I was a pretty good kid growing up. I got in trouble in school a handful of times: (1) when I put cheese in the radiator in 1st grade to see what would happen, (2) when I wrote on the bathroom wall in 4th grade, and (3) when I laughed at the “Bridge of Puberty” in sex ed in 6th grade. Imagine my surprise at the end of 8th grade when out of nowhere the Teen Living teacher angrily pulled me aside while I was wrestling with stitching up my cow pillow and told me I needed an attitude adjustment. I was shocked – surely she couldn’t mean me. I tended to mind my own business and only do bad things on the sly. Teachers loved me. Her telling me I needed an attitude adjustment opened up a part of me that I’d never experienced before – pure, unadulterated surly teenage outrage. I’m not talking outrage like when my cousin peed on me for no good reason when I was five. This was a whole new kind of outrage that included distaste for authority. I became what she thought I was from that moment onward. I talked in class, I made terrible pancakes for our semester cooking project, and, honestly had an attitude adjustment.
Unfortunately, I adjusted my attitude in a way that left good, sweet Kelly far behind. Today, I’m a Kelly who isn’t very patient on the road, who is not particularly suited to difficult customer service activities, and who is easily irritated by people who try to create a disturbance in her perfectly orchestrated life.
The lesson here is that words can make a difference how we should be careful with those we influence. Mrs. Teen Living, forever on my blacklist, has influenced me in a negative way because she accused me, undermined my reputation, and put me on the defensive. Mentoring is serious business, whether you’re an official mentor, like a teacher or counselor, or an unofficial one where you have the ability to influence impressionable minds. For all you know, a poorly-thought-out comment to a nice little girl like I was could transform someone into a ragey little Chihuahua like I am today.