High school students used to terrify me. Not only have I heard warnings about them since my children were in utero—they can’t be trusted, their developing brains make the stupid, eighty percent of them will try alcohol, and they are going to assert their independence in all sorts of nasty ways—but I felt completely inept around them. It used to be that whenever I was around an older teen, I’d freeze up and act like the gawky girl I was before I lost my leg. They say that when we experience a trauma a part of our development is stunted at the age we were when the trauma happened. I was a somewhat awkward high school senior when I lost my leg and, since then, a part of me has been stuck there. So when I found myself around teenagers, I didn’t know how to communicate with them. What do I say? What’s cool and funny these days? How do I get them to like me? I know adults are supposed to assert their ‘adult-ness,’ especially around high schoolers, but for me, I felt just like I did in high school: I wanted to be liked.
When my nieces and nephews (who are all older than my children) were in high school, I reflected back to my hopes and dreams at that age. They were pretty simple, really: I wanted a first kiss, I wanted my driver’s license, and I wanted that boy to ask me on a date. In short, I wanted to grow up. And then I was in my accident and lost my leg. I didn’t want to grow up that way.
Now that my kids are both high school students—my son is a senior and my daughter is a freshman—I can honestly say that I love high school students. It’s hard to talk about them without sounding cliché. It’s hard not to compare them to a budding flower, full of promise and beauty, ripe with possibility and hope. I love their exuberant energy, how they dive into their interests head-on, and how they see their future as something to expect, enjoy and fulfill.
Life has a way of clouding our optimism and deadening our dreams. As I am embarking a new career path as a writer, coach and speaker, I am inspired and invigorated by the infectious attitude of possibility and hope that my children radiate these days.
How about you? What old story lives in your bones? How can someone else’s attitude help you re-write that story?