Act #37: Take notice of that girl.
I once knew this 16 year-old girl. She was just learning to play the guitar and she used to tote one around the New York City bus system, looking like someone on the verge of being discovered. She was so full of life that people on the streets stopped her, just to ask her if she was somebody they should know. She was a free spirit, a wandering soul. Packed in a full course load of anthropology and sociology classes at her inner city high school during the day, and worked her tail off at a local restaurant every night to pay her rent. She spent her free time with friends and they went to Greek carnivals, and parks, and art galleries. Her life was complicated, and she lived on her own, making her fiercely independent. Unbelievably strong. Focused and determined that one day she was going to single-handedly save the world.
And she had a boyfriend, whom she had met halfway into her senior year of high school. He was older, and had already graduated. He was charming, and smart, and whisked her off her feet. And to the rest of the world, he was the best thing that ever happened to her. And when no one was looking, he told her that no one else would ever want her. He convinced her that playing the guitar was a waste of her time. She thought that maybe he was right. So she stopped playing the guitar. He couldn't bear the thought of her going out with her friends and not being with him all the time. So after a while, her friends started to disappear and she no longer went to Greek carnivals. She used to look forward to the ten-block walk home after work to feel the breeze in her hair, to shed the grease of the restaurant. But her boyfriend began showing up every day after work to take her home. And after school every day. She looked forward to seeing her good friend at work - they talked about all the different places they wanted to travel in the world. She loved him like a brother. And one day her boyfriend came by and saw the way she laughed with him, and he punched a hole in her apartment wall later that night. And she quit her job. And she never saw her friend again. After a while, people no longer stopped her on the streets. Even if they did, she wouldn't have noticed, because she rarely looked up. She was too embarassed. She had come to believe that she simply wasn't worth it.
I can't believe that she was me. It would take me 20 years to pick up a guitar again.
February is teen dating violence awareness month. For more information on how you can help change the way young people think about healthy relationships, please visit: http://www.teendvmonth.org/.