14 Again-The Takeaway

My Cloud

Dearest Bunny,

Our journey to 30 years past is complete.  I hope you’ve learned something.  I certainly have.  During these seemingly impossible junior high years, you’re dealing with hurts that are real.  I won’t lessen them.  But I can assure you time will, and that is not a bad thing.

Some of the people you know now may be people you interact with for the rest of your life but most, you won’t.  You’re nearly the same age your dad and I were when we first met and some of the people I knew back then are among my dearest friends.   This means it would be unfair of me to diminish the potential of any of your current relationships.  BUT your current relationships, whether short-term or long term will change.  Trust me, you’ll want them too.

Right now, you are all just trying to keep your heads above water while trying to figure all of this out.  This is when it’s most terrifying to stand out and put the ‘Real YOU’ out there.  A lot of us act like buffoons while we’re in that process of becoming (aka: Reagan).  If you’re one of the exceptional ones who learn it all early, be patient with those still in in-process of getting there BUT also remember:  You never, ever have to put up with abuse.

Please note the words above.  Some of them are nice.  Some of them aren’t.  Regardless, try to look beyond them.  Even the nice ones can set a person up for stereotypes and unrealistic expectation.  The unkind words do worse.  They often keep a person from sloughing off the heaviness of judgment and bias.

Look beyond that label.

The ‘slut’ is actually a deeply sincere girl, fiercely loyal to those she loves.

The ‘jock’ you think would never be interested in being your friend will be the first to defend you in circles of people who don’t know your worth.

That ‘goody-goody’ will always find quiet little ways to touch the lives of others.  She could also be one of your closest friends forever.

The ‘dork’ is one of the realest, most compassionate people you know.  She needs your support.  And you need hers.

That ‘nerd’ spends  his life finding ways to serve everyone within the sphere of his influence.

The ‘snob’ is really just painfully shy and overcoming deep wounds and painful insecurities.

The ‘brain’ really is a genius but he’s also among the coolest people you know.

That ‘big brother’ of yours will be one of your most committed friends if you let him and he’ll will always know how to make life a little more joyful for others.

The ‘girl with the big family’ is much more than a number.  She, so effortlessly brightens the world with her talents and compassion…

 

It took me decades to learn these nuggets of wisdom. If I can shave a few years off your learning process, it will be well worth the effort.  And yet, I get the sense you’re well on your way to understanding already, even without my help.

But still, anytime you can take a walk in another person’s shoes, whether they be blue suede Dr. Martens or sparkly Skechers with wheels, you’re doing a good thing.  Keep doing what you’re doing even if it’s hard.

Stay Golden, Girl.

Love,

Mom

 

 

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14 Again-What I Couldn’t Tell You: Jackie

Why I chose Jackie:  I’m a little nervous. I wasn’t going to tell this part of the story because I didn’t feel like it mattered anymore; but after reading Jackie’s answers, I think it does, just not for the reasons I originally intended to omit it.

I shared earlier about my worse week in junior high. It seems so stupid now but back then, it meant everything. Weeks earlier, one of the coolest girls in class showed interest in a pair of my jeans. These weren’t just any jeans, mind you. These were THE jeans. (Picture this: light blue acid wash, circa 1991. Since my father was still relatively new to his career, our family didn’t have a lot of money, certainly not enough for the trendiest clothes. BUT I have this amazing aunt who is only 8 months older than me. That meant, sometimes I got her hand-me-downs. Those jeans were in the big black garbage bag that made its way to our house shortly before the beginning of the school year.)

Back to that year. After first noticing my cool jeans, the girl struck up conversations for the first time ever. Soon, I became bold enough to suspect we were friends. So much so that when she asked to borrow my most prized possession, I agreed. I brought them to school the next day and let her borrow them. She wore them. Then, again a few days later. After several weeks, she’d worn them often and hadn’t shown any motivation to return them.

I was in agony. Those jeans were the one thing I thought I had that made me interesting enough for the other kids to like me. I asked her to return them. She assured me she’d bring them the next day. It came but she had forgotten. She forgot again the day after, then the day after that. By the time two weeks had passed, I was desperate. I reminded her every time I saw her in the halls not to forget to bring my jeans back.

Finally, one morning, she had them in her arms. She walked up to me and plunked them down. She was scowling, said nothing, then turned and walked away. I ran after her and pleaded to know if she was mad at me. She rolled her eyes and said, ‘No’ but I could tell this wasn’t true.

It was later that day, sitting at a table next to hers in the cafeteria, I found out what she really thought of me. She was surrounded by friends, most of whom, were agreeing with what she said. Jackie was one of the girls sitting with her.

She had always been kind to me, ALWAYS thoughtful of the feelings of others. I was so hurt, so confused. A few hours later, she approached me, sincerely worried about whether or not I was okay. In the heartbreak of that week, her effort to reach out somehow comforted me. Once I got over my self-righteous pity party, I realized something. Jackie was never one to be unkind. Put in such a terrifying social situation, she did what most of us 14 year olds could think to do: go along with it. The fear that if you didn’t you could be the next target, was so very real.

Here’s another key realization I’m ashamed of: I probably would’ve done the same thing.

Jackie and I were good kids. We were kind. We wanted to be nice. Our own excruciating and private heartache made it next to impossible to stand alone. But here’s the thing: That sort of regretful experience happens to just about all of us. The exception to this is certainly exceptional but it’s rare. For that matter, just because we miss the chance to do a right thing one time, it doesn’t exclude us from being exceptional in the future. (Sadly, it took many experiences like this, when I should have spoken up but didn’t, to finally decide to be better.)

***I think this is one of the big things I want Bunny to take away from this project. I want her to be a person whose willing to stand alone but also to be patient with those who are still working on it.

Jackie’s first answer really surprised me. I could never have considered her a ‘dork’. By high school, everyone loved Jackie. I remember she had this infectious laugh, a thousand watt smile, and an amazing sense of humor. She could make all of us bust a gut so effortlessly yet she always possessed a dignity well beyond those years.

I’ve come to suspect that dignity comes, in part, from having a heart full to bursting with compassion. While we’ve not had the opportunity visit face-to-face since high school, we’ve had several conversations. Reconnecting, I was immediately struck by her capacity to feel so much for others and the commitment she has for those she holds dear.

She is an extraordinary mother. Extraordinary. She supports her children with unconditional love and possesses the patience of a saint. When you consider the pain she faced at that age, aching over the loss of her own mother and trying to find her footing in the most unsteady time of our lives, it’s pretty amazing.

Jackie has risen to great things in her life and continues to do so. That dignity of knowing hurt but still pressing forward and being the best sort of person she can be is indeed, exceptional. I want to be more like her. I also want to sit down with her and see the pictures and hear the stories from the many adventures of her big, beautiful life. She reminds to stop and revel in the people in my life which has also reminded me that I want her to always be one of them. And that is why I chose Jackie.

1. Were you given a ‘label’? If so, what was it? If not, what words or phrase would have described you to others within the community.

“I think my label would have been dork?”

2. Why do you think this was the impression others had? How was it correct? How was it wrong?

“I never really fit in anywhere.  I guess I hung around with the ‘cool’ kids who liked to push the boundaries of what was acceptable, but I never really felt like I was part of the circle.  I felt like I was always on the periphery; because I wasn’t pretty, skinny, tall, funny, outgoing, etc.

What most people didn’t realize is that my life was probably so much different from most of theirs so I really needed to fit in and be accepted.  My mom had passed away a few years earlier, leaving me with my alcoholic father, who was a WONDERFUL dad, but an alcoholic none the less.  

At that point in my life, my dad had just remarried, they had a baby and I was not happy with all those changes.  I lost an entire side of my family (my mom’s family disappeared from my life when she passed away).  My dad married someone I wouldn’t come to appreciate until I was 26 years old and suddenly, I had a step-brother and a baby brother.  

I was miserable.” 

3. What were the things you felt pressure about?

“I felt pressure to do things I wasn’t comfortable with so I could fit in.  Never sex or drugs but stupid things like cheerleading.  I would have never (in a bazillion years) have been a cheerleader but I was afraid of losing my best friend if I didn’t try out for cheer with her.”

4. What were you afraid of?

“Standing out.  I hated (and still do) being the center of attention.  Hence the reason I wouldn’t have been a cheerleader if not for that fear of losing my best friend.  I just wanted to blend in.”

5. Describe a poignant memory. (It can be funny, somber, tender, etc.)

“There was a Sadie Hawkins dance that year (do they even have those anymore??).  I had worked up the courage to ask someone to go with me.  We were double-dating with my friend Shandy and her date.  We decided to have dinner at my house before the dance.  So, we all met up there beforehand.  My dad was drunk.  It was humiliating.  After dinner we went to the dance and the guy I was with was really nice and even tried to hold my hand (gasp), but between my nerves and the humiliation I felt because of my dad, I could have puked.  It was a disaster.  I don’t think I really even talked to him much after that.”

6. What did you wish others could understand about you but couldn’t find a way to tell?

“I wish they could understand that life wasn’t easy for me.  I would make jokes and be silly to mask my insecurity because I had so much crap going on at home.  I wish they could understand that I may have seemed boy-crazy, but in all actuality, I just wanted someone I could count on.”

7. If you could talk to your 14-year old self, what would you say to her/him now? What would you say to your classmates?

“I say these things to my kids all the time:

Just be nice. You never know what someone else is going through. That popular girl/boy who keeps hurting your feelings; just stop trying to be friends with her.  In XX number of years you won’t even remember what she/he looks like. The friends you make for life likely will not be made in junior high or high school (mine were made in the military). If someone calls you “weird,” embrace it. Why would you want to be like everybody else? I know that some of the things you are going through and will go through in the future will seem life-shattering and I won’t minimize that. But life can and will be beautiful if you allow it to be so. Look towards the future.”

8.  If you could change one thing about your actions back then, what would it be?

“I would have spent more time getting to know and being friends with everybody in my class versus the few that I did. I also would have put myself out there and played basketball – I always liked it (and still do) but I didn’t play because I felt too self-conscious.”

9. What is something that was vitally important back then that isn’t so much now?

“Fitting in physically was really important to me. I spent so much time worrying about if I measured up physically.”

10.  Then vs. Now

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14 Again-What I Couldn’t Tell You: Amy

Why I picked Amy:  I picked Amy because I’ve spent the last 20 years asking myself, ‘Why weren’t we better friends back then?’

If there was anyone in high school who could relate to my own ambitions, fears, secret discomforts, etc. it would have been her.  She and I both worked really hard for our positions on the cheer squad but our efforts couldn’t have stopped there.   We had to work our butts off for our uniforms and other cheer expenses.  We both had large families and asking our parents for unlimited funds for our activities was not an option.

Amy was outgoing and friendly, but in a trait quite often missing during this time of our lives, she was also direct and honest.  I’ll admit she intimidated me for years.  I was outgoing and friendly but I didn’t know how to be those other things.  Working together on our team, this meant we clashed a few times.  Our approaches to leading the other girls, all of them underclassmen, were completely different.  I regretfully admit, I generally handled these conflicts very passive-aggressively.  By the end of the year though, we’d hit our stride and ended on a high note.

One of my favorite memories of Amy was the night of her junior prom.  She headed up the event and with her natural Midas Touch.  She turned our stinky gymnasium into a magical kingdom underneath a canopy of a million sparkling stars.  After weeks of planning and then executing, it went off without hitch and she was, quite deservedly, named prom queen.

The sad thing was her family was moving out of town shortly after and that night was pretty much, ‘goodbye’.  That evening, as we stood in our formals exchanging wishes of luck and success, it dawned on me, ‘We’d worked hard and had gone through a lot together that year and we were indeed, friends.’

The Grownup Amy is even more extraordinary.  She’s still outgoing and friendly, honest and direct.  All of these make her pretty much perfect for her chosen profession.  She’s a brilliant radio host in Southern Utah.  I’m so proud of the person she is.  But that’s not the only reason why.

In reflecting on these amazing people I’ve profiled, most, if not all, have tragically lost very dear loved ones.  They’ve experienced indescribable grief as a result.  For Amy, an auto accident claimed the life of her baby brother at a very young age.  I remember hearing about it through the DHS Grapevine and feeling heartbroken for her family.

Even in the middle of her own mourning for Kris, she looked outside of herself to comfort those who were deeply grieving along with her; particularly her mother.  Those tender gestures she offered have stayed with me for years.  To think of others at a time like that, rather than withdrawing into yourself, is a superhuman quality.

Amy brightens the world around her.  She has a gift to infuse fun, energy and humor into just about any situation.  But above that, she is kind, compassionate and filled with love she is very so willing to share.  That is why I picked Amy.

1. Were you given a ‘label’? If so, what was it? If not, what words or phrase would have described you to others within the community

“The girl with the BIG family!”

2. Why do you think this was the impression others had? How was it correct? How was it wrong?

“It was correct because we had the BIGGEST FAMILY on base! (lol) My Mom & Dad would get a lot of stares and questions … such as “Are they all from the same Mom and Dad?” She always made sure we were clean when we went out in public and our house was spotless because if anyone ever questioned my parents (and they did) they would see that we were loved and taken care of!

3. What were the things you felt pressure about?

“Money!!! Having enough money to be on the cheer squad or have nice clothes. I always felt pressure about how my parents were going to afford to let me cheer knowing this would take money away from something else we really needed!”

4. What were you afraid of?

“Keeping up my 2.3 GPA so I could cheer! Ha! True Story!”

5. Describe a poignant memory. (It can be funny, somber, tender, etc.)

“I remember the day we drove away from our home in Dugway! I thought my life was over as I knew it! How could I start my senior year in a new place with no friends?! I was devastated but kept this from my parents.”

6. What did you wish others could understand about you but couldn’t find a way to tell?

“There are worse things in the world than working 2 jobs in High School and giving all my money that I earned to my family! It really taught me so much about life.”

7. If you could talk to your 14-year old self, what would you say to her/him now? What would you say to your classmates?

“Spend as much time with your siblings/family because we are not promised tomorrow. After losing my 20 yr old brother I went back to my teens years and thought about all the times we weren’t the nicest to each other and if I could change that I would in a heart beat!”

8.  If you could change one thing about your actions back then, what would it be?

“Think before I gossip because words do HURT, love harder and stronger, and grow closer to my Heavenly Father.”

9. What is something that was vitally important back then that isn’t so much now?

“Being a cheerleader and having everyone like me. Looking back I should have been more focused on how I treated others and not how popular I wanted to be.”

10.  Proof of (big, beautiful) Life:

 

 

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14 Again-What I Couldn’t Tell You: Juan

Why I picked Juan:  There are people you meet throughout your life who are magnets for positive, powerful energy.  They’re generally natural leaders and possess the potential to amass a faithful crew committed to following their lead in whatever that person ventures to do.

From the moment Juan joined our class, we could tell he was something special, a force to be reckoned with–although at the time, we eighth graders couldn’t quite define it.  In fact, most adults even struggle to put this quality into words.  Generally very well liked, people like this are almost immediately popular.

This is most definitely Juan.  But he has always been more than that, even in high school when he didn’t have to be.  Dynamic as Juan was, he chose to also be someone who lifted others in spite of how awkward or ‘late-blooming’ they were.  High school athletes are often reduced to the stereotype of the beefy bully who wields their power of influence over the insecure brainiacs of the class.  When they’re not giving them wedgies, their leading a mass of minions in brutal torture of their chosen victim.  Juan NEVER fit into this superficial trope.  He was the guy who’d walk down the hall and say ‘hello’ to people, paying particular attention to the kids who seemed to need it the most.  He was the one who’d pat you on the back during the day, just so you knew someone cared.

Committed, hardworking and loyal to his teammates, he built them up as he aimed for success in his chosen performance goals.  His popularity came from his genuine interest in others and that ability to make others feel valued.

Our paths have often crossed as adults which has always delighted me.  He’s the kind of person you want nothing but the greatest of life’s joys to come to.  This is partly because I know he uses his talents and gifts to lift those around him.

Juan accomplished a lot in high school and even more in the years since.  His attitude and ability to rise above the tough stuff have proven he’s more than just a dynamo.  He’s taught me that you can look back with contentment on the past but still seek for better and to be better.  And that it why I chose Juan.

1. Were you given a ‘label’? If so, what was it? If not, what words or phrase would have described you to others within the community

“Did I have a label? I’m not sure. This was a bit of a transition period for me. I had just moved to Dugway the year before and when I arrived I was a skater, however it was during this time I started to transition to athlete or jock. So Maybe one of those I would guess, or maybe class clown.”

2. Why do you think this was the impression others had? How was it correct? How was it wrong?

“Dugway was a small school in a small town. I guess I was a pretty good track athlete and football player for a town/school that small and I got a bit of attention for being good at those things. I made sports the big focus of my 4 years of high school so I would say it was a fair impression of me. I also think if people had the class clown impression of me that it would also be fair. I loved getting attention by making people laugh.”

3. What were the things you felt pressure about?

“SPORTS!!!! I put a lot of pressure on myself to be the best. Coaches and teammates added to that pressure as well. I can’t tell you the number of nightmares I had of the start gun going off at state track and my feet being stuck to the ground.”

“I also put pressure on myself to be everybody’s friend or to be liked by everyone.”

4. What were you afraid of?

“I was afraid of failing or letting everyone down.”

5. Describe a poignant memory. (It can be funny, somber, tender, etc.)

“I have a lot of great memories from high school. We had an incredible community with great friendships. One memory that sticks out was winning my 1st state championship. It was the 1st event of state track. The 3200m run. I had been ranked 2nd or 3rd all season. My Coach had come up with a great plan and had me ready to execute. I was able to stay with the best runner in the state for 7 laps. With one lap to go my lungs were burning and my legs were on fire. Starting that last lap I was ready to quit. But coach and my team were at the start finish line telling me to hang on. I was able to do just that and out kick the competition. When I crossed the finish line I collapsed. My Coach was the 1st person to me and held me up and just kept saying you are a state champion!”

6. What did you wish others could understand about you but couldn’t find a way to tell?

Honestly I can’t think of anything. I was pretty good about opening up and sharing who I was. I was blessed to have so many great people around who supported and listened to me.”

7. If you could talk to your 14-year old self, what would you say to her/him now? What would you say to your classmates?

“I would tell my 14 year old self to put deodorant on!!! I don’t remember being a smelly kid but I now have a son of my own and he and all his friends smelled like death when he was 14 so I have to imagine I was the same.”

“To my class mates I would say thank you for making that time of my life so great!”

8.  If you could change one thing about your actions back then, what would it be?

“I would have put way more focus on my schooling. I did not take school seriously at all. That is one of my big regrets in life.”

9. What is something that was vitally important back then that isn’t so much now?

“Off the top of my head I want to say sports or trying to be popular. When I put more thought into it I’m not sure I can say either of those. Granted neither is very important in the big picture of life, but both shaped who I am today. I have two boys who I have coached in multiple sports. I also announce high school sports now. Yes, trying to be popular is lame I totally get that now. However I now have great career in sales. So maybe it paid off just a little.”

10.  Then vs. Now

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14 Again-What I Couldn’t Tell You: Leslie

Why I picked Leslie:  (Side note:  Please forgive the egocentric perspective of this story…it serves a purpose I hope you’ll understand.)   I picked Leslie to prove the point that I’m not exactly the protagonist in all my stories.  I am ashamed to admit I pegged her wrong and never took the time to find out otherwise.  And the worst part about this is she never did anything wrong.  I just perceived that she did.  In fact, her only mistake was being present during one of the most humiliating nights of my teenage life…

I had a crush on this boy for years since moving to our little home town.  I’d describe him but that would make it very obvious to everyone who lived there who he was and quite frankly I don’t need to rehash what happened and embarrass him too.

I was finally 16, single and ready to mingle.  (That was totally meant to be dorky)  I had my eye on him just like half the other girls in our high school.  BUT he rarely dated anyone from our hometown.  So I decided to do something about it.

I asked him out.

He awkwardly agreed to a date.  I now suspect this as likely an attempt at trying really hard to be polite rather than unkind.

My first mistake?  I took him to the theater.  The thing you need to know about this place is that it was really run-down and only showed one or two of the current films of the season.  If the movies were blockbusters they took months to arrive.  The only way you would see a film there first was if it was so terrible it released to all of the small town, low budget facilities within a week or two of its initial release.  I can’t remember what we watched.  I probably blocked it out of my mind.  My suspicion is that it was ‘Last Action Hero’.  Whatever it was, all I remember was how awkward those two seemingly eternal hours felt.

Next mistake?  After the movie I took him across the street to the Teen Center, clearly motivated by the prospect of everyone seeing us together.   As we walked through the doors, he spoke almost the last words he’d speak to me for the rest of the night, asking me if it would be alright for him to hit the arcade games.  The official nail in the coffin?  I agreed AND handed him $5.00 in quarters.  (I was determined to be a good, supportive girlfriend, after all.)

At some point I got hungry/bored/antsy and approached him about what we were going to eat.  Without even glancing from his screen, he ordered a Hot Pocket which I dutifully filled.  I ate my own alone at the booth as he, using one hand so as not to let go of the joystick, swallowed his in one bite.  About a half an hour later, he approached me asking for more quarters.  And yes, I gave them to him.  BUT not without losing every single shred of dignity and leftover interest in him as a potential romantic pursuit.

At this point, I had no more quarters.  And in what felt similar to the day I started my first period and my classmate climbed up and peeked over the stall in the girl’s locker room then announced to the entire 8th grade that I had ‘started’, I was sure every single pair of judgy, mocking eyes were boring into my ever fragile self-confidence.   In that moment, I felt so small, so stupid, so ugly.  I wasn’t even interesting enough to distract a boy I liked from a video…or even ‘Last Action Hero’.

As I scanned the crowd of schoolmates I happened to make eye contact with Leslie.  Her facial expression was stoic–probably because she was in mid-conversation with someone.  Whatever the reason, I read her face as hostile and malicious.  The 25 years that have followed have taught me how incredibly unfair that was.  I’m not entirely sure we spoke two words to each other after that during the rest of our youth.  It likely had something to do with the fact I mostly avoided her from that point on.

And, just like with Todi, the advent of Facebook reconnected us.  And just like with Todi, she was the one who had the courage to reach out.  She was immediately warm and generous upon our reacquainting.  Genuinely interested in Doc’s and my life together (she and Doc had been friends during those high school years) I found myself completely taken aback.  Her gestures and interest were sincere, certainly not in line with my previous impression of her.

It wasn’t until that moment that I realized how grossly unfair I had been to this woman.  For years I had made an incredibly unkind, incorrect assumption about her.  Assuming she was ridiculing me that day and never seeking greater understanding meant I held on to a false impression that painted her in a less than flattering light.  Ultimately, what I should have done was shove a few quarters up my date’s nose and smeared that stupid pepperoni Hot Pocket all over his perfect face…rather than displace all that hurt and humiliation upon her.

Had I the strength of character to do such, I would have realized a looooooong time ago what an incredible woman Leslie is.  She’s brilliant and strong and unfailingly kind to those around her.  Even more, I judged her at a time when she, herself, could’ve used the hand of friendship.  At the very least, I should have appreciated where she was coming from; a place of her own hurt and insecurity–a young woman in need of a little more understanding.

Good grief, I really missed the boat on that one.  And if this experience can teach Bunny anything about the unfair and negative perceptions we sometimes have of others, I think it would be an awareness of what our own baggage is– instead of heaping it upon someone else and calling it ‘theirs’.

And that is why I chose Leslie.

1. Were you given a ‘label’? If so, what was it? If not, what words or phrase would have described you to others within the community?

‘I remember someone told me that I was stuck-up because I never really talked a whole lot.”

2. Why do you think this was the impression others had? How was it correct? How was it wrong?

“Well, it was probably because I really didn’t talk a whole lot. I was shy, not confident at all, didn’t like myself and just didn’t want to make a fool out of myself.  I didn’t think I was stuck up.  I just kept to myself.”

3. What were the things you felt pressure about?

“I remember the only thing I ever felt pressure about was how I felt like I wasn’t like other girls and how I wasn’t smart enough, pretty enough or musical enough.”

4. What were you afraid of?

“I was afraid people wouldn’t like me if I really showed them who I really was, and back then I’m not even really sure I knew who I was.”

5. Describe a poignant memory. (It can be funny, somber, tender, etc.)

“Unfortunately I don’t really remember a whole lot about growing up, although I do remember hanging out with Minta and Jami at Jami’s house on our half days and we would get into Jon’s liquor and cigarettes.”

6. What did you wish others could understand about you but couldn’t find a way to tell?

“This is a tough one because I don’t want people to feel sorry for me–but maybe give some perspective on maybe why I was the way I was. I was sexually abused as a little girl and always felt like I was disgusting, like I was tainted. So I felt if people knew that about me they would treat me like an outcast??”

7. If you could talk to your 14-year old self, what would you say to her/him now? What would you say to your classmates?

“Be confident! You are a super cool person and have a lot to offer. Don’t hide. Know you have worth!  To my classmates,  I’d say, “Hey guys I really like you. I have a hard time expressing myself, but know I’m here cheering you on and if I seem shy or withdrawn know it’s stuff going on with me not you.”

8.  If you could change one thing about your actions back then, what would it be?

“I’d show up. I’d be present and not withdraw from friends.”

9. What is something that was vitally important back then that isn’t so much now?

What people thought/think of me. That mattered a lot back then. Not so much now. I know the people that really know, love and appreciate me will always love me no matter what. What people think of me now is none of my business (thank you, Rachel Hollis).

10.  Then vs. Now

 

 

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14 Again-What I Couldn’t Tell You: Pat

Why I chose Pat:  There are people walking around this earth masquerading as normal humans.  They have a secret though, an alter ego if you will.  They are really extraordinary superhumans–their power is to show kindness and sincere love at levels magnified to the rest of us.  Some of the clues you’re acquainted with such a person are: endless patience, the ability to listen while you complain, cry, talk for hours, wisdom previously understood to have been possessed only by the Ancients.

This is where I introduce you to another lifelonger friend of mine, Pat.  He personifies the description above to the letter.  His generosity is boundless…even at the expense of his own well being at times but that never seems to get him down.

So along with all the reasons I’m delighted and honored to be a grownup friend of his, there are plenty of reasons to cherish our growing up years together.  He was my first “boyfriend” (we were in 7th grade).  And where those are concerned, I really lucked out.  He put up with my over-dramatic, Scarlett O’ Haraesque persona (Hey, it was the school year after I discovered soap operas).  And even after I very publicly threw his stuffed animal Christmas offering at him in a very, again, over-dramatic way, he was still willing to be my friend.

We’ve been friends ever since.  In fact, my very favorite class of my entire high school career was Mr. Wyatt’s Civics class with Pat and a handful of our other friends.  I happened to be the only girl in the class of eight.  We had a great time together.  Years later, in what would be the last conversation I had with our cherished teacher before he passed away, he admitted that class was his favorite he’d ever taught.

Pat has that kind of effect on others.  He just brings people real, abiding happiness.

1. Were you given a ‘label’? If so, what was it? If not, what words or phrase would have described you to others within the community?

 “Not sure I was ever given a label.  Big Brother is how I would have described myself.  I spent a lot of my time in different circles helping others get through tough times in life.”  

2. Why do you think this was the impression others had? How was it correct? How was it wrong?

“From what I know most people had this impression.  I was the friend to most if not everyone in my social circles.  I don’t think it was wrong to be this way. I think I still live much of my life this way now.” 

3. What were the things you felt pressure about?

 “My pressure mostly related around trying to help everyone.  I would take on others problems as my own so I tried to understand the pressure they were under.  I took pressure upon myself to try and succeed in sports.”

4. What were you afraid of?

“Relationships.  Specifically more than friends.  While I was always around to help others and appeared extroverted about that I was scared to death to have an actual relationship with someone and how or what to do if I did.  I didn’t “date” nor know how to at this point not because I didn’t want to I was just to afraid to approach anyone in that way.”

5. Describe a poignant memory. (It can be funny, somber, tender, etc.)

“So many walks.  Walking has always been a big part of my life and during this time I would walk with friends usually quite late at night.  This was a good time to discuss problems they had or issues they were facing and what I could/could not do to help. I can’t relate a specific one as most of the time it was not something to be repeated.”

6. What did you wish others could understand about you but couldn’t find a way to tell?

“I was actually very lonely.  I focused entirely on others and not myself and didn’t figure out who I was till much much later.  I did learn how to deal with loneliness and come to accept this situation which helped me and hurt me later in life.”  

7. If you could talk to your 14-year old self, what would you say to her/him now? What would you say to your classmates?

“Be bold,  Fear is not the absence of courage but the ability to overcome it.  It seems like at 14 you have millions of years but they go by quickly and you should live each one of them to the fullest.  To my classmates I would say I’m still here for you and always will be.” 

8.  If you could change one thing about your actions back then, what would it be?

“Let’s be clear.  I have no regrets about my life nor my high school life. I would never go back to change anything. It made me who I am and I am happy with who I am.  I would suggest to everyone back then exactly what I said above. Be Bold! Life starts with a single step and you need to get stepping.”

9. What is something that was vitally important back then that isn’t so much now?

“Sports, I love what teamwork and sports taught me.  I just don’t need the watching/participating in them as much anymore.”

10. Then versus Now (I couldn’t help get a little teary over this one.)

 

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14 Again-What I Couldn’t Tell You: Jes

Why I chose Jes:  We’ve always been friends.  In fact, there isn’t a time when I can’t recall absolutely adoring her.  But one of the coolest features of our friendship is that it’s only gotten better through the years.

Years and years ago, Doc and I lived in Portland, Oregon for grad school.  Heather B. had come up for a visit and we’d heard Jes was living up there too.  We reached out and within 24 hours, she’d come down from Seattle for the weekend.  The 3 of us talked all night.  We had some good laughs, some good cries and realized sleep was overrated in situations such as these.   It was from that point on I realized she would forever be one of my dearest, lifelong friends.  She’s one of those you can miss for years but the moment you reconnect, it’s like no time has passed.

She is remarkable.  She’s bright.  She’s kind and so incredibly sincere.  She also happens to be one of my heroes.  You see, Jes has experienced a great deal of loss in her life.  Her sister, Becky, was killed in a terrible accident right after high school.  Her beautiful, wonderful mother succumbed to cancer a few years later.  And yet, Jes somehow manages to to find ways to lift others and be a light to the people around her.  She brings joy to the rest of us…especially her boys.  They are lucky to have her.  Her life, her goodness, she honors her sister and mom more than she realizes just by  being the person she is.  I’m so thrilled she agreed to participate in this project because she brings grace to everything she touches.

1. Were you given a ‘label’? If so, what was it? If not, what words or phrase would have described you to others within the community?

“I am not sure if I was given a label.  I did hear “goody goody” quite often.  Ugh.  So let’s just go with that.”

2. Why do you think this was the impression others had? How was it correct? How was it wrong?

“Perhaps because my grades.  Maybe because I did whatever I could to avoid trouble because I dreaded getting in trouble or being yelled at.    Maybe because my mom was in the school so I could get away with nothing.  I don’t know, an entire list of reasons!  I will tell you this, though, it is one thing to hear goody-goody from your peers but to hear an adult use it about you was a whole different thing!  And never was it used as a term of endearment.  It was correct in the sense I always have just wanted to be good.  No one really wants to be bad.  They are led to bad.  Wrong?  They didn’t get to know me so that made the label wrong.

3. What were the things you felt pressure about?

“Huh, I felt pressure, whether self inflicted or not, about many things.  One thing I carried throughout my life was the pressure I felt living in Utah and not being Mormon, or even not going to church at all.”

4. What were you afraid of?

“Afraid of?  Not much…deep water.”

5. Describe a poignant memory. (It can be funny, somber, tender, etc.)

“I actually can’t remember much from around that time.  11th and 12th grade stick out most in my memories.  I do remember my general feeling around 10th grade was I wanted people to leave me alone.  I was depressed and didn’t quite know it.  Looking back depression is so obvious to me now.”

6. What did you wish others could understand about you but couldn’t find a way to tell?

“I wish others could understand I could not trust anyone who was being nice to me, even if they were really trying to be my friend.  If someone all of a sudden started being nice to me I was immediately suspicious because I figured they were trying to get me to do something instead of genuinely trying to be my friend.  It is not a great way to go into most situations.”

7. If you could talk to your 14-year old self, what would you say to her/him now? What would you say to your classmates?

“I wish others could understand I could not trust anyone who was being nice to me, even if they were really trying to be my friend.  If someone all of a sudden started being nice to me I was immediately suspicious because I figured they were trying to get me to do something instead of genuinely trying to be my friend.  It is not a great way to go into most situations.”

8.  If you could change one thing about your actions back then, what would it be?

I would tell her:  “Stay like how you are now when you get to college.  Don’t do the stupid stuff in college or right after to “Make up for lost time.”   You will only make your high school self look waaaaay better than your idiot college self.”  

Also, “Seattle is not as cool as you think it is.  But you still have to move there because you will meet your husband and he is awesome!”

9. What is something that was vitally important back then that isn’t so much now?

“I wouldn’t really say anything to classmates. I would give everyone a HUGE hug and tell them how much I will miss them when I don’t live near them.”

10. Then versus Now

 

And one of my very favorite things about my amazing friend is how she absolutely radiates around her boys.  She is an incredible mama…

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