Looking back now, it’s clear as day, but of course at the time, it was clear as mud, but when I was sixteen, I somehow had the notion that everything in my life was about to change, and I consciously and subconsciously made a lot of decisions during that year. I know this because I’ve found myself saying over the years, “I made a conscious choice when I was sixteen to…” and it’s true. When I was sixteen I told myself that drugs were a really bad idea for me and I knew that I would have to face my children one day and I wanted to look them in the eye and say, “I never did drugs, and neither should you.” and not be a liar. So I never did illegal drugs (including abusing prescription drugs). Like, ever. And it wasn’t because I didn’t have the opportunity either. I hung out with the stoners (as we used to call them) in high school. I mean, they were the only interesting people I knew who didn’t think I was a total nutter. Which, of course I was, but we didn’t know that at the time. I didn’t get diagnosed with manic depression until I was nineteen. I’m fairly sure it was starting to manifest itself ’round about sixteen/seventeen though. Ironically, the stoners I hung out with at the time totally thought I was on drugs because of my rapid mood swings. Nothing could convince them otherwise though not a one of them ever saw me partake of any drug. And doubly ironic is the fact that I made this conscious choice so I could look at my future kids and not be a liar when I told them, “I’ve never done drugs — ever.” and when I told them that, they didn’t believe me. Oh well, I know the truth, and I also know that had I ever given in to the temptation (I’m not talking just weed here) it could have gone very badly for me. So I made the right choice.
I also made a conscious choice at sixteen to never be an abused spouse. My mom was married to an abusive asshole who not only abused her but us as well. I knew then that I never wanted to be in that situation. I started making my bug out plan back when I was sixteen before I ever started dating. It was firmly in place when I started getting into serious relationships at age seventeen (yeah a whole year later… sue me), in case I ever needed it. And it’s a good thing I did because when the shit hit the fan in my forties — yep, I never stopped having a bug out plan all of those years — and it hit hard, I bugged out faster than he could blink, and it probably saved my life. Now, I didn’t treat every guy I dated for thirty years as a potential abuser, don’t get me wrong. That would be an awful way to live. I found most men to be regular Joe’s with nothing on their minds but fun, food, work, and sex (and not necessarily in that order). Most of my relationships didn’t work out for the normal reasons — we drifted apart, we weren’t really the right people for each other, they were short term to begin with, irreconcilable differences, etc… Nothing abusive really about most of them. Well except the one time… I mean, we didn’t really acknowledge “emotional” abuse back in the 80’s so it took awhile for me to recognize it when it happened but when I did, I was out of there. Anyway, a woman’s got to be careful. Nope, I just made the decision to always have a way out of any serious relationship should it become dangerous. And sixteen is when I decided to make that decision. Could be because my mother was married to an abusive asshole… but that’s another rant for a different time.
Another choice I made back when I was sixteen was to become a drifter, which I’ve blogged about before. I knew even then that I was not cut out for the “nine-to-five” workforce. I knew before I’d ever stepped foot into any workplace that I would openly rebel against any boss who tried to belittle me to make themselves look bigger. I knew early on that it wasn’t my lot in life to make someone else’s life easier and make them look more competent. I knew that I’d probably be fired from any job where I questioned the authority of the people above me, so I chose not to put myself in those positions. Not for very long anyway — that’s why I chose temp work over a career. I also knew that I’d become… discontent with living in one place for any period of time. My mother lived in the same town for most of my childhood, but we moved many times — a symptom of poverty. Can’t afford the rent? Move to a cheaper place. Got married? Move to a better place. blah blah blah. My mother also tended to raise the ire of any neighbors we lived near, so we weren’t exactly chased out of our neighborhoods, but she wore out her welcome fairly quickly. My brother being a firebug didn’t help. The thing is, we moved a lot within our not quite small town but not really big city. It lit up my gypsy soul and at age sixteen, I couldn’t wait to throw off the shackles of societal obligations (finish high school) and hit the road.
Of course, it didn’t work out that way… my plans rarely work out the way I want them too, but for the most part, the conscious decisions I made at age sixteen have held true. There are other decisions I made at age sixteen. I decided back then that Agnosticism was probably the right path for me and rejected my Christianity. I was a bible thumping Christian up until nearly seventeen, but at age sixteen I lost faith entirely and never got it back. Again, another post for a different time. I also decided that I probably wouldn’t do well in jail and I should never break the law (in a way that I’d ever get caught… Ha!). And there were a few other decisions, not a lot, and not all of them practical. I was sixteen, what did I know of the world? Nothing, that’s what. The ones listed above where the big three. I must have known that something in my mind was shifting — that the bipolar was starting to manifest — and that my life would soon be spinning out of control. I must have realized that I needed to lay firm foundations and quickly so that I would have those footings in the storms to come. Believe me, my life got stormy, very stormy, and quickly after that. And those foundations have held solid and firm, all of these years. I’m glad for that little voice that took me aside and said, “You’ve got to chose these things, right now.” when I was sixteen when most young people were more worried about whether the guy in Math class likes them or not (I was worried about that too BTW, I’m only human). So basically, the person I was at sixteen became the person I am today, a little older, a little wiser, and much calmer thanks to the medicines that quiet my unruly mind. But the core of who I am is still there and set in stone thanks to some very conscious decisions I made during that year.