeen magazine, dreamt about kissing David Loring and knew that college, marriage and kids were the likely trajectory of my future.
Of all the poster boards that day, hers was the one that stayed with me. It wasn’t the fanciest, cleverest or most artistic. Just nine precisely lettered words on a white board written with a black sharpie.
It was that she began with, ‘I’m not sure…’ It felt so genuine, like she was thinking out loud, searching for a lifeline, a shred of hope. It seemed to say, ‘Give me something, anything and I’ll stick it out.’
I wanted to wrap that young girl in my arms, hold her tight against so much uncertainty and destruction. But there was nothing I could think to say to soothe her soul, nothing that wasn’t a lie. I wanted to promise her a future. But that was not a promise I could deliver on.
I walked away that day thinking about hope. How much I’ve depended on it to carry me forward. How the tiniest blade of grass poking through a crack in the sidewalk buoys me. How sometimes I wield hope like a shield to hold my fear, grief and powerlessness at bay.
I draw lines across a page. No one holds my hand. I take up a thin tipped sharpie and write the words, ‘I’m not sure about hope anymore.’ Tears fall on the page and black ink runs in rivulets until the words disappear.