I went through a lot of trauma between the ages of 15-19. I had already been through prior trauma, losing my dad to a heart attack at the age of 12, getting hit by a delivery truck while crossing the street when I was 10, living with an abusive, dysfunctional family dynamic from birth, etc.
But from the ages of 15 to 19, a lot of other bad stuff happened in short sequence:
- My mother married my first boy friend that I brought home from school. They married on his 18th birthday. I was 15 and had to go to school with my new “stepdad”. It was humiliating. I started skipping school constantly and went from a straight A honors student to just not caring.
- I started working a rather dangerous and technically illegal 3rd shift job when I was 16. There was one really threatening experience where a drunk guy was physically threatening me and I had to call the cops. Scary stuff at that age.
- When I was 17, I was robbed at gunpoint after a shift at Burger King (after leaving the above job obviously).
- When I was 16, we moved from Georgia, back to Indiana (where I was born), which meant leaving all my friends and the school I had been attending for the past five years. I found it very hard to integrate into my new school.
- Being dumped on family and friends unceremoniously when my mother and her husband wanted to go away. I had to stay with people I really didn’t like, in living conditions that were pretty nasty at times. Places I knew my mother would have never stayed herself, but she left me there so she could go away and have fun.
- I developed my first “real” feelings for a guy around 17-18. Unfortunately, he led me on, made me think we might have a future together, then lied to me, moved another girl in with him, told me they were just friends, then when I found out they were together and expressed anger about it, he wrote me a nasty letter saying I was obsessive and pretty much accused me of being crazy.
Looking back now, I really wish I could have known then what I know now. I wish my adult self could have been there to comfort myself. I wish that instead of giving up on education and school, that I would have embraced it as a way out. At the time, I was just so humiliated and depressed, that skipping school and not caring seemed the only way.
Before all this happened, I had big plans. I wanted to go to college to study journalism. I had dreams of being a foreign correspondent, or even just a regular reporter. At the age of 12, I was studying college course catalogs and trying to figure out which college would be best for journalism. I would also regularly write practice made up “news articles” just for fun. I wish I had kept those. I’d imagine they would give me quite a kick now. My other dream was to own a used bookstore.
The trauma made me give up on all that. I stopped caring about my future at all. I couldn’t see that I HAD much of a future at all. It is really a wonder that I never attempted suicide. I think my fear of hell (because I was religious at the time) is probably what stopped me.
I guess in the end, my determination and stubbornness has helped me fix some of the errors made back then. I have become a writer, even if I’m not a journalist. I write a fairly successful blog here, have published and even won awards for books I’ve written, share my poetry here and on social media, have worked freelance jobs as a copywriter, ghostwriter, editor, and reviewer – so I’ve come a long way for someone who didn’t take the traditional path and get a college degree.
I guess what I’m trying to say, is that if things seem like they can never get better, they can. Don’t give up. I still have to tell myself that today on my bad days and in my bad moments. And if you are young, don’t give up on the things that could be your way out (like education).