Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lesson Learned

I’m an expressive person. Some may say dramatic. I find it very difficult not to wear my heart on my sleeve – or to keep my mouth shut, for that matter. In the early teen years? This was not an admirable trait.

Imagine… a middle school in a small northeast Tennessee city, circa 1991. I was an emotional, sensitive 13-year old. One of my friends was acting distant and a bit cold towards me.

Did I suck up my feelings and ask my friend what was going on? Of course not! I did what most 13-year-old girls would do. I wrote a note about her.

I write a note to one of my sweetest friends. I write something like this:

“What is wrong with Maura these days? She isn’t talking to me, and I’m soooo annoyed. She’s acting like a snob – just like Bess!” (Bess would the #1 snobby girl in school).

What a silly, silly girl I was. I thought that wonderfully juicy note would stay quietly secure in my friend’s bookbag. Nope, she showed it to Maura! Who, in turn, marched immediately over to Bess and handed it over.

In my middle school, good students could be chosen to do a semester working in the office or library instead of taking gym class. I was working in the office at this time. So later that day, I was finishing up my organizing project in the main office when eight girls burst through the doors to question me about the note. This was quite a brazen gang of girls willing accost me a mere eight feet from the principal’s office… but that time, the vice-principal stepped out and sent them away. I was shaken, but refused to tattle and let the incident slide.

The girls, plus a few extra, found me again later at the end of the school day. The surrounded me at my locker and began to tell me what they thought about my note. How dare I insult Bess… who did I think I was?

For a rare moment, I had no words. Had no idea what to say. And this time, a hero stepped in. A popular football player, at the locker only two down from mine, told those girls where to go. He stood up for me! He told them to leave me alone. And they did… the incident blew over and my face escaped a beating.

Later that night, I told my mom (some of) the story. And she gave me a critical piece of advice. Something I still use today, especially in these days of over-sharing on social media.

My mom looked at me and said,

“Julie, you need to remember this. Never write down anything that you wouldn’t want published on the front page of the newspaper. Don’t trust things to stay hidden. If you wouldn’t want it broadcast to the world, do not write it down.”

Lesson learned. I have even passed this advice to my teenage niece. I know all too well how a loose mouth can lead to trouble.

Thanks, Mom.

(Names have been changed to protect the innocent. And because my mom was right.)

Photo credit:  © BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons

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