Read an Excerpt
"One Day You'll Look Back on This . . ."
I've learned to take time for myself and to treat
myself with a great deal of love and respect
'cause I like me. . . . I think I'm kind of cool.
"I can't go to school like this!" I wailed as I stared into
my mirror, hating my face, my body and life in general. A
river of salty tears traced a path down my cheeks.
Summoned from the kitchen by my shrieking, my mother
appeared at my side a second later.
"What's the problem?" she asked patiently.
"Everything . . . just everything!" I complained and continued
to stare horrified into the mirror.
At almost thirteen, the problems that I felt I had were
overwhelming. I had a hideous new crop of angry, red
pimples that had erupted on my forehead and chin
overnight—every night. My hair suddenly looked greasy
all the time, even though I washed it every second day. My
aching tummy signaled that my newfound "friend" was
about to visit once again, causing my jeans to fit too snugly
and make me appear as though I had been eating nothing
but hot fudge sundaes. And to top it off, my chewed-up
fingernails were torn and bloody, since biting them
seemed to go along with the way I worried about how other
people perceived me. But everything that was bothering
me wasn't just on the surface—I also had a broken heart.
The guy I had been going out with had recently dumped
me in favor of an older, more developed girl. Everything
combined, I was a physical and emotional wreck.
"Come on, now, Honey. Try not to cry," my mother said
with a smile. "I remember what it was like to be your age.
It was awkward and frustrating, and I got my heart
stomped on, too, but I came through it—and so will you!
It's not as bad as you think, and once you get to school
with all your friends, you'll forget all about your pimples
and what's-his-name, and one day you'll look back on this
and wonder why you were ever so upset."
Convinced that she didn't know what she was talking
about, I gave her a dirty look and headed off for school,
greeting my girlfriends on the sidewalk while my mother
waved encouragingly from the front door. Later, as much
as I hated to admit it, I found out that my mother was
right. As I spent time with my friends who were going
through the same things that I was, my mind wasn't on
my troubles anymore, and soon I was laughing.
When I returned home later that day, I was in a much
better mood and because I had put my best foot forward,
my mother rewarded me with a bag of goodies she had
purchased from the drugstore. On my bed was a bag that
included shampoo and conditioner, some acne medication,
a gift certificate to a hair salon and, surprisingly,
some hot, new shades of nail polish.
"What on earth is this?" I asked bewildered, thinking
that my mother had to be out of her mind if she thought
I was going to flaunt my gnarled nails.
As it turned out, she had a plan. I thought that it was
cruel at the time, yet it turned out to be highly effective. I
wasn't allowed to have any of the stuff in the bag, nor was
I allowed to keep my ever-so-important stick of concealer.
The deal was that for each week that I didn't bite my
fingernails, one item of my choice would be returned to
me. Desperate to retrieve my makeup and to get my
hands on everything in the drugstore bag, I concentrated
heavily on my schoolwork, instead of biting my nails and
worrying about what people thought of me. Over the
next few weeks, I was thrilled to watch my nails grow. By
the time I earned the certificate to have my hair cut and
restyled, my nails were so long that my mother also
treated me to a manicure while we were at the salon. And
as time wore on, I began to see that I was getting through
the rough spot, just as she had promised I would.
I liked that I received so many compliments on my
hands and hair, but more than that, I was proud of myself
for sticking with the deal and improving myself in the
process—so proud, as a matter of fact, that I failed to notice
my acne slowly clearing up. And I couldn't have cared less
about what's-his-name. He quickly became a distant memory
as I began to date many different boys, some of whom
broke my heart and others whose hearts I broke.
Though it certainly wasn't my last acne outbreak, bad
hair day or crushed spirit, I did learn something. I will
hold with me forever my mother's words of wisdom:
"One day you'll look back on this and wonder why you
were ever so upset."
Years later, after several ups and downs in my life, I look
back and realize that I did come through it all and I am the
better for it. I only hope that if one day I have a daughter
who is experiencing the struggles of adolescence, I will be
as understanding, helpful and creative as my mother was