Before Eighteen

I am on thought overload this evening.

I seriously can't focus on any of the things I want to blog about. You can expect some posts in the near future about: why almost all of the black men in my family are dead and the women aren't, lynching, the latest zogby poll questions I got in my email, Stanford University's tuition changes, recurring dreams and whether you'd stay with someone who cheats... but it's just not flowing tonight. I can't focus my writing because I have too much to think about.

My saving grace is that I have been tagged by I Am Not Star Jones (love that name btw) over at The Unemployment Cafe. Here are the rules:

1. Post these rules before presenting your list.
2. List 6 actions or achievements you think every person should accomplish before turning 18.
3. There are no conditions on what can be included on the list.
4. At the end of your blog, choose 6 people to get tagged and list their names.
5. People who are tagged write their own blog entry with their 6 suggestions.

6. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged.
This is a hard one for me because my main focus from ages 12-17 was doing really well in high school so that I could get into a top college and get enough scholarships/financial aid to attend. I didn't think accomplishing much else was absolutely essential. Everything else was a nice to have. I still think doing well in school and getting into a top college is the job of a teenager. But, I'll give this a go:

1) Read a book a week: I know, it sounds daunting but being literate is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. And heck, you have no kids, no rent or mortgage to pay, and if you tell your mom you can't wash dishes right now because you're reading and right at the exciting part of the story, guess what, your mom isn't going to complain. She'll be too busy saying, "Thank you, Jesus! My baby is reading instead of messing around with boys!"

Oh, and try to pick up real books instead of the "street-lit" type book
s. And if anyone tries to give you a book by Zane, run!

2) Be Child and Disease Free: I know some of you might be saying, "Turning 18 and not being a teen mother and not having chlamydia is an accompli

Um, I hate to break it to you but in some parts of the world it is.
I was one of a handful of black girls to graduate from my high school without a baby and I 100% credit that to keeping my legs closed. Do I think white girls weren't getting pregnant? Nope, I think they were. I just know they were having abortions. Black teens didn't have the money for that though. And so they had babies, put off dreams of college, and on and on.

Maybe teens nowadays are so much savvier and know all about safer sex and so are not worried about this at all. But then again, there's Jamie Lynn Spears. Oh and let's not forget about "Juno". I hate how Juno makes it look like a friendly white family (or single mom) is going to adopt your baby. But guess what, if you're black, your baby probably isn't getting adopted if you give it up. Nope, unless you can find a way to make "South Side of Chicago" sound like an exotic African locale, your baby will be in that orphanage or foster home for a long time.

And I don't know why folks try to sugar coat it for teenagers but I can't tell you how many folks I knew in high school that had to get treated for gross stuff like gonorrhea of the throat. You show people a picture of that mess and they will not even think of having sex. Yeah, maybe #2 should have been called keep your legs closed and your mouth off of people's privates... trust me, you will have plenty of time for all that later.

Anyway, now that we're all grossed out, moving right along!

3) Eat, Pray, Exercise: When you're a svelte teen you never think you're going to turn into a contestant on the Biggest Loser. But you will if you eat junk and don't exercise. So learn to eat properly and learn to love exercise because both will keep you from leading a life where you're either fat or constantly yo-yo dieting. If you can pick up a sport that you can stick with, that's even better. Gosh, there's so many soccer leagues in LA, an adult could play every day of the week if they wanted to. But it's hard to come into it as an adult and say, "I know nothing about soccer. Teach me!"

And the prayer will help you your entire life, so connect with God early on and figure out what it is you believe instead of blindly following tradition.

4) Volunteer and be of service: I think all teens should have to volunteer in a homeless shelter, a home for the elderly and with kids younger than themselves.

Teens need to learn compassion and understand that they could end up in the homeless shelter or in an old folks home. Plus, working with kids younger than themselves gives them the chance to be a responsible role model and l
earn how to develop leadership skills.

5) Develop organizational systems: Learn to keep a schedule with a to-do list. Learn how to prioritize the things you need to accomplish. Develop the habit of doing the "big rocks" first instead of putting them off till later.

There are so many disorganized people in the world and it just makes your life more difficult as you get older. This doesn't mean a teen has to get married to a Franklin Covey planner or spend a ton of money on some big binder. I used Chandler's assignment notebooks for years and they only cost $6.

6) Never have a drink: I know every teen movie has the scene where everybody's having a blast and is trashed. But those teen movies don't show the addiction, the fatal car crashes, the rapes and the violence. There's too much of that with teens.

I remember in high school I walked in on a friend about to be gang-raped by a group of guys we both knew. She was completely drunk and passed out. They tried to force me out of the room but I raised hell and got her out of there. I always thought about how if I'd been drinking too, those five guys would have raped her and maybe me too.

I think the reason they didn't try to rape me was because one of them was a third or fourth cousin of mine... He could never hold his head up around me again.

So that's my six things. Now, to pass this on to six fantastic bloggers:

-If I Only Had a Blog
-Jali's House
-Healthier, Happier You
-Black Fire White Fire

I can't wait to read what they write.


Jen said…
This is a very cool meme, and you wrote excellent advice for the under-18 set. I think I'm going to make my son read your post and see what he says. I have a feeling he'd agree with most of what you have to say, but I want to find out what he doesn't agree with and straighten his brain out. ;-)
Unknown said…
Ditto from Jen of a2eatwrite, I will be sharing with the boy when he gets home ~ Really nicely done.
Anonymous said…
Hmm...I just wish I knew what brought on the insecurities in young woman that encourages them to open their legs...I know most of it stems from the home...busy parents, parents that angry with each other and take it out on the kids...I just wish grown ups understood that their anger towards each other really does affect their kids, and maybe their little girls would stay little girls if they would get over the anger and hate and just allow each other to be in their kids lives! Thus raising more secure young woman who don't feel the need to have a man's attention to feel grown and doesn't feel the need to drink or do drugs to escape...

As for the rest of the items...reading is fundemental, but so is counting...debt is a bitch!! Service is so fundemental yet so undervalued...people don't realize they could be those folks sleeping in the shelter at any time...what is it...60% of Americans are one paycheck away from poverty...
Thank've done it again...Wisdom reigns oncemore!
This should be required reading for the under 18 set and their parents. You bring up such good points and I like how you included volunteering.
thailandchani said…
Excellent suggestions! This is really good!
Nerd Girl said…
Great list! Oh the things 35 year old Nerd Girl wishes she could tell under-18 Nerd Girl!
1969 said…
Great advice...I finished mine :)
Jameil said…
Oh that is fabulous. If you'd tagged me I would've done it! Something different from a tag. But maybe you already did all the good advice! i was watching one true life and this girl was the only one of her friends w/o a baby. some had 2. they were only 18 or 19. all living in the projects where the grew up. this is real.
Liz Dwyer said…
I'm so curious to hear what your son says. He'll probably say, "The lady who wrote that is crazy!" :)

You're another one that's going for the, "Dear Diary, Today my mom made me read some blog a crazy internet friend of hers wrote..."

But it will be interesting to see what they agree/disagree with.

Yes, knowing how to manage money is really important, isn't it!

I think kids sleeping around has to do with people being taught that their bodies are material commodities instead of homes for their souls. We also want so much instant gratification so why not? The culture can make it seem like everybody's doing it, but in reality, everybody isn't. And even if they are, so what? There are so many physical, emotional and spiritual consequences to sex but folks seriously just want to act like it's all just about what feels good. I know a lot of folks think it's prudish to not be jumping into bed with people but there's so many consequences to sex.

I think instilling a desire to volunteer and help others is such an important thing for parents to teach their kids. Less individualism, more collective efforts and the world will be a better place.

Thanks so much! Funny how I couldn't write the other things I was mulling over but I could write this!

Nerd Girl,
Oh yes, I'd tell the under 18 version of myself a whole lot of things. But it's water under the bridge so I have to tell myself these things now.

You came up with a great list of six. Loved reading it.

I almost tagged you but I didn't want to bug you with another meme. I should've trusted my gut. But go ahead and do it anyway. I am sure you have much to add to this topic.

And yes, teen mothers with a couple kids. I saw a whole bunch of that growing up. So sad.
Miriam said…
Hey Liz, Thanks.

You've got the best listed on your list already though. lol

Will get to it.
Tafari said…
damn liz, why me, why anyone (in my best nancy kerrigan voice)!!! this one is hard cuz, I have to think. gimme a few days for this one to get my mind right!!!

Lola Gets said…
I liked this post! And Im glad you were able to save your friend. I never drank like that at all, much less in my teens, but I know some girls that did, and were sexually assaulted because of it.

I might just pass this on to my niece!

Liz Dwyer said…
When I first saw that I'd been tagged for this, I felt sort of the same as you. But, I'm sure you will come up with some great gems of wisdom for us all!

It helps not to think too hard about it! I know you'll come up with a great list. I have no doubt.
Liz Dwyer said…
I'm glad I was able to save her too. Thank goodness it was a really boring party. Otherwise I don't think I would've been walking around wondering where she was.
Anonymous said…
I did it, this morning! Not THAT, I mean the meme.
Great advice based in reality, not hypocrisy, all of it.

Saving your friend from gang rape alone should get you into Heaven, Liz.

Your list should be taped inside every high school locker in America. Many lives would be saved.

I think I could be induced to adopt that baby myself, though.
Liz Dwyer said…
LOL! Glad you decided to tackle this one. I'll come by and check out your responses.

I think you'd adopt the baby too. I wish more folks were like you.
Miriam said…
Okay, my list is up.
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