Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Jackson's Teen Journey Story, Part Two

To find out about the difficult circumstances of Jackson's youth, check Part One. Here's the conclusion of his story...

Jackson believed that to achieve the independence he desired as a teenager, he needed to be the opposite of his father. He got jobs helping at nearby farms, and while his father worked as a barber, he shined shoes there. He wasn’t inclined to participate in sports. He joined the Boy Scouts, but he didn’t stick with it. Instead, he joined the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and raised animals on his step-father’s farm. The director became a mentor, who gave him leadership roles. All this left little time for hanging out with friends and getting into trouble. At the age of 16, he bought his first car. He paid the down-payment with his savings and got a loan from the bank.

Jackson regularly attended the United Methodist church. Unlike his father, he sought answers to spiritual questions, an exploration that began as a teenager and persisted into adulthood. He remained a devout Methodist the rest of his life.

He enjoyed learning and was an above-average student. His mother encouraged him to read and to go to college, even though no one in his family had ever done so. His counselor in high school guided him to take math and science courses, which he enjoyed. But earning money continued to be his primary motivator. In the summer, he harvested crops. He worked at a filling station, and he got a job working half-days in a furniture store delivering furniture and installing carpeting.

His desire to be all the things his father never was and his desire to work and earn money kept him from the kind of trouble that finds idle minds. His one big lapse happened when a friend came to the filling station and took his car. At quitting time, Jackson decided to use his friend’s motor scooter to get home, even though he’d never driven one before. He quickly lost control of it, crashed into a car parked nearby, and later had to pay for repairs.

He met Janice during his senior year in high school. The two of them went to Kansas State, where Jackson worked to pay tuition. At age 19, he joined the Air Force, while Janice stayed to pursue an education degree. He and Janice maintained their relationship, but after attending electronics school he was assigned to Anchorage, Alaska, and he and Janice decided to get married.

After his Air Force stint, he used the G.I. Bill to return to Kansas State. He finished his degree and stayed to get an M.S. in chemical engineering. He and Janice lived a goal-driven life, deferring family until they were financially secure. Later, he regretted having given relationships and family a lower priority. So when they found out they couldn’t have kids, they befriended two young men from Korea, who became their surrogate family.

In retrospect, Jackson agrees that the worst thing that ever happened to him became the very thing that kept him focused on constructive activities during his teen journey. Since he blamed his father for everything he hated about his early life, he resolved to create a different kind of life for himself and to make himself into the kind of man his father wasn’t.

Even though Jackson’s dedication makes sense, it’s important to note that not every young person reacts this way to disappointment and frustration. Another young person might have rebelled differently. Someone else might have embraced depression and followed a path of submission and low self-esteem. His obsession as a teenager with being responsible and creating financial independence no doubt helped him steer clear of typical teen difficulties. To his credit, his commitment to hard work achieved the results he wanted, which gave him the confidence to continue in this direction as he began adult life.

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

1 comment:

Elizabeth Westmark said...

I am extremely intrigued by your "Teen Journeys" book concept. Those developmental years mark us for life in almost every respect -- if we have tools for surviving and thriving, that's usually when we develop them, I think. I look forward to reading more of these, Denny.