Thursday, June 2, 2011

Jason's Teen Journey Story - Part One

As you may know, I'm writing a book to share insights about the teen brain, the teen experience and what parents can do to help create a happy ending to their teenager's story. To illustrate, I've been collecting the teen journey stories of real people. So far, I've been surprised by some the things I've learned.

1. No two teen journey stories are the same.

2. In most cases, neither the teen nor the parents have any concept that the youth is experiencing the most important stretch of his or her life journey, or that it is a perilous one.

3. The teen journey has a profound and lasting impact on the individual's adult life.

4. Sometimes the most awful and dreaded aspects of the teen journey turn out to have benefits.

Jason's life journey did not end well. He was murdered in Las Vegas in front of the hotel where he worked. He was 40 years old. His violent death was the climactic event of a troubled life, which was shaped in large part by his teen journey. The facts of his story were told to me by his immediate family.

Jason was born in 1959 in San Diego, California. He was the second son in a family of four children. He had a younger brother and a younger sister. All four children were born approximately two years apart. There might have been more children, but after the fourth child, doctors told Jason’s mother that her uterus had been damaged, and they performed a tubal ligation.

His father was a chief petty officer in the Navy. He was a friendly, uncomplicated man who did his job and came home to enjoy his family. Neither his father nor his mother had attended college. They lived life one day one at a time, showed affection for each other and their children, and attended Protestant chapel services at the naval base every Sunday.

The most significant fact of Jason’s childhood was a rivalry with his older brother. When Jason was born, his older brother Howard rejected him. By the time his mother noticed the conflict, she was already distracted by a new infant. Instinctively, she believed the friction between the boys was normal and trusted that in time it would work itself out.

Unfortunately, this is not what happened. Jason and Howard were close enough in age to share interests and activities. But Howard excelled at everything he did, and he didn’t identify with a younger brother who failed to measure up.

When they were teenagers, the rift between them caused Jason to be angry and resentful. Howard was a straight-A student, and Jason was only slightly above average. Howard was a standout varsity swimmer who consistently won at swim meets. Jason couldn’t make the team. Howard was an Eagle Scout. Jason dropped out after a year. In an effort to beat his older brother at something, Jason learned to play the trumpet. Howard didn’t play a musical instrument. Jason performed in the high school marching band. He even learned to repair musical instruments. But Howard never acknowledged his younger brother’s achievements.

One year when their father wasn’t deployed, he taught his sons how to bowl. Howard used his athleticism and competitiveness to excel at the game. Jason was determined to beat him, even though he never had. In secret, Jason worked hard to improve his skills. When he felt he was ready, he bet Howard $20 that he could beat him in a 3-game competition. Howard was surprised when Jason won the first game. As was his style, Howard refocused and won the second game. In the final, decisive game, Jason pulled ahead with three frames to go. But Howard bowled five strikes in a row to win by seven pins. True to their relationship, Howard collected the $20 and walked away without congratulating his younger brother for putting up a good fight. The incident was symbolic of Jason’s persistent failure to win the love and respect of his older brother.

One of the reasons Howard didn’t respect him was Jason’s tendency to exaggerate his accomplishments. Jason did this because he desperately wanted approval, and what he was able to accomplish in real life was never good enough. Howard saw through these lies, and when he confronted his younger brother with the truth, it aggravated Jason’s feelings of inadequacy.

As a teenager, Jason seemed to be caught in a vicious, downward spiral. But like every young person, he had his whole life ahead of him and the power to shape it any way he wanted. Part Two of Jason's teen journey story....

Jackson's teen journey story - Part One - Part Two

Erica's teen journey story - Part One - Part Two

The teen years can be a perilous time. Few kids are given a "heads-up" about the dangers and opportunities. That's why I wrote these books...

For boys - Conversations with the Wise Uncle

For girls - Conversations with the Wise Aunt

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2011. Building Personal Strength . (Permission to use image purchased from

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