Decisions, Power, and Control: Teen Edition by Conlee Ricketts

No matter your age, there are times when decisions are made for you, not with you.

When you are very young the types of decisions and reasons for these decisions are fairly obvious. Your bedtime is decided, your meals are chosen, and the color of your bedroom walls is pre-selected. I mean you’re five, so you don’t ask too many questions. You may hate broccoli and say so loudly, but you didn’t make the dinner, so it just has to sit there on your plate mocking you.

Then you reach an age when you feel old enough to make decisions for yourself. You make important decisions for yourself during middle school and high school. You gain confidence being in charge of certain aspects of your life. You are managing your life fairly well until once again outside decisions start impacting your world. Big ones and small ones:

• You’re told that you have to visit family out of town this weekend when you already made big plans to go out with friends

• Your boss puts you on a shift you had clearly asked to be off

• Your life gets turned upside down because a parent changes jobs. Now you have to move meaning you have to change schools

• Your parents split up and your life is changed forever because of a decision someone else made

This list could be endless, and for some reason I thought the older I got the smaller the list would be. I mistakenly thought that with age comes power and control over my life. For the most part I do have more control over my life being “an adult” and “on my own,” but it never ceases to amaze me how angry and hurt I feel when I am not involved in the decisions that impact my life. My own daughter has experience the last two items on that list and because of her youth she has handled it very well, but I don’t pretend to think for one minute that feeling helpless hasn’t been a part of her first ten years.

It’s painful to feel that you have no control over a situation that directly impacts your life; my standard question is, “Is this a decision being made for me or with me?” Decisions being made for me or for anyone can lead to that feeling of powerlessness. Powerlessness can lead to anger, humiliation, or even rage.

Taking back the power in a situation that you didn’t create, like divorce or moving because of a parent’s new job, can only come from one place—within.

There is no magic answer to heal the pain. The pain and frustration is what teaches you, helps you grow, and forms your character if you let it. Choose wisely when dealing with pain that comes from a decision you had no say in. Try to accept it for what it is–pain you didn’t ask for. Blaming, denying, even hiding from these moments is what can weaken you.

Look closely at the situation first to see if there are any aspects of this decision that you could have input on, if not (and I have experienced plenty in 49 years that I couldn’t) then you can choose to react to your pain with dignity. For me, I call it “taking the high road,” and I usually recognize that road because it’s often the most difficult one to take; it’s often a lonely road because everyone around me tries to stir the pot and make me act out with their familiar comments, “Doesn’t that make you angry?” “I would seriously be so pissed!” It’s difficult but I hope that you find like I have that the person you become along the way is the one you will look back at and be the most proud of.