What is amazing, in this day and age of social media, we can keep tabs not only on those who we knew way back when, we can support our alma mater and the current students. We can share the joys and know the sorrows. This week two teens who attended W. T. Woodson High School in Fairfax, VA, took their own lives. This prompts me to spend some time reflecting on my teen years and how hopeless some days got before emerging on the other side of high school where I found a new world and a new pathway through life.
When I was 15 years old, I made a huge mistake, under pressure from my family and the drug treatment program in which my brother was a client, which cost me 25 years of friendship. This situation fractured many relationships as well as made me a target for scorn and ridicule nearly every school day for well over a year. There were many dark days that I was afraid of possibly bringing harm upon myself, or to be harmed by others. But, I was lucky, I had some really important things in my life that kept me going: springboard diving and the friends who were there with me, and my job at McDonald’s.
My sport in high school was springboard diving and I had a very solid group of friends surrounding that. I especially am grateful to Sam who was my ride, my confidant, and a great support. I hope he knows how important that was to me then. My coach Anita was more than just a coach to me. She helped inspire me beyond the pool.
It may seem silly that a minimum wage job at a fast food restaurant would bring a troubled teenager solace, but it was something that gave me purpose each day. I hope Carolyn and Tina, know how much their positive attitudes and leadership meant to me. And that my friend Chip always seemed to know when I just needed to get away and commune with the beauty of nature.
I read a quote today on Facebook on Growing Bolder that reads: “multiple research studies show, people who lift others tend to be happier and less likely to become depressed as they grow older.” I believe this to be true. I was a recipient for a long time in high school.
I find myself wondering how we can reach out and find a way to help teens know and understand that we are all here and understand one key thought… “It does get better.” I know how dark things can feel. There were many times, I was ready to just hang it up and find some way out of the quagmire I was in at the time.
Today, it is the little things I notice and feel grateful. I am grateful for a body that, while not perfect, is doing quite well. I am grateful for the fact that I have a roof over my head that, while leaky, keeps me safe from the extreme elements. I am grateful I can do small things that pay my gratitude forward.
My friend Laura is an inspiration in many ways. This woman is an artist, a mighty fine one too. She works full time and still finds time to be a regional contact in the Random Acts kindness campaign. I try and keep the concept of “Pay it forward” in my heart each day. I may not be active in the AMOK campaign I still try and do little things where I can’t see their reactions, however make me feel like I am adding to the positive energy in the world.
How can we help teens feel less alone in this world? What can I do? I think that will be on my mind for a while.
Please, try to find even the smallest gratitudes each day. Things do get better. You are beautiful, important, and precious to us all.