But, girl, was I in for a surprise - I became the learner when I went to the Weber School in Atlanta. My teacher was a teenager named Marina. (I am posting this with Marina's permission to share what she's done.)
I sat in on a session of the ADL - NO HATE club that's forming at the school. Their objectives are to eliminate hate not just from their school - but to teach younger kids in elementary school about tolerance as well as to eliminate bullying.
We went around and shared when there have been times we haven't felt safe being the "real me" - and everything under the sun came up: "i like heavy metal music and no one else does", "i like vegetarian food that doesn't necessarily look that appetizing", "i like to skateboard and i'm a girl", "I liked these shoes my mom bought but a boy in school wore the same one so people made fun of me - and I pretended I didn't like them anymore".
It's so tough to be a teen sometimes. And while I work with teens, and talk about it, sometimes I forget just how hard it is and how badly it can feel.
But Marina shared her story with me. And she reminded me that yes, it's tough, but yes, you can figure out a way to find the path to your own happiness. That doesn't mean you won't get some scars along the way - but, is it cliche to say, it can get better and you can make that happen often with the support of those who love you and care about you.
Marina, thank you for reminding me to always stay true to yourself.
Here is Marina's story: CLICK HERE