All my other friends were invited.
I was the only one left out.
Mrs. Di pulled up in her maroon SUV.
I dragged my backpack down the sidewalk, opened the side door, and tossed myself, and my things, inside.
“Where’s everyone else?” Mrs. Di asked.
“They’re all going to Steven’s,” I said, “remember?”
Our normal carpool group was interrupted.
For today’s trip home from school, it was just me, Mrs. Di, and forty minutes of Friday afternoon traffic.
Mrs. Di was like a second mom to me, so all things considered, it could have been worse.
Still, I sat quietly in the backseat, staring out the windshield at the red brake lights.
I felt Mrs. Di’s eyes glance at me in the rearview mirror.
“How do you feel?” she asked.
“I’m sad,” I said, “All my friends hate me.”
“They don’t hate you, Matt.”
“Then why was everyone else invited?”
“It’s hard.” she said.
“I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.”
“Well,” she said, “do you think you’re being yourself?”
“I’m trying, but I don’t think anyone likes myself.” I said.
“That probably means that you’re actually trying to be someone you’re not.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well,” she said, “people can always tell when you’re trying to be someone you’re not. Just worry about being yourself- you’ll be much happier. And that’s when you’ll find out who really cares about you.”
I heard the words, but I didn’t understand them at the time.
She drove the rest of the way home, dropped me off, and said good bye.
I’m not sure we ever talked about it again.
But I’ve thought about it a lot since.
And I can still hear the love in her voice today.
“Just worry about being yourself- you’ll be much happier. And that’s when you’ll find out who really cares about you.”
She was right.
– It’s so much cooler being yourself
– Than it is being someone you’re not
So I learned 2 lessons from Mrs. Di that day:
1/ Always be yourself.
In some way, shape, or form, we’re all seventh graders, trying to be someone we’re not, because we’re scared we won’t get invited to the sleepover. And it makes us do stupid things.
But at the end of the day, what’s cooler than any sleepover is being yourself.
2/ Tough love always wins.
That conversation with Mrs. Di changed me. It helped shape my remaining teenage years. The more I started being myself, the more I found the right friends. I’m not sure what high school would have been like without it.
All of that is to say- she could have just told me “kids are mean” or “don’t worry about it”.
But instead, she cared about me enough to tell me a tough truth. That’s real love.
The simple summary:
Be yourself -> Be happy -> Help others do the same
How do you make sure you’re being yourself?
Any stories from your life that still stay with you today?
#growth #leaderships #mentalhealth #stroytelling