My blog is about unearthing healthy potential in young people who’ve grown up in war zones or who’ve grown up with adults who have mental health issues, are addicts, violent or abusive. Such children miss out on essential guidance; the kind of guidance that keeps them out of jail, away from domestic violence and homelessness.
One thing they need to know is that if they suspect they’ve made a wrong choice, it’s okay to back out of it.
I made many mistakes in my life because
I missed out on such guidance.
At 38, I flew from Los Angeles to Milano, Italy to marry my new boyfriend, Marco. We spent the first week getting documents signed by officials. Upon exiting the Ufficio Matrimon in the town hall building after the last form was approved, my future father-in-law turned to me and said, “Now he’s your responsibility.”
Marco and I left the next day for Leguria to wait out the required time before our marriage ceremony could be conducted at Palazzo Reale. My father-in-law’s words swirled in my head for days, especially the night when I stayed up all night on the veranda alone following an unreasonable verbal attack by Marco which had turned into a terrible fight. He had never spoken to me like that before. I was in shock.
I had two choices, pack up and leave the next day or go through with the marriage ceremony. For the most part, I based my decision it on years of bad advice given to me by my sister, “Always stay with your man no matter what.”
I imagined the the scene his family would make if I decided to leave and convinced myself that I wanted to help Marco fulfil his dream of living in the U.S. with me. I left Milano a married woman.
It took a year before the U.S. government allowed him in the country and I allowed him to take over my apartment. I suffered his style of mental manipulation for three months before my friends dragged me to a lawyer to file for a divorce.
The decision I made that night on the veranda in Italy cost me $20,000.
This is one of my stories behind the reason why I want to fast-track character building of youth-at-risk. My Turnz cards are based on the re-enactment of stories in which the young person faces a challenging situation and is guided to take virtuous actions in response.
My Turnz Story - The Old Bicycle
This story teaches a young person it’s okay to back out of a deal as soon as they realise they’ve made a mistake.
The decision to back out can mean the difference between
- staying free or ending up in jail
- making a family with a mature person or with an abuser
- earning an income that suits them or settling for homelessness
It’s valuable to take the time to listen to the message the feeling of regret brings. In the short run, backing out can be the most difficult way to go, but in the long run, it can save them a lot of pain in the future.
New opportunities are always on the horizon.
We all learn by making mistakes.
The Old Bicycle story:
Let’s make up a story about neighbours who have an old bicycle that has been lying in their yard for a long time. They offer the bicycle to you if you do some chores for them. You agree and on Saturday, you show up to do the work. You mow their lawn, then they ask you to wash all their windows; you wash their dog, then they ask you to clean their garage.
Before you begin cleaning their garage, you sit down to think. You feel bad because you didn’t ask how much work you had to do—you trusted them. You decide it isn’t right for them to expect so much work just for a bicycle they don’t care about. You knock on their door and tell them you’re too tired to continue working. You ask them how much more work you will have to do.
They tell you to come back next Saturday and they’ll give you more to do. You tell them you can’t keep working without knowing how much more work you have to do and ask them nicely if they could give you a better idea. They refuse to tell you. You tell them you’d rather get paid money for what you’ve done instead of the bicycle. They tell you they will not pay you money.
You go home and decide it’s not worth suffering any more for theirold bicycle. You begin to think of ways to make money to buy a new bicycle. You come up with the idea to wash windows for people in your neighbourhood because now you know you’re good at it.
TOPICS TO EXPLORE:
When you sat down in their garage, before you asked them how much more work you had to do, what were your thoughts?
Talk about your disappointment when they didn’t tell you how much work you had to do.
Talk about how hard it was to stand up for yourself.Tell me how proud you feel because you refused to suffer any more.
Talk about how good it was that you let go of the bicycle even though you worked really hard for it.