Monday, May 16, 2011

Jackson's Teen Journey Story, Part One

In this blog space, I've referred many times to something I call the "teen journey." It's the difficult, perilous 12-year develpmental period called "adolescence," which has a profound, permanent impact on the rest of your life.

I've been interviewing people about their teen journey stories. This research validates what I've learned about adolescence, and adds interest and illustration to a book I'm writing on the subject.

Every teen journey story is fascinating and dramatically different. In the stories, I change the name and other superficial details to make the real individual unrecognizable to the public. The stories tend to be lengthy, so I'm presenting them here in two parts. In this post, Part One of Jackson's story...

Jackson is a retired chemical engineer. He lives in a spacious home on a hill in a quiet suburb of Atlanta with Janice, his wife of forty years. At the age of 61, he’s a small, slender man whose reddish hair is now mostly white. He wears round wire-rimmed glasses and most days prefers a short-sleeved light-blue shirt and blue jeans. A soft-spoken, serious man, he only occasionally shows a thin smile, evidence that he’s content and at peace with who he is and what he has done with his life. When he’s not working at his computer or fixing his vintage Mustang in the garage, he likes to sit on the back porch, watch the birds that visit the feeders, and read.

But his life didn’t begin in peace. He and his younger brother were born to parents who worked a farm in western Kansas that was owned by his grandfather. It was a turbulent time of life. His father was an alcoholic who lacked ambition. When he got bored with working the farm, he’d go to the bar to carouse with friends. He’d come home drunk, which would sometimes lead to arguments, and he often beat Jackson's mother. His parents divorced when Jackson was six. Like any child that age, the event left him feeling afraid and helpless.

At first, he lived with his mother, who married a man with two sons and two daughters. And when his father remarried three years later, he discovered that he had two families and two homes. He lived with his mother during the week, and he spent weekends and summers at his father’s house.

His new step-mother had ten children. She was a big, strong-willed woman who didn’t put up with his father’s drinking and abusive nature, and she quickly tamed him. Two of his older step-sisters took charge of him. Their mother’s strict nature had rubbed off on them, and as Jackson entered adolescence, these girls were a stabilizing influence. He was given chores to do and was held accountable for rules of behavior. This environment felt stifling, but it probably kept him out of trouble.

Still, he hated being told what to do. Once, when he was 12, he wanted to go to a friend’s house. But when his stepfather told him he had to finish his chores first, he became enraged. He lost his temper and his stepfather had to restrain him. A couple years later he wanted to wear his new boots to a basketball game. But no one could drive him, and the road into town was so muddy it would ruin his boots. It made him furious to think about how constrained and dependent he was. He concluded that if he wanted to call his own shots, he’d need to have his own money....

For the conclusion of Jackson's teen journey story, check Part Two...

Jackson needed guidance, but he wasn't getting it. Most teens don't get a "heads-up" when they need it. That's why I wrote these books...

Conversations with the Wise Aunt - for girls

Conversations with the Wise Uncle - for boys

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2011. Building Personal Strength .

1 comment:

Sarcastic Bastard said...

This is interesting, Denny. I'll keep reading.

Love you. Love to Kathleen as well.