Wednesday, October 31, 2012

15 Years Old: The Magic Number

"Most of your values, attitudes, and expectations have been locked in by the time you're 15."*

Adversity shapes you so...

"What kinds of adversity did you go through when you were 15?"*

I'll include ages 10 up to 15.

Age 10: We lived in Cameroon and I was at boarding school in Nigeria. We cut my long hair so that I could take care of it myself. I was so excited! But moving from home school with Mom to taking care of myself, living in a house full of kids that I wasn't related to, and to a classroom of 33 kids where I had to compete for attention was definitely adversity.

Age 11: We moved back to the States for a year. There was culture shock, culture bullies (you DO NOT talk about an exotic home town with exotic foods and exotic friends without consequences), and the media constantly spouting murder and mayhem. We traveled regularly to churches and had to stand up on display while the people gaped at us and asked for stories of exotic places, exotic food, and exotic people.

Age 12: We were back in Nigeria and I was back at boarding school again with a very abusive teacher. If I did bad on a pop quiz or a test I found myself lined up with a few other classmates outside the closet waiting for my turn to get paddled. As if beating a kid and making them live with constant fear will make them do better on their next test. There were bullies, too. Kids who were as miserable as I was and took it out on the younger ones.

Age 13: Finally, I had a great teacher, some great friends, and the guys started asking me out. Whoohoo!

Age 14: Dad had a bad accident and we were uprooted instantly back to the States taking with us only what would fit in a suitcase. Being the oldest I helped take care of my little brother and sister on the way home while Mom took care of Dad. We lived with Grandma and went to school while Mom and Dad stayed in another state for medical treatment. At school everyone had already been told I was different and so I navigated the culture bullies again and spent a lot of time at the library trying to learn as much as I could about American culture so I could blend in or disappear. At the same time political upheaval was taking place in Nigeria and I was worried about my friends and if any of the violence would affect them. The news on TV was all about the Americans that were taken hostage in Iran and the Mount St. Helen's eruption.

Age 15: We finally moved into a house and were a family again. Dad still had physical issues that we all had to get used to and I began to get the hang of blending in and disappearing into American culture.

So if my values, attitudes, and expectations are set by 15 then I value blending in and disappearing, I have an attitude of constant survival, and I expect things to always be in upheaval.

That's about right and I'm all worn out from it.

*Quotes from Jeff Vankooten in "You Are Who You Were When"

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