Thursday, May 10, 2012

Influencing The Youth

"Whenever You Knock Me Down, I Will Not Stay On The Ground"
~Justin Bieber (Yea, that's right, totally quoted him)

The Middle School

I was invited to a middle school yesterday to speak on the trials I've been through in my life, and it went in directions I was completely unprepared for. My friend, Claire invited me weeks ago, and two nights ago I finally had some time to more fully prepare for what I was going to say. Claire asked me point blank, "What's the number one thing you hope they remember after you see them?" I responded, "That they can survive anything."

So, I sat there thinking, what are things that keep me going? And I went to work; I removed some pictures from my Board of Inspiration, and added some things I've been meaning to add for awhile. I laid out my clothes the night before (jeans and a TWLOHA shirt after some people gave me suggestions on Twitter), packed my bag full of books I've been published in, and other things that inspire me (like my James Frey book), and went to sleep, giddy, excited, and partially terrified.

In the morning, I woke up, showered (amazingly), attempted to straighten my hair which was immediately destroyed once I walked out in the humidity, loaded up Baxter and drove an hour to Fryeburg. I called both of my sisters on the drive, and they both pushed me, told me that I'd be great, that my (our) message is something worthwhile.

I parked my car, arrived a little early, and looked at the school. It was huge, I didn't know anyone but Claire there. Then Patrick called me from Germany to wish me luck, and tell me I'd do great. The lyric from Vanessa Carlton starting going through my head, "I try to live up to the moment, and hope that I don't blow it," and headed into the school.

Board of Inspiration (It's much more
complete after the presentation)
I found the office, and checked in. There were kids talking about getting sent home for, "smoking dope, but I didn't do it," and for a brief second, I thought maybe, just maybe I am meant to be here. I talked to those kids about my eyebrow rings, my lip ring, and then went up to Claire's room.

We ate lunch (which is awesome, she's such a good cook!), and I wrote a phrase on the white board that I'd heard my entire life growing up, "You'll never amount to anything."

The kids started filtering in, buzzing with excitement which was infectious and terrifying. I was shaking from the moment I'd walked into the school, and now there were several girls sitting in front of me, hoping I'd say something worth while. Suddenly all those moments of overcoming anxiety, and volunteering to read Bingo cards, and practicing were coming into play. This was real life, I was about to talk to real people, who were here to listen

Claire introduced me as Lynne though she knows me as Stephanie, and I started talking, about my dad, the drunken night he'd lost custody. I talked about what my sisters and I have accomplished. I told them about cutting, my eating disorder, depression, my mother. I read them three pages from Character Defects, that I wrote based on a fight with my mother, and why I wrote it.

And then I told them about having hope, and being positive. I told them about my Board of Inspiration, to set goals, to give themselves something to look forward to. As I spoke, I tried to watch the audience, and there were girls tearing up or silently crying as I talked about what my parents did to me. When it was over, I was asked to go into the hall and speak with some girls in small groups.

Me and Claire (respectively)
Doin' our thing, trying to give
I heard things in those groups that made me want to excuse myself and cry in the bathroom, with them, for them. People talk about censorship a lot in novels because they're afraid of what it'll do to the children. These young women in front of me went and are going through more than I, or you, can possibly imagine. I wanted to find their parents and violently shake them in the hopes that it'd knock some sense into them. I just can't understand how these girls could possibly be unloved, abused, or hurt. All I wanted to do was hug them, tell them that it'll be okay, and that I'm so, so sorry.

They were all so amazing, so honest, and so afraid of what they're going through. All I could do was tell them that it'll get better, that they can get through anything because by breathing, by being at school today, they're proving it.

When it was all said and done, they gave me hugs, thanked me, and asked to take pictures of me like I was someone or something worthwhile. One of the girls even wrote me a letter thanking me for helping her, and I started tearing up (it will end up on my Board soon).

I didn't do much, I just told them about me, and listened to them.

Some time later, I was at Claire's and checked my e-mail and there were already e-mails from some of the girls I didn't get to speak with, and their stories reaffirmed that I'm doing something right by sharing my life with them. I spent close to an hour composing a response to one, and then an hour chatting with one today who is an aspiring author.

The bottom line, is that some people ban books and censor things because they think it's terrible language, or too intense for their young minds to understand. The truth I witnessed yesterday was that these terrible intense things are daily life for a lot of our youth. It needs to change. Their voices need to be heard and understood.

To end this on a bit of a happy note; Claire sent me home some brownies and a lot of food. So I ate brownies for breakfast this morning, yay!

Also, we're planning do to a follow up with the girls soon, any suggestions what I should come back with?


  1. Thank you sooo much for coming!!! You definitely have a future in motivational speaking. I also enjoyed reading this and reliving Wednesday afternoon. Whatever you do the next time you come will be wonderful.

  2. p.s. my brownies for least tell me you had milk with them.

    1. No milk, sorry :) And I found out I have the next two Wednesdays off, so am brainstorming and thinking a follow up in two weeks?

  3. You are such a rock star, Lynne.


Please know that if you comment and I don't respond, it's not because I don't love you. It's because I don't have wifi, but I do have a bad memory.

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