I was 16 years old, a junior in high school. At a time when I should have been enjoying football games, Friday night pizza gatherings and sweet talk from the male cuties in my Math class–I was feeling empty.
For some strange reason, I felt like a misfit. It seemed like all my classmates connected. They talked about the same things and wanted to hang out in the same places. I, on the other hand, found myself thinking about what I wanted my life to look like “when I grow up.” From my teenage perspective, the thought of being an adult excited me.
I didn’t criticize my peers for having what I considered unimportant conversations and seemingly risky behaviors. In fact, it was just the opposite. I was wondering: “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I get with this? Any of it.”
Academics bored me. My classmates confused me. And the environment stagnated me. All of which lead to a C student who was called a nerd and labeled as too good to hang out with her peers.
Those were three signs that it was time for a change:
1. I was no longer challenged.
2. I could no longer relate to the people around me
3. My energy didn’t match the energy of the environment.
One day, I was walking down the hall and Dr. Gilbert, an associate principal, as I remember her to be, yells, “Smith”! Most of the teachers and administrators referred to me as “Smith”. I have three older siblings so most often I was known by my last name, which came with clear expectations.
Wondering if, for some unforeseen reason, I was in trouble my heart started pumping and hands became clammy. I immediately stopped and turned around. She walked up to me and put her arm around my shoulders and casually said, “Hey, how are you doing?” Not clear on whether she really wanted to know how I was doing or if she was just getting cozy to see if I had a pass to be roaming the halls, I enthusiastically responded with my usual “Excellent!”.
Engaging me in further conversation she asked, “how are your classes?” At that moment, I surprised myself. I said, “Dr. Gilbert I don’t enjoy school anymore.”
Forgetting that I was on my way to class, she said, “Come, take a walk with me.” Continuing with the small talk, she led me into her office. After taking a seat she promptly asked, “Have you ever considered going to college or getting a job?”
I lit up! I felt my eyes popped wide open and I smiled broadly. I felt the energy of opportunity. I felt a boost of confidence when she continued, “I’ve noticed you, and you are quite mature for your age.”
Whiling trying to look attentive to the conversation, I thought: Wow! I’d love to go to college. As that thought past, the little bogeyman on my shoulder said: I wonder if she knows I’m a C student? They probably don’t let C students go to college. I wonder what grade point average I have to have to be admitted? This is probably not going to work. I was too embarrassed to ask and I certainly didn’t want her to look up my record. So I said, nothing.
I told her I’d go to the admissions office of the local college to see if I can enroll. Being true to my word, that’s exactly what I did. The next semester, while still in high school, I took Speech and Biology college courses. It was amazing. I found a new space where I could breathe again.
What’s in that experience for you?
Here’s how to take a leap of faith:
1. Listen and Trust Yourself. You know when it’s time for a change. Your body, mind and spirit will never lie to you. You aren’t feeling anxious, unsettled, unhappy and disconnected for no reason. If you take the time to stop, you’ll know exactly what you feel and why you feel it.
2. Open Up. You can choose to suffer in silence and pretend to be happy or open up and share with someone who can and will help you. Consider someone who can see options that you never thought of and with whom you respect.
3. Take Action. Opportunities are all around you! Doors with various labels are waiting for you to walk through them. Many times, you see them and even feel a tug to move toward them, but turn around and step back into your box. Ask yourself, what is the worst thing that can happen if I walk toward a worthy opportunity?