Gus spent several hours discussing ethics with me. He was envied for the college education he had and I frequently felt short-changed. In contrast, I wouldn’t change a thing. Not one.

This is not to encourage toxic positivity. Nor is it to bolster victim shaming. When folks weaponize positivity, gratitude, and the experiences and feelings involved with trauma–that’s emotional blackmail. I’ve learned that behavior may have more to do about their own discomfort than the victim that is navigating through trauma.

This is to share that I have discovered that my original sentiment about my survival has been less about being noxiously positive. Rather, it’s the acknowledgment that I’ve learned a lot through the pain.

It would be toxic to say that others “should” struggle to learn. That is not what I’m saying. We do learn from pressure and there is a sweet spot with pressure for learning.

There has been a lot of consideration about easy answers. In other words, being given the answers instead of working for them. Anxiety sucks and it sucks the big one. This is more so when we’re suffering from trauma and trauma can stem from a whole host of events. That kind of pressure can be unbearable and we’re more likely to not learn anything under intense stress and duress.

There is a healthy pressure and I’ve been noticing where the leaders that are educators have been using it. If I would have understood pressure at an early age, I may have discovered healthier ways to manage the trauma.

On the flip side, there’s the possibility that I would not have. It’s difficult to avoid comparing our learning rate against others. Our entire lives are based on a grading system that starts when we’re in primary education.

We are conditioned to believe those percentage points matter and that failure is something to avoid. A few years before Mom was murdered, she shared that she didn’t care that I failed so early in life (but… did I really?).

She stated that it was good for me to fail early so I would be able to handle failure later in life. This conversation left me with one thought. I was a failure to her. Until I started working in the tech industry and became a Network Engineer.

It is my belief that she meant well. I am interpreting that she was trying to say that I learned how to survive and I learned how to bounce back from tragedy.

Statistically speaking, I should be in a very different place. A place that’s a common nightmare for most loving parents. I’ve often wondered how I got here. How was I able to learn the skill of grit?

My dependable strength was the early toddler lesson of turning my ears and eyes toward the direction I wanted to go. My biological father could beat me to a bloody pulp and I would have found a way to survive. It’s because of him and his abuse that I learned how to think about escape routes.

As messed up as that is, it is the truth. At the same time, no child should have to go through what I’ve been through to get here. Art helped build the skills for creative pathways to survive. Art was my saving grace.

Stealing someone’s artwork that is a part of their identity and emotional sharing is more than unethical. That thievery is stealing a part of someone’s agency of self.

The ethics of community art, Part 1 []