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hindsight is 20/20

I realized something the other day:  my parents were scared.  When I was going through my teenage rebellion/budding alcoholism they did their "tough love" thing (very popular in the 80s) because they didn't know what else to do and so latched on to something that promised to help them.  All these years I just thought they were mad at me and didn't like my personality and individuality but now I believe they were terrified and only wanted me to be safe.  Perhaps they felt they were hanging on by the skin of their teeth.  Maybe they weren't actually rigid autocrats out to spite me and flex their power like I thought they were.  Maybe they felt out of control and unable to protect me.

Because I was a handful.  Not that I regret any (or much) of my trying to assert my independence because it is probably what saved my life.  Their (at the time) East Coast, preppy, WASPy point of view felt so hypocritical to me but I now know that if I had a teenager who was drinking a lot, possibly drunk driving, or having unprotected sex with other promiscuous teens, I would be frightened to death and not know what to do.  I don't happen to have any kids but I have friends who have teens and twenty-somethings that are heroin addicts or binge drinkers and I honestly never know what to offer them in way of solace or advice.  Usually, I offer support to the unhappy teen themselves because teen angst is still very much something I relate to.

If I had a drug-addicted kid would my fear turn to anger like my parents' did?  Or would I confess my fears to my teen?  Say something like "Look, I'm really worried about you and scared that you'll get hurt."?  Or would I need to be stoic and pretend to be strong?  Certainly, I would pray but would it shake my faith in God and The Universe?  Because teens and twenty-somethings are full of bravado and supposed-immortality.  The fact that one of my high school friends died in a drunk driving accident right before graduation didn't for a second stop me from drunk driving back then.

I guess I don't need to dwell on the "what ifs" of my imaginary drunken child.  My point is that despite a tiny thread of anger and resentment still running through me, I now feel sad not just for my inner teen but for my parents as well.

I suppose they were trying to look out for me in many ways but I just saw it as interference.  For example, I was expected to go to an Ivy League college, preferably Stanford or Brown, but all I wanted to do was drop out of high school and go to cosmetology school (I think I got that idea from Grease).  Now I can see that my parents only wanted the best for me and my future, however, I felt an enormous amount of pressure and thought the Ivy League sounded impossibly stuffy and pretentious.  In the end, we compromised on Sarah Lawrence College which was one of the Seven Sisters (Smith, Vassar, Wellesley etc.) but known for its nurturing of creative types ie. rebellious but privileged freaks and punks like me.  I went and I felt that I fit in but ended up dropping out after two years because I was too into partying.  And too indecisive about what I really wanted (see my resume is cray cray).  In those days the rebel in me scorned college but I tell you, I would kill, I mean KILL, to turn back time and attend Sarah Lawrence again.  This time I would really go to all my classes, follow a major and graduate.  Hell, I've even considered enrolling as a middle-aged undergrad there!  That place was wicked cool.  And what I didn't appreciate at the time was you had to be smart to go there. Nowadays my brain, my memory, is like a sieve.  I even forget to take the gingko biloba pills which are supposed to help that.   It is such a cliche that youth is wasted on the young, but man is it true.  I hate that I'm old and can say stuff like that.  But I guess with age also comes the wisdom that maybe my parents weren't bad people, just human beings trying to muddle through.  Like how I think on some level we all are.  At any age.  Even Oprah.


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