Église St-Germain-des-Prés, Paris
While searching in my archives for something else this evening, something really banal like an invoice I’d sent last year, I came across this text file titled “When I was 15″. My hard drive is littered with text files, mind-dumps at odd hours which — sometimes and eventually — grow into blog posts. According to the date on this one, it sat around for more than two years, waiting for an ending.
The year that I was 15 was probably the worst one I can remember. There were several incidents that drove me to my mother’s overstuffed medicine cabinet to find an alternative solution. I chickened out, but my school sent me to a psychologist who I’ll never forget. He was a very gentle and kind person who eventually talked me into returning to school. It was a bit of a miracle, but I made it to 17, and I almost didn’t graduate, but the point is I did. It’s no wonder I didn’t want to go to my high school reunion — those years were pretty awful!
Fast forward to 2007. I happened to be in Vancouver over Easter, and attended a memorial service while I was there. I bumped into the psychologist. Despite the sadness of the memorial and that more than 20 years had passed, he remembered me. I was enthusiastic about seeing the psychologist again and told him how much of a difference he made in my life at the time. David had passed away only a year and a few months before, but I’d already come a long way — I’d moved back to Canada, found a good job, was making my way through aviation ground school. I was coping with much more difficult issues than the ones I had at 15, and without a therapist.
I’m not quite sure where I was going at the time when I typed out the story of the psychologist into a text file, other than that I wanted to inform him of a happy ending, since otherwise how would he know? If I’d bumped into him now, I’d be able to give him an even happier ending, but relatively-speaking it was good news back then, especially considering the circumstances surrounding our unexpected reunion.
Now that I’m 40 and 25 years away from that terrible time, I can look back with relief that I’d overcome my self and created a new one who is better-equipped at managing stress and developing coping strategies. If I had a chance to time-travel and talk to my 15-year old self, I know what I would tell her about her future — that it was bright and she would be more in control and this would be a distant memory. That life would give her more opportunities, better role models, more forks in the road, if she would just stick it out for two more years and finish school.
But of course we don’t have the chance to talk to our younger selves, but we remember those who do. I’m thankful that my school sent me to a psychologist who was able to get through to me at a time when I didn’t want to listen to anybody. I know this is not the case for all teenagers in this fragile phase in life, and those who carry major issues into adulthood without dealing with them can suffer and make those around them suffer as a consequence. Some teenagers don’t even make it that far. I could easily have been one of them.
Here’s to all the adults who take teenage problems seriously, not trivializing them, helping youth get past the difficulties to reach adulthood safely. Thank you, JG!