Said No One Ever

Remember back to middle school? We had those scrunchies, wore braces and raisin-colored lipstick, listened to our music with walkmans, watched Clueless, and let’s not forget our Backstreet Boys posters. To get a look into how things are in the 2017’s, I’m deferring to one of my besties, May. She is a middle school counselor (bless her) in Maryland and always provides me with good insight. Here are some of her thoughts (with some of my commentary) that will be useful for not only middle school parents but all of us!

 

 

There’s something deeply powerful about backwards mapping—the concept of beginning with the end in mind, of connecting outcomes to the decisions we’re about to make. The process is widely used in educational settings as well as in day-to-day decision making. It can be as simple as, “I don’t want my tongue to be blue, so I won’t eat that blue jolly rancher,” or “I want to fit in my pants, so I’ll lower my calorie intake this week.” (Been there!)

As a middle school counselor, I’m always looking for ways to get kids to consider the consequences of the present decisions they are making. This is a difficult task – certainly not for the faint of heart. Developmentally, adolescents are generally impulsive and present-focused, giving little thought to what will come tomorrow. They are naturally impatient, much like toddlers. (Wow, so this doesn’t end?!) But while they embody many raw and intense qualities, I have found that they are painfully accurate reflections of the state of our self-focused culture.

While most of us are well past our middle school years, we often find ourselves facing similar issues (we just don’t have the same excuse that they do!).  So when I impart words of wisdom to them, I’m really talking to myself as well. When you’re trying to get through to middle schoolers, I have discovered that it takes a healthy combination of pithy + snarky + humorous. So, in my quest to communicate how particular actions or inactions produce wanted or unwanted consequences, I have begun using a phrase which really puts things into perspective in a powerful, soundbite that is palatable to the middle school brain (and to my old middle school brain).  Said no one ever. For example, “I’m glad I ate that entire box of Swiss Rolls…said no one ever” (sounds delicious…) or, “I’m glad I didn’t put sunscreen on…said no one ever.”

Here are some that I’ve shared with my middle schoolers to get them to think:


“I wish I had posted that inappropriate picture of myself…said no one ever”
“I wish I had thought more about myself than others…said no one ever”
“I wish I had tried to impress people more…said no one ever”
“I wish I had taken more selfies…said no one ever”
“I’m glad I cheated on that test…said no one ever”
“I wish I had made more lame excuses about why I didn’t do my work…said no one ever”

Most of us have lived long enough to partake of the regret that comes from careless living. So, here is my meager offering as a challenge to the rest of us “old middle schoolers”:

When it comes to life choices:
“I’m glad I spent 2 hours Facebook more…said no one ever”
“I sure wish I had racked up more debt…said no one ever”
“I’m glad I procrastinated taking care of my health… said no one ever” (Eeeek!)
“I’m glad I keep staying awake at night on my phone…said no one ever”
“I should scrutinize myself more in the mirror…said no one ever”
“I’m glad I gossiped today…said no one ever”
“I should really binge-watch more Netflix… said no one ever” (Ouch!!)
“I’m glad I refused to donate that dollar to St. Jude’s at the cash register…said no one ever”
“I really glad I worried today…said no one ever”
“I wish I had smiled less…said no one ever”
“I wish I had put off pursuing my dreams…said no one ever” (Boom.)
“I’m glad I keep comparing myself to people I think are more successful than me…said no ever”
“Boy, I’m glad I planned every square inch of my day without time to relax today…said no one ever”
“I sure am glad we postponed our trip to Europe again…said no one ever”
“I’m glad I was so controlling today…said no one ever”
“I’m glad I didn’t let that car into my lane of traffic so he had to wait…said no one ever (Except when you’ve been waiting over two hours to get over the Canadian border, am I right May?!)
“I’m glad I did a mediocre job” – said no one ever

When it comes to relationships:
“I’m glad I hung onto that grudge for 20 years…said no one ever” (oooh…)
“I wish I had kept the truth from people I love…said no one ever”
“I wish I had spoken without a filter…said no one ever”
“I’m wish I had taken my mom and dad for granted…said no one ever”
“I wish I had dismissed other’s perspectives more…said no one ever”
“I wish I had spent less time with my family…said no one ever”
“I wish I had been less patient… said no one ever” (I hear that collective groan, parents!)
“I wish I hadn’t been so forgiving…said no one ever”
“I wish I had insisted I was right more…said no one ever”
“I wish I had assumed the worst about people more…said no one ever”

When it comes to spirituality:
“I wish I hadn’t read the Bible so much…said no one ever”
“I wish I hadn’t prayed more…said no one ever”
“I’m glad I didn’t stand up for what I believe…said no one ever” (whew, May!)

Reading this list leaves me stinging with regret. I think I hear a resounding OUCH coming from all of us. But the sting is good, because we still have time. Time to start living in the light of who we want to be. And time to minimize future regrets. We need to think past this moment. What will “future you” wish you had or hadn’t done? Socrates famously claimed “the unexamined life is not worth living.” If he was right (and most of the time, he was), then I don’t think any of us will ever be wishing we were less intentional with our time—or less focused on the person we want to become.

In other words, as say to my middle schoolers, “I’m glad I don’t think about the consequences of my decisions…said no one, ever.”

 

I mean, mic drop, May – thanks for the words of wisdom! I hope this helps you all, as much as it did me, to take a minute, step back and get some perspective.

 

Guest contributor May Novalis hails from Maryland, where she’s worked with middle schoolers for the last 10 years.  She loves puns, Nutella, Masterpiece theater, morning coffee and connecting with people. You can find May here on SoundCloud!

 

XOXO,

Lauren

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