by author Sarah Lynn Scheerger
The idea for Are You Still There originated after being on a school campus during a lock down. Teachers are instructed to lock their classroom doors and not open them to anyone. Of course that’s logical, because in the case of an active shooter, a teacher could unwittingly let the shooter into their classroom. But I couldn’t stop thinking about what could happen to the kids who happened to be out of class when the lockdown was initiated. When I was a student, we didn’t have lock downs at school, but I could instantaneously put myself in my own teenage shoes, and envision myself stuck in a bathroom during a lockdown.
The idea moved very quickly from there. I, like so many others, am saddened and frightened by the number of acts of school violence. I read an article in the Washington Post that indicated there are now more mass shootings in the U.S. than days in a year. It boggles my mind that we have not yet found better solutions for these problems.
In college, I was on a real crisis helpline. It was the best experience throughout my college years. Helping other people gave my own life a purpose, and the alliances formed with my fellow listeners were like gold. I finally felt at home.
While writing this book, I was essentially trying to climb into my character Stranger’s brain. What a sad, lonely, and angry place to be. Spending a lot of time there led me to a lightbulb moment. It surrounds what I’ll call the Four P’s: Problems, Pain, Perspective and Permanency.
Problems: We all have problems. We don’t always know other people have them, because some people hide them better than others. And some people don’t talk about them. But we’ve all got them.
Pain: We all experience pain. And it sucks. Emotional pain can be overwhelming.
Perspective: Over time, our perspective changes. This happens to everyone. Things that seemed important or particularly painful at one point in our lives fade over time. They may still be painful, but not as painful. Sometimes we see that the pain sparked personal growth.
Permanency: Some choices in life are permanent. If you ever make a permanent decision when you’re highly emotional and in significant pain, then you can’t benefit from the perspective you’ll gain over your life. Example—violent or self-harming acts. Any time young people choose a violent act as a solution to a problem, they’ve forgotten that their perspective will change over time. They’ve forgotten that their emotional pain will lessen in intensity. I wonder how many violent acts could have been avoided if people could press “pause” in their lives and fast forward five years to see if they’d still care.
So here’s a fifth “P.”
Wait it out.
Gain some perspective.
Remember, it gets better.