To 13-Year-Old Me

I see you’re feeling pretty sorry for yourself. You think it’s the worst year of your life, and I don’t blame you. You’ve taken some awfully hard punches in 1968. It’ll be another four decades before life knocks you to the mats, and you’re almost down for the count.

Let me assure you. You and Jesus make it through the eighth grade. He never leaves your side. But if you could know now, what I know from the future, the next couple years could be a little easier. Here’s what I’ve learned.

credit to chaoticsoulzzz.wordpress.com

credit to chaoticsoulzzz.wordpress.com

  1. Forget boys. Really. They’ll still be around in a few years, and you’ll be a lot better able to handle whatever they throw at you, be it a baseball or a slick slide from your waist up and across your chest. Invest in a couple of good girlfriends instead. If you have to choose between a heart-fluttering jaunt around the bay with Surfer Joe or keeping your girls’ day out date with Laurie Lee, stick with Laurie. She’ll be there long after Joe motors off into the sunset with someone else. shutterstock_119402656-480x320
  2. Forget the In Group. I know you think they’re your ticket to a great social life, but you don’t even like big parties. You hate to talk about the latest fashions, the coolest rock stars. Why do you want that kind of social life? Could it be the boys? See Lesson #1.

    publicdomainpictures.net

    publicdomainpictures.net

At least, you figure some things out by senior year in high school, and you enjoy choosing some good friends. I’m telling you: you could have had that blessing a lot sooner.

  1. Use the talents God gave you. Now. You don’t have to wait until after college and make one of your gifts a career. People have started to tell you that you have a great singing voice. You’ve even sung solos. Enjoy those times. Work at getting even better.

    hsdiploma.com

    hsdiploma.com

You’ve known you wanted to be a teacher since you were four. What about helping out with the nursery class at Sunday school? Or, here’s a daring thought. What if you offered babysitting services to the unwed mother down block? Teen moms must be even lonelier than you.

You know how you enjoy writing? Surprise! You publish several magazine articles during years when you’re not teaching. And after you retire? You write FULL TIME. How cool is that?

  1. Kick self-pity out of your life. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Your dad’s at war, your sister’s in and out of doctors’ offices, your mom needs your support, and your friends faded into nonexistence just because you moved away for four months. Will it help to learn your dad survives, your sister grows up to be a teacher just like you, your mom was a lot stronger than you gave her credit for, and new people were quite willing to be your friend? But you blew it. The self-pity blinded you. So don’t blow it.

    hdwalls.xyz

    hdwalls.xyz

You asked Jesus into your life when you were ten, and your current Sunday School teacher makes a lot of sense as he shares his faith in class. Listen to him, and copy him.  If you’re looking at Jesus instead of your poor little self, YOU WILL HAVE JOY!

  1. This is a question, not a lesson learned. While you have a great sense of rhythm, a nice smile, and a voice that projects across the basketball court, you are one of the most uncoordinated people I know. Do you really want to be a cheerleader in high school, or do you just hope Quarterback Kevin will notice you?  See Lesson #1. Again.13 yr Linda
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Pep Talk to My 15-½-year-old Self

Okay, Cindy, pay attention because this is some of the most important stuff you’ll ever hear. And the only time you’ll hear it.

First, congratulations. You made it through your freshman year of high school. Now in 10th grade and 15 ½ years old, you’re midway through your teen years. And still alive and well. That’s an accomplishment you’ll appreciate later.

Caught at the halfway point between childhood and womanhood, you’re having a Mid-teen Crisis, although you have no name for it. You’re tying to figure out who you are, while others are tying to tell you who or what you should be.

That’s all right. In fact, it’s pretty normal.

You forget to shave your legs or tweeze the uni-brow because you’d rather be outside examining trees and plants, playing with your dog, or running wild in an open field and flying a kite. And maybe when you finally go inside at dusk, you don’t feel like washing your hair and winding it around giant rollers to make it straight, as fashion of the time dictates. You get teased about your unkempt appearance.

So what? Enjoy being a kid a while longer.

Try not to obsess over your delayed physical development. Don’t even think about it for another year, because you’re wasting your time. Of course, you’re in awe of girls your age and younger who wear a bra cup size with letters that otherwise represent mediocre to poor grades in school. It hurts sometimes when boys pay attention only to those girls, especially that one boy you like in particular.

Don’t worry. Your time will come.

When it does, don’t let a boy you date convince you to drop any activities, hobbies, or friends you enjoy. He criticizes those things you love because he’s jealous. He knows they make you look interesting and attractive, and he can’t stand it.

DrawingTeenCouple

A drawing I did in high school of a happy couple I hoped someday to be a part of.

On to the practical aspects of life.

It’s great that you learned to sew. That skill will serve you well in your impoverished college years when you mend torn pants to wear another semester and create a blouse from a dollar’s worth of fabric.

Now learn to cook. Don’t wait so long.

And read more. A lot more. Classic novels and current events magazines.

The times in which you live are a turning point in American history. Watch the news, and listen to adults talk about it. You’ll use the knowledge gained to interpret the cultural and political events in your adulthood.

Even though it’s hard to talk to your father, do it. Think of topics you both might enjoy. You won’t have many more years of conversations with him.

Consider more career options than you do now. Research them and ask questions of professionals in those fields. Seek advice about what to study in college to prepare for more than one option.

Bottom line? Don’t limit your possibilities in any way. In forty years, the people and things you enjoy in life may surprise you.

profile_pic  Cynthia

Words of wisdom to my 16-year-old self…

In keeping with the recent theme of advising our younger self, I’ve penned some words of wisdom to my 16-year-old self.

Dear me,

I know you want a boyfriend NOW. I understand you’re worried a great guy may never come along for you. Honestly, you should lighten up about that. A lot of things in your life are really good—focus on that. It’s not the end of the world that you don’t have a boyfriend right now.

I can tell you with 100%dating picture certainty that a great guy is on his way and soon. He’s a keeper for sure. So just be patient. I know that’s never been your best quality. In fact, if you could make “chilling out” more of a priority, that would be awesome. You’re too much of a worrier. I know the term “GOD’s got this” means nothing to you now, but HE does have this and that and everything else. HE so totally knows what HE’s doing. Learn to trust
more, worry less, and roll with the punches.

 You know how it bugs you that you’re not part of the “in” crowd? You have friends, sure, but you’re not popular. Well, if that’s one of the things you can learn to “chill” about, that would be best because things in that department don’t get better.  Oh, some of the snobbish folk eventually get neck cramps from hoisting their noses so far in the air. Er… I mean they outgrow the tendency to look down on everyone. But that doesn’t happen until you’re, you know, ancient, like in your mid to late thirties. 

Eventually the whole popularity thing becomes less important to you. You mostly get over being bothered by them. But that’s a lot of years of letting them get under your skin, so I suggest you get over it NOW. Just focus on being the best “you” you can be and don’t worry about anyone else.

too slow clock

And you know how you feel like time moves so slowly and you’re always wishing this or that would hurry up and get here? Well, stop that right now! Stop wishing your life away. Live in and enjoy every moment as it comes. Please trust me on this one. Time is moving at exactly the pace it is supposed to.

 

 

Back to being who you are. You need to believe in yourself more. GOD’s given you abilities and qualities that HE wants and needs you to use. Don’t sell yourself short. In fact if you could spend some time building your confidence, it will serve you well in the decades to come when you have a tendency to shrink back from challenges that you should embrace. So yeah, take a course or read a book. Do something to boost that level of confidence because there’s a whole world waiting out there for you.

Most Sincerely,

Your much older and wiser self

How do you feel when you think back on the person you were at 16?

 

 

 

Pay No Attention to the Man, Woman, or Whatever Behind the Curtain- Part 2

My last post was a precursor to introducing one of the most important elements in storytelling, “narrative”. There were some good responses by the contributors, but no one mentioned the five hundred pound gorilla in the room: the excellent narration of events in this video. Let’s refresh our memories:

The fact that responders didn’t think to mention narration means the editors did a bang-up job on assembling this story for us. Good storytelling gives us the feel that a story is telling itself.

One of the things that I like about this video is that whether or not the story is true, and I’m sure it’s close enough to what really happened, the details are so specifically human and universal, they fascinate us. But if the details of what happened aren’t given to us in  specific ways, the human aspects become lost or uninteresting. How storytellers assemble the details of a story is called narration. What are some of the ways we judge a narration to be good or bad?

if the details of what happened aren’t given to us in  specific ways....we become lost or uninterested.

if the details of what happened aren’t given to us in specific ways….we become lost or uninterested.

There is of course in all stories the beginning, middle, and end/conclusion. That type linear reality in real life isn’t always so clear cut. But in a story, without a clear linear progression of time the narrative its hard for an audience to process. Really good storytellers lead an audience through the elements of time in any order. The stories we love the best present unique details in a specific context (time to name one) so we may provide the emotional ramifications as events unfold. What are some of those emotional ways we responded to the tenors?

We are introduced to our protagonists and we understand from the beginning what’s at stake. There’s no guessing as to what’s going on here – these guys are on TV to follow their dreams. We are then introduced to the main obstacle and the conflict: they’ve never performed in front of an audience together. We also don’t know if these guys can sing or not? How are we feeling about this?

We are also helped to process all the specific uncertainties by being allowed to see the interviewer’s response to these singer’s surprise confession. All these uncertainties are continued to be reinforced by specific things like the interview with the three tenors and one of them doesn’t know Puerto Rico is a US territory.

we may provide the emotional ramifications as events unfold

we may provide the emotional ramifications as events unfold

In how these events are presented, we the audience are never told what to feel, or how we should process these events. We are given the freedom to experience a lot of emotions, and the more emotions the better. Narratives become manipulative when a teller demands you to respond a very specific way and not give the audience room to be themselves.

Look at our example, some people may want the tenors to fail and will take joy in this. Others may have compassion that these guys will humiliate themselves on national television. Some may want these guys to succeed and continue to live vicariously through the experience. There is room for all kinds of emotional responses, but the only common thread\plot is: will they fail or succeed and in what way should we care or not care?

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What are some of those emotional ways we responded to the tenors?

One of my favorite elements in this narrative is when the women in the audience says, “they look like a joke.”  This highlights why human beings love stories so much. Stories help us see into the lives and experiences of others. In real life, there is no way we could know the response of the woman in the audience. We don’t even know such auditions exist, this story lets us become the fly on the wall as three men follow their dreams.

Let’s look at a basic example of how narrative creates order. Start the link below, but before you play the video, mute the volume.

 

Now play the video again with the volume up, notice the difference? Without narration or narrative, everything appears random, incoherent, and uninteresting.

The stories that fascinate us always provide what we need to understand it- or provide for an audience the center of consciousness or perception. That’s just a fancy way of saying, “seeing an interesting story through the eyes of an interesting character, and never getting lost as events unfold.”

In The Art of the Novel Henry James states, “…there are…five million ways to tell a story, each of them justified if it provides a ‘center’ for the work….” James believed that a good story was always interesting and accomplished what it’s author intended it to. If it didn’t do that? The book was awful. For the record, James loved Treasure Island for the exact stated reason.

ship

Henry James liked Treasure Island.

So let’s go back to our tenors and their tryouts. What do you suppose this clip was intended to do (theme)? Did it accomplish what it was shooting for? Is the narrative successful? What emotions did you experience as you watched?

My next post will be about the “nuts and bolts” of building narrative.

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Foolin’

So, how do you celebrate April Fools’ Day? Do you plot, plan and scheme how to “get” someone really good? Maybe you step warily throughout the day to protect yourself from being “got”.

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Image courtesy of Keerati / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I knew someone who, as a lover of April 1st foolishness, went to the office with mismatched clothes, worn inside out and backwards.  A funky hair style completed the very unprofessional look. Most people she encountered that day simply stared, looked away and then stared some more. No one vocally attributed her appearance to April Fools’ Day. I don’t think anyone commented at all. But, man, did they stare. Not exactly the reaction she was expecting. She wanted people to laugh and say, “Good one.”

It can be great fun to pull off the ultimate prank. Not usually as much fun to be the one getting pranked, but even that can be entertaining. I don’t, however, recommend announcing a pregnancy on April 1. You wouldn’t want to be responsible for someone having a heart attack! I know someone who did that. Not a good idea.

We don’t always have to look to others to fool us. Some of us do a pretty good job of that on our own. How? By allowing ourselves to believe stuff that isn’t really true.

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the biggies that “gets” a lot of people is falling for the lie that I’m too ___________ (fill in the blank) to change or to straighten out my life or do better. Too messed up, too far gone, too old, too weak, too addicted, too alone.

Not true. Not true. SO not true.

If you’re a teenager it’s a safe bet that you’ve made decisions that you regret since entering the –teen years. Sound judgment and wise decision-making often escape teenagers. It’s too easy to follow the crowd, to make spur-of-the-moment decisions, to give into the curiosity to try “it”—whatever “it” is—just once. And before you know it, you’re in way deeper than you ever thought possible. One bad decision followed another and another, and wow, you can barely remember how you got to this unpleasant, maybe even unsafe place you’re at now.

Don’t be fooled into letting one or even a hundred crummy decisions determine your future.

You CAN change. It’s NOT too late. There IS hope.

The consequences of your choices may linger… maybe for a long time. But that’s no reason to continue down that same unhealthy, dangerous, unwise path.  Turn around now.

Hopefully you’re lucky enough to have parents or grandparents you can go to with the issues in your life. If not, look to a teacher, coach, pastor, the parent of a friend, a doctor or nurse. Look for as long as it takes to find a trusted adult who can help you get back on the right track.

No matter how deep you’re in or how far from where you ought to be, don’t be fooled into believing your fate is sealed.

Image courtesy of Bulldogza / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Bulldogza / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It is NOT a done deal.

You CAN still have a bright future.

Please don’t let your past make your future decisions.

It’s okay to fall for those common but annoying April Fools’ Day jokes. Enjoy the lame pranks. Have a good laugh.

Just don’t be fooled into living in the past. Today, make the CHOICE to leave the past behind and move forward.