Out of Body Experience

She generally gave herself very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it).
Lewis Carroll

As a high school English teacher, I naturally came in contact with hundreds of students in my eleven years of experience. Many of the students just went through the motions and “did” the class. But most of my students became a part of my school family. I care(d) about each of them very much. When I watched them going through the regular teenage angst, I could really relate. I would offer my advice. Things like:

  • It’s ok to break up with your boyfriend in high school. Even though you think you love him more than anything else in this world and are pretty sure he’ll be your baby daddy, the percentage of couples who are high school sweethearts and still together 60 years later is low. So, be friends with your friends, enjoy your time, and live your high school experience. If your boyfriend tries to pull you down or control you — end it.
  • Good friends don’t ask you to cheat for them, lie for them, or cover for them. Good friends respect your character. If you have a friend who is always asking for your homework — he or she IS NOT YOUR FRIEND.
  • In high school, your teachers actually care about you (most of them, anyway). When we are hard on you, we’re trying to teach you something. When you get to college, you start your first year or two as a number. Your professors won’t necessarily know your name or care about you. Learn how to take care of yourself NOW.
  • It’s ok to go away to college – like, out of the county. You’ll still be able to talk to your mom, dad, brother, sister, aunt, cousin, BFF via Skype or text or IM. Get away and have some life experiences. Plan to go further than two miles away if you can…especially if you’ve lived here your entire life.
  • You and another girl wearing the same dress to prom is not the end of the world. Small children have not suffered due to this coincidence. It will be ok. Get over it.
  • Take an art class or two. Stop killing yourself with AP. In the long run, your SAT score means squat to the boss you have upon graduating from college. Enjoy your life!
You know, things like that. Things that only once you’ve gone through it, lived it, survived it can you become the expert. I would get so frustrated with them for not listening. For staying with that boyfriend or girlfriend all through high school (and sometimes into the first couple of years of college) and wasting away the fun times they could have had with their friends.
I think about this because I’m friends with many of my former students on Facebook, and I’m still watching them deal with the angst of life. And there is so much angst in life. And I was just like them when I was a teenager — I thought I knew everything about everything and that I didn’t need anyone’s help.

This got me thinking about the things with which I’m struggling right now. I still find myself whining and complaining and trying to control the universe, so I have decided to step out of my own body and give myself some advice. Here goes:

  • Stop complaining that your baby is waking up at 5 am. He will one day be seventeen and never want to wake up at a decent hour, and you’ll be trying to drag his 170 pound butt out of bed just to get to school.
  • Ignore the mess in the kitchen and watch your kids play. They won’t be cute at twenty-one and fifteen banging pots together. It’s cute now at 7 and 9 months. Enjoy it.
  • Pinterest can wait. Your 7 year old wants you to do her hair now and then play school. In about three more years (or sooner), she’s going to think you’re a big dork and won’t want anything to do with you. Turn the computer off and go be her student.
  • When it’s sunny outside, GO OUTSIDE. Who cares if you hate sweating or sneezing or bugs? Your kids love all of that – so go outside. Take a few walks, get on the swings, and enjoy the time out there with your babies.
  • DVR is handy, so use it. It’s ok to miss the exact moment that Grey’s Anatomy comes on if it means an extra hour of sleep or snuggle time with your husband. Turn off the tube and get to the important stuff!
  • Eat better. The cookies are tasty, but you also need to be healthy for yourself and your family. Go get an apple!
If only I could listen to myself. I know how to be sensible. I know what I should be doing. I guess I’m really no different than those teenagers I learned to love so much. 
Oh – except for the fact that I’m twice their age and not stressing over which color of eyeliner to wear tomorrow.

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