Years ago, as a very impressionable 13-year-old, I would run out to the driveway every Sunday morning to be the first to snag the Sunday newspaper. It wasn’t the morning’s headlines I was after, the comics or even the crossword puzzle. What I looked forward to every Sunday was the Parade Magazine. Inside there was a feature titled, “Fresh Voices," where author, Lynn Minton posed questions to teens. The questions asked ranged from, “Should parents control teenagers?” to “What are your dreams and aspirations?”
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All of the answers were provided by teens, giving a voice to what I thought at the time was a voiceless group of individuals.
I loved reading what other teens my age had to say about certain issues, and often found comfort and validity in the way I was feeling.
At the end of each article, the author would post the question she was working on for one of her next articles. I often thought about writing a response to one of the questions, but always stopped short of doing so, until one question in particular piqued my interest.
It was at the summer of 1996 and I was just finishing junior high, about to enter high school. The question asked was, “What do you want your friends to say at your 10-year high school reunion?”
I had never really thought about this question. Here I was, about to enter high school. These were the people I would be reunited with for years and years to come. What did I want them to say about me at our reunion? Did I care what they’d say? Should I care?
The fact was, I did care what my friends would say, but what did I want them to say? I didn’t have any big aspirations at the time, but there was one thing that I knew for sure, and that was that I wanted to be liked — genuinely liked. I wanted people to say nice things about me, but I wanted it to be true. More importantly, I always wanted to be worthy of those compliments.
I had so many thoughts running through my head, but they all needed to be condensed down to one short paragraph.
So, with pen and paper in my hand, I wrote these words: “What I'd like to hear from the popular kids ... is 'I wish I'd taken time to get to know her better. She seems like a really neat person.' ... I'd like my friends to say, 'She's still friendly.'"
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