Monday, May 23, 2011

Teen Journey Story - Erica (Part One)

Adolescence can be a turbulent time. The part of the brain that handles critical judgment is "under construction," and kids can do crazy things, which have consequences. In Erica's case, the consequences had consequences, which cascaded far into her future.

Here's Part One of her teen journey story...

At age 55, Erica is the owner-operator of a thriving video production studio in West Palm Beach, Florida, a company she started eight years ago. She’s a tall woman – nearly six feet – and she maintains a dark brown hair color to match her dark brown eyes. She prefers bright clothes, but her personality is anything but flashy. She’s a compassionate listener and speaks only when she has something significant to say.

As a teenager, she was a much different person. Born in 1956 in El Paso, Texas, to Mexican-American parents, Erica was the youngest of three daughters. Her next older sister was eight years older than she, so by the time Erica entered puberty, Erica was the only child left at home.

When she was a small child, her mother was focused mostly on the two older girls. A devout Catholic, her mother had strict rules and kept the three girls in line with physical punishment and threats of hell and damnation. Her father was a simple working class man who had two jobs and a small business constructing pallets in the back yard. He was an alcoholic, so when he wasn’t working he was at his favorite bar, socializing with friends. By the time Erica was a young teenager, neither parent gave her the kind of guidance and unconditional love she needed. They rarely showed affection, so Erica was afraid that if she misbehaved she would lose what little love she had.

Her mother didn’t feel comfortable talking to her daughters about the facts of life, so Erica had to learn about menstruation, bras and other practical matters on her own. She was 16 before she found out how women got pregnant. By then, her mother was diagnosed with cancer, and Erica was the only person in the family who could care for her.

When her mother died in her arms, Erica’s life took a depressing turn. The only person who had given her any kind of structure was now gone. Her sisters were busy raising their own families. She distrusted her father, because he had touched her sexually when she was small, and as a teenager he sometimes made inappropriate comments about her breasts.

Left alone, Erica felt abandoned and unloved. She was preoccupied with death, confused about the meaning of life, and anxious about what would happen to her. Without anyone to restrain her, she didn’t know how to use her freedom. She would sometimes get drunk and drive her car at 100 miles per hour. Luckily, she never had an accident and was never arrested.

When she was 17, she had an affair with her band teacher, who was married and had a family. The relationship helped fulfill her desperate need for love, but it further separated her from her peers. Secretly, she thrilled to his attention, which included more than sex. He tried to control her behavior, and he encouraged her to take her studies seriously. Erica believed that he would eventually leave his family and marry her, but when it became clear that this wouldn’t happen, she felt angry and guilty.

Erica had played the flute since middle school, and she got a music scholarship at Florida State. She would be the first person in her family to attend college. Her departure effectively ended the affair. She lived with her aunt in Tallahassee, but she secretly continued to live a wild life. She drank too much and during her freshman year she had sex with nearly two dozen men.

Erica is a real person, and the story she told me came from her personal history. I've changed her name and other superficial facts to protect her privacy, but the story is true. Check Part Two - how her fascinating story played out...

Have you seen Jackson's teen journey story?
- Part One
- Part Two

Researching the stories of real people has taught me that practically no one receives the guidance they needed when they were young teens. A "heads-up" at the right time would have made a huge difference to their happiness and success. 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 . (Permission to use photo purchased from

No comments: