Dealing With Change, Goals and Motivation: An Article for Teens

Lauren Lee is a 16 year old gal from southern California. She competes in a national Debate league, loves public speaking, and wants to one day have a career in either Law or Politics. She strives to use her rocky past to support and help other teens who have experienced, or are experiencing the same things she did. Follow Lauren Lee at The Washington Project


It happens to everyone, I’m sure. You know, that awkward moment when someone recognizes you but you don’t recognize them? I was standing in line at the Wal-Mart, minding my own business, checking out the various selections of gum and gossip magazines . . . when the lights started to dim. Well, they didn’t really. I’m pretty sure that’s just something I’ve projected into hindsight due to the horror of it all.




Then – without any warning, the person in front of me turned around and loudly proclaimed, “Lauren?!?!? Is that you??”




I have always wished I could videotape my life and rewind it to see what on earth my face looked like during certain, uh, unusual circumstances (I seem to have a lot of them. This is my first blog post for Vanessa, so brace yourselves – this is only the beginning).  This, however, was a moment I certainly do not wish to revisit.




I had no idea who this person was!




As the ecstatic stranger rushed towards me with arms open wide, like an eagle swooping for it’s prey, I can’t help but think I resembled a muskrat mentally running around in circles looking for a place to hide.


Hey, don’t judge. It was either that, or play dead. And if it’s between a muskrat and a possum, I’m definitely going with the former!




I stood there with a blank, petrified look on my face, trying to figure out where I knew this person from. I could only imagine what the poor stranger girl thought of me, as she so sweetly attempted to hug a seemingly motionless creature who’s countenance was as white as a ghost, and eyes were as big as flying saucers.




Somehow, I managed to recover from my shock, and slapped a silly smile on my face so I didn’t look totally rude. Pulling away from the hug, stranger girl looked at me and practically announced to the ENTIRE store, “It’s been SUCH a long time since Kindergarten!! You look adorable!!”




Then! Suddenly! I felt like I was in one of those 1940’s Tom and Jerry cartoons, where the light bulb suddenly appeared when the main character had a new idea.




“Betsy Sue! It’s YOU!”




(FYI… Her name was definitely NOT Betsy Sue. I’ve changed her name for this post, so that if she reads this, she won’t ever know I’m talking about her. Isn’t that clever? Oh – and no offense to the Betsy Sue’s of the world. I actually quite like the name. That’s why I chose it as an alternative. Consider yourselves flattered!)




I suddenly remembered. She was one of my little friends in Mrs. Biggum’s Sunday school class when I was about 6 years old. How she remembered me, I really don’t know. And to be perfectly honest, it must’ve been due to none other than divine intervention (saving me from the worst form of social embarrassment displayed to the entire Wal-Mart), which caused me to remember her!




People definitely change. The last time I saw Betsy, she was a rowdy tom-boy with red pig-tales and freckles, who helped me draw (in permanent marker) sad faces all over the back of Mrs. Biggum’s cashmere sweater. Now, 10 years later, I guess I could say she looked just a little different. Wearing a short skirt and flipping her dyed hair, she was completely the opposite of the youngster I used to know.




She had truly changed. And I was utterly unprepared for it.




Life has a funny way of throwing, well, different circumstances at you. Whether it’s as silly as my Wal-Mart panic, or as serious as a family split – it’s easy to get caught off guard and panic. I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum – silly and serious. My parents got divorced a few years ago, and dealing with change on such a devastating level was mind-blowing. It completely altered the person I am today. Many of you reading this have (or are) experiencing some sort of change. Here are a few tips for dealing with it, regardless of where your situation lands you on the silly/serious scale.




Helpful Thing Number #1. The-Ten-Year-Test-For-Everything.




This is something I created for myself when I was 15, as I was going through something reminiscent of a Taylor Swift-ish boy problem. However, I’ll give you an example that (if you’re a teen reading this) you’re sure to identify with: High school drama. Isn’t it easy to get caught up in?! For me it certainly is. She said this, he did that, and…MY LIFE IS OVER…Or is it really?




Putting your life back into perspective makes the little dramas of life go away. Now, I use something I like to call “the-10 year-test-for-everything.” If it’s causing me stress, I ask myself, “Will this matter in 10 years?” If not, I brush it off.




Helpful Thing Number #2. Think About Your Goals.




Wait. This doesn’t really sound like a coping skill. “What do you mean, think about your goals, Lauren? Isn’t that kinda hard to do when you’re facing a crisis?” Not at all.




Remembering who you are, and what you want to accomplish, is one of the best ways of keeping yourself sane. I had a habit for a long time of going on Harvard’s Admissions website for motivation. It worked.


I want in. That’s my goal.




Who am I? Someone who’s devoted, and undistracted (or at least – that’s what I want to be – I’ve gotten up in search of a snack like 5 times throughout the course of this article)! Remembering what you want to accomplish in the grand scheme of things makes you care less about the silly things that won’t have a big impact. But what about the things that have passed the 10-year-test-for-everything, and are pretty serious?! What then?! Glad you asked…




Helpful Thing Number #3. Use It To Your Advantage.




By this time you’re really mad at me. You’re thinking, “HOW on earth am I supposed to use my parents split ‘to my advantage’ (mwahaha)?! Or my sibling’s death to ‘my advantage’?!? Or, use to my advantage that I got fired from my job at McDonalds because I was too slow flipping the burgers and now I can’t get a car because I don’t have any money which means I won’t be able to drive to college which means I won’t get a good education and then nobody will want to marry me and I’ll end up living under the Golden Gate bridge in a cardboard box AND -”








Serious things in life don’t warrant a celebration. But everything in life deserves to be used as an advantage. I’m the type of person who believes all things happen for a reason. I grew tremendously as a result of my parents split, because it taught me to deal with so many things I’d been pushing aside for a long time. I guess I could’ve turned to drugs or some other form of temporary relief. But seeing it as an opportunity instead of a burden really helped. Now, don’t get me wrong. I was about to fall off the edge more times than one. It was hard to get through. Still is. But now I know I’m better off.




I hope these three things help you. I know they’ve helped me. Keep it in perspective, remember you’re goals, and use everything to your advantage.




Go forth and conquer.




Photo Credit: Asthma Helper from Flickr








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One Response to “Dealing With Change, Goals and Motivation: An Article for Teens”

  1. Vatsala Bhutani
    July 22, 2011 at 5:35 pm #

    Hi Lauren,
    I really like this article and you have a fantastic way of writing! This article is great!

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