I hated Jr. High School. Suddenly I went from a cozy small learning and social environment where I knew everyone and where everything was, to a huge network of classrooms, teachers and additional students from elementary schools all around the area.
Hormones were flying and the confusion of social status’, sexual advancements from boys, and drugs coming into the scene were all dizying factors thrown into the mix. I missed having a playground. I missed having friends come over after school to play with me in my room. I missed the consistency and familial feeling of one classroom, one teacher and the same classmates in the same seats everyday all day.
Now there were gym changing rooms, hallways where students were unsupervised, and predatory classmates could threaten you physically or emotionally so one had to be on guard. Lockers could be broken into and valuable new Christmas gifts could be stolen. I didn’t feel safe at school. I felt awkward and challenged by my peers. It was tricky navigating friendships as some pulled and others pushed me to be more this way or less that way.
I tried smoking cigarettes for the first time. I lied to my parents about where I was going. I snuck out at night when they were asleep so I could drink with boys. I didn’t feel pretty and being smart didn’t gain much.
Near the end of Jr. High, my grandma who I’d been very close with, died of cancer and a few years later my parents divorced. While my parents were distracted by their own emotional turmoil, I started cutting school and smoking pot. I pulled off good grades until my senior year but by then, I didn’t care. My self worth came from my boyfriends who ended up being insecure, self centered, jealous, and verbally abusive. I was self destructive in various ways but the bottom line was, I didn’t love myself or care about what happened to me.
Don’t get me wrong, I had tremendous fun along the way. Concerts, music festivals, jet skiing, and drinking warm beer at the beach were my favorite pastimes. When the chips were down, I didn’t know who I could depend on. I had close girlfriends who partied with me. Though they each had their own set of problems and situations to survive.
I didn’t share my problems with my parents because I would be shamed or punished. I had no mentorship as it was difficult to find any adult I felt I could trust. Being judged was something I feared the most because I was trying to pull off being “cool” and being “nice”. I accommodated what others wanted from me and for me to do or what I thought would make them happy. My goal was to put myself in the middle of it all so I could try to “figure it out”. What “it” was, became very elusive.
As I grew into a young adult, I moved out at 18. I had a job, I went to college, I paid rent and bought my own groceries. I made my own meals and decorated my own space. It took me the next 20 years at least to learn my value. To choose what I loved and to lean into it according to my own beliefs and priorities, not those of the people around me or to please them and go with what they wanted from me or for me. When I had my kids at 23 & 25, I felt like I’d fulfilled my ultimate goal and desire. Come to find out, it was just the beginning of my most difficult lessons.
No one told me to protect my body and treat it as if it were the greatest treasure on earth. No one told me that the world would teach me that money was more important than people and that it was a lie. No one taught me discernment of those who wanted to manipulate and take from me even though they told me they cared about me and led me to believe they were looking out for me. No one told me I could make a living doing what I loved and that I didn’t have to sell out. I was often told I would learn how the world “really is” and that eventually my optimism would go away. And there was certainly no adult who dared tell me that everything they teach us as children and young people to follow as a moral compass and how to be a good person, was not general adult practice.
These days, the world is a scary place for most people. Let alone young people looking for guidance and a safe place to be themselves. Heck, most adults are still struggling with that one. I have been soul searching for answers for decades. I’ve got some really great tools and overall context for how to set myself up for success even if I don’t have all those practices in place. I know they work because I have used them at various times in my life when I was challenged by circumstances, choosing a difficult path I knew was right, or what I wanted passionately. But I never sold myself out. I have followed my heart and learned to trust my journey regardless of the outcomes.
I have found wonderful guides along the way. Angels if you will. Women who have swept me up in their glowing hearts, looked me in the eye and held me as sacred and powerful. I wish I was taught the tools I have now as a young person in high school or my early 20’s.
I’m inspired to offer said guidance in the form of an education of sorts. And to do it in a fun way with experiences and conversations that young people enjoy but that also push their edges of comfort so they can know themselves in deeper ways. Our current circumstances and the ungrounded behaviors of the adults around them has left little for them to hold onto. I want to offer a place to connect, reflect on fears and transform them into assets. To be creative and expressive in authentic and powerful ways. There’s a saying that if we don’t provide rites of passage the children will burn down the village.
Well, we are already on fire. What is there to lose?