A few weeks back a friend asked me and a few others to share our stories about growing up on a blog that has been created to show kids that they are not alone.
I grew up a poor black child... Oh wait... That's not my story... Here is MY story.
I grew up in a stable Catholic family. I am the oldest of five. My parents are STILL married, to each other, after 41 years. We didn't have a lot of money but we never lacked anything.
I was a 'Drama Geek' in high school. I wore Chucks when people thought of them as clown shoes. I wore big clunky boots. I had parts of my head shaved. I was no where near cool enough to be a leading role in the 'punk/skate rat/new wave' scene where I grew up and I was a little to geeky and weird for the Student Council crowd. I had friends in all the circles but I tended to be closest to the most troubled kids.
I would wander around and find shoes and make sure no one left parties with anyone we didn't know if they'd been drinking. I'd hold hair back while my friends puked. I'd sit at parties and listen to the police scanner to make sure no one was headed our way. I had a friend who got mad at me for knowing more people at the mall than she did. I also had a friend who stopped talking to me because another friend had invited me some where and I hadn't asked if she could come along. I had friends who would run away and come to my house.
I lost friends to drugs. When I got older I had a friend following The Grateful Dead. I would get late night phone calls from her. She would be places like the hospital because half of her veins had collapsed from shooting up so much. Or she would share stories about how she had lost all of her clothes and wandered around all of the camps looking for a grilled cheese sandwich.
I lost friends to suicide. One of my closest friends in high school I had met while she was in the hospital with another friend after HIS first attempted suicide. She came to our school a few months later and we clicked. I would get notes passed to me about how she had been sitting out back with a gun but her step-dad had found her. She would tell me she wasn't taking her medication. She wanted my undivided attention. I wanted to give it.
All of this started to have it's toll on me. I worried. I enabled. Luckily I had parents who were wise and understanding. When a friend came to my house 'unexpectedly' from Chicago my parents called his parents and found out he had run away. They smoothed things over with his folks and talked to them about accepting my friend for who he was. They talked to my school about getting me counseling when a friend from another school killed himself.
I had stable friends as well. Friends who wanted to make something of themselves. Friends who let me be who I wanted to be. Friends who didn't expect me to drop everything for them if I was having a better time than they were.
I know that there are some of you out there. You aren't the troubled one but your friends are. You are the mom. The care-taker. The punching bag. You don't have to be. It's hard to learn that you can't save the world. It's also hard not too lose yourself while trying to save everyone. You know who the soul suckers in your life are. You don't have to abandon them completely. You just have to be able to step back and take a breath and do something for yourself. Listen to music. Write. Make some art. Hang out with people that you feel you can breathe around.
Keep your heart open and loving but be as open and loving with yourself as you are with others. If you have some one who is continually making you feel like crap maybe they need to go. I'm not trying to sound like a preachy adult. I am some one who has been there. I am forty years old and still trying to learn this lesson.