Camden missed the bus today. As I drove him to school, something about the morning- the fall colors, the cool temperature, the smells- took me back to my junior year of high school in Maryland. It's a time in my life that I don't often think of so I was taken back at the flood of thoughts.
Even though I was 15 going on 16 at the time, I don't remember much about Maryland itself. For some reason my mind has blocked out most of the memories of that year and all I have are sketchy flashes of people and places.
My freshman and sophomore years had been in Bogotá, Colombia. I loved it there- the people, my school, the parties. I had lots of friends and had learned to love everything about the Colombian culture. Those were the golden years of my adolesence and I have an abundance of intricate, happy and detailed memories from those two years. Watching Bogotá get smaller and smaller out the airplane window as we flew away was one of the most painful experiences I can remember as a teen. I had left behind the life I thought I wanted to continue living forever.
Moving to Maryland was a culture shock, to put it mildly. Everything felt so completely different and I felt invisible in a sea of thousands of students. I felt there was no one at school I could relate to and as a result ate lunch alone every day in the library. I had labeled myself an outcast and a loser.
Now as a nurse and having learned about and having been exposed to patients with depression, I can see in retrospect that I was in deep depression. Even though I can't remember many of the physcial aspects of Maryland, I clearly remember many of the self-loathing and self-destructive thoughts I had and repeated to myself, like a broken record.
Also in retrospect, I can see that many of the circumstances that I believed were a reality were in fact exaggerated and exacerbated by my own selfishness and unwillingness to see or reach outside myself. My wallowing in self-pity turned to full-scale depression because I did nothing to help myself out of my dark hole. It was much easier to ride on the wave of self-pity than it was to try to make friends and get involved.
Eventually I allowed myself to slowly climb out of that dark hole. I remember my parents being worried sick about me and doing everything they could think of to try to help. I remember my brother, who didn't have it easy at school either, taking me under his wing and including me in everything that he did.
It's interesting how despite the vague, dark memories of those days, I learned so much about myself during that time.
I learned that I couldn't allow circumstances, no matter how bad I thought they were, to dictate my attitude.
I learned that a friendly face can sometimes come from the most unexpected places. Ironically, the "gothic" kids at school, with the black hair, black eyeliner and fingernail polish, piercings in unthinkable places and long trench coats were some of the kindest and least judgemental at school.
I learned that friends come and go (and in my case, this was very often) but that my family would always be there for me.
I began my slow journey of caring less what others thought of me and, and caring more what I thought of myself.
I learned the importance of turning to my church family for support. I made some amazing friends with some of the youth in our ward.
By my senior year, my family moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I had begun to open my shell a little, but still remained mostly detached. The reopening process has taken years.
I wish I could go back through time and talk to my 15 year old self. I would tell myself that these are times that will help define and mold me for the rest of me life. I wish I could tell myself how much I would regret my selfishness and experiences lost. I wish I could have told myself that people don't judge and think about you as much as you think they do. Most people are too worried about themselves and what others think of them. I wish I could have told myself to open my eyes to the people around me that love me and to just be present, instead of mourning the past.
As hard as it is to have those regrets, I'm glad they're there. There's a reason we were given a selectively vivid memory. My regrets about the past blaze brightly in my memory. But hopefully it's so that I will only make those mistakes once and that sharing them with my children will help deter them from making the same mistakes.