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Xpress, the Coolest Section of the St. Petersburg Times, is the home for features, news and views of interest to young readers. Most of the work in Xpress, which appears on Mondays in Floridian, is produced by the Times' X-Team. The team of journalists ages 9-17 from around the Tampa Bay area is selected every year at the end of the school year to serve during the following school term. The current team of 12 was chosen out of 150 applicants. Watch for X-Team application forms in Xpress during the month of May.


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Decisions, decisions: what was I thinking?

By CECILIA TUCKER

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 30, 2001


I have made some stupid mistakes that may have consequences far beyond anything I ever imagined. I certainly can't change the outcome now, so trashing myself because of these mistakes will only make me feel more stupid. I would like to figure out what I was thinking when I made the decisions to screw up. The problem I have now is to figure out how I can get myself out of this mess, if there is a way out. If I feel this bad, don't they think I have learned my lesson?

I thought I was just rebelling against the system and my parents. Now things look different to me as I am reviewing the result. You see, I figured that if I just did things my way for a change, they would see that my way worked as well as theirs. All I set out to do was to prove my point. Then I screwed up, royally!

I could spend a lot of time listing all the bad decisions I've made over the past few years, but I have figured out that making this list doesn't matter in the big scheme of things. The list could read something like this: I used drugs, got way too drunk, failed classes at school, had sex or, even worse, unprotected sex. It could be that I shoplifted something, got arrested, skipped school, cheated, lied about where and with whom I hung out. Or, perhaps I stole from my parents. It could be that I have done all of these things at one time or another, and the deeds have finally caught up with me.

I never knew that I could feel this awful about me, especially when I thought I was in control of my life. I just knew I could do a better job with me than everyone else could. I got so sick of always being told what to do or when and how to do it. I felt the authority figures in my life wanted me to be their little puppet on a string. I just decided not to be their parrot anymore and reacted accordingly. How could I have been so wrong about my ability to control my own life?

As I write this note to myself, I am feeling a bit hopeless. I can't go and ask anyone for help now. I can't let anyone know what a mess I have made out of my life. My parents would never let me live this one down, and I surely don't need more condemnation heaped on me to make me feel even worse. I am incredibly stuck, and I am scared. Can I find a way out of the deep hole that I have created for myself? Is there any way I can save face and ask for help? Is there anyone in my family or in the system who would help me instead of criticizing me? If I turn to a friend, will that become one more stupid decision that will end up coming back to haunt me in the end?

What's going to happen to me if I don't face the people who say they love me the most and ask them for help? All by myself, I cannot fix this problem that I have created. I have to ask for help. Not only do I not have the resources to solve this problem; I also realize that I don't have the insights I need.

Now I find myself facing a bigger problem: My pride is standing in the way of finding some answers and admitting that I was wrong.

I know that neither the system nor my parents are out to ruin my life by trying to control my every move. Now I realize I do need boundaries and guidelines to follow. I cannot live my life fully without their help. What was I thinking when I thought that I was old enough and wise enough to do life all my way?

* * *

IT! (Private thoughts of the Indomitable Teen) is written by Cecilia Tucker, a licensed marriage and family therapist at the Counseling Center for New Direction in Seminole. Tucker, who has been in counseling practice since 1979, writes this column under the guidance of a panel of teenage advisers, who approve the topics and offer their insights (in exchange for pizza). You may write her c/o: IT!, X-Press, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or e-mail Floridian@sptimes.com.

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