I’m sorry I couldn’t help you then.  I hope you will let me help you now.

* * * * *

I’ve never had much use for authority.  I don’t like to be told what to do or how to do it.  I remember so well my first real stand for independence.  It was just one school year – when I was 12.

I didn’t get into much trouble in school.  Not really.  I was known to have a rather ‘smart mouth’.  I was quick with a comeback and could add just the right hint of mean.  I got a lot of warnings. 

But my 7th-grade year, I decided to crank things up a notch.  I started doing some disruptive and disrespectful deeds that I must have known would get me in trouble.  I didn’t care.  I wanted to tell the world to shove off.

I can’t say exactly why. 

It could have been my budding friendship with the new girl who was a wild child.  I was drawn to someone who was willing to stick it to authority.  She didn’t take crap from anyone.  Most considered her a bad influence.  She smoked cigarettes. 

I got kicked out of school 3 different times that year.  I pulled various unkind pranks on others – including teachers.  I was loud and disrespectful in classes.  I even went so far as to damage school property.

I spent much of my time at school either in the principal’s office or the counselor’s office.

My parents had no idea what to do with me.  They had me seeing a counselor and attending church services.  The harder they tried, the more I resisted.  We were at a complete standoff.  I was the embodiment of defiance.

Finally, it was time for summer.  I didn’t finish the school year – yet somehow passed the grade …  And things just kind of cooled down over the summer. 

My 8th grade year and beyond I was still the one you were likely to hear above everybody – including the teacher at times – but it never again rose to a level where it became a disciplinary problem. 

I’ve tried to think back and sort of figure out what I was thinking or what was going on with me at the time.  Maybe it had something to do with trying to figure out who I was and how I fit into everything.  I needed some answers and couldn’t find them.  Things didn’t make sense.  I was very frustrated and my response was to lash out at everything.

As I look back at the years between 12 and now, I can see where I might really have benefited from learning early on some of the lessons it took another 45 years for me to learn. 

If I could go back and have the chance to sit down with that strong-willed young me, I think this is what I might say to her:

I’m sorry I couldn’t help you then.  I hope you will let me help you now.

I know you don’t know why you are feeling the way you are.  But don’t run from the pain.  Don’t stuff it down and cover it up.  Overeating won’t make it go away.  And don’t rely on drugs and alcohol so you can’t feel it.  You’ll just be trading one problem for another.  You have to feel pain until you accept it so you can let it go and move on.

Find a mentor as soon as you can.  Someone you can look up to and who you trust and can go to when you need help figuring things out.  Good mentorship will make a big difference for you.  Don’t put it off.

Be good to yourself.  Try not to take things personally.  You are far stronger than you know.

Life is not going to be easy.  But there will be more good times than bad.  You are going to make mistakes.  There will be disappointment.  Don’t dwell on the negatives.  It will only keep you from fully enjoying all of the positives.

Don’t sell yourself short.  You are smart, capable, determined and enthusiastic.  Listen to your intuition.  You know what is right for you.  It’s okay to be different.  It’s actually a good thing.  Trust yourself as you navigate through your life. Don’t compromise what you believe.  You are one of the good ones.  You have a lot to offer.  Don’t be afraid to be yourself.

Always remember, you WILL be able to accomplish what you set your mind to. 

You are a creative.  You will be happiest using your talents to create something you love that is also appreciated by others.  

Most importantly, you have got to keep your heart open.  I know right now is about when you are going to start closing it and if you do you will live many years feeling separate and disconnected.  You will be anxious and depressed a lot of the time.  And you will always worry about the worst thing that could happen.  Please hear me when I say you don’t want to live like that.

If you listen to even a few things I’m telling you, you will get started so much earlier building a solid foundation for a happy, prosperous and meaningful life. 

I love you and I wish for you only the best.  Good luck.