I was reading Angela’s blog and I was sad to see that she got some grief about something she did when she was 14. I’ve already talked about how crazy teens are. At fourteen, fifteen, sixteen…brains aren’t fully developed yet. And kids these ages don’t have any life experiences to help them make good decisions. So judging somebody on something they did at this age is silly. It’s because of the stupid things we do at that age that help us become the better people we are as adults.
Let me tell you about what I did when I was fifteen. Angela was a married mother trying to help support her family. At fifteen I was just a know-it-all teen who still gave in to peer pressure and didn’t really think about the consequences of my actions. I didn’t need to steal anything. I came from a upper middle-class family and was a tad bit spoiled as an only child to divorced parents. [I'm sure my parents are just laughing hysterically at the words "tad bit."]
I was a sophomore in high school. That year our volleyball team made it to State. Our school was letting us all take the day off and drive down to State to cheer them on. Most of my classmates took one of the buses, but one of my friends was already 16 and could drive so we were going to drive down. However, at the last minute we decided volleyball was lame [sorry, all your volleyball players...I was young and stupid, remember?] and we were just going to stay in town and screw around. So two of my friends and I went to the mall to hang out.
After a while we were bored so we headed over to Target. Now up until this point I had never shoplifted in my life. I know people always say that. “I swear officer. This was my first time.” But, in my case it was really true. However, my two friends had done it before. And they talked me in to it. But to their defense it didn’t take a lot of convincing. I wanted to be cool. So we stuffed some cassette tapes [yes, I did just age myself there] up our sleeves. Then we wondered around the store for a while. My heart was racing the whole time. I kept looking around to see if anybody saw. But I couldn’t see anybody.
Then we headed out the front doors. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Target, but they have these big ball looking things up in the ceiling. Those things are cameras. And they are on. As we escaped the store a security guard stopped us and asked us to come with him. He led us to a small room in the back of the store. I tried not to cry. I wanted to be all tough and stuff. But he asked us to call our parents. So I had to tell my dad. As soon as my dad answered the phone I burst in to tears. The security guard talked to my dad and told him to meet us at the police station. I thought The police station?!? I can’t go to a police station. I’m a good girl.
The cops showed up and joined us in the small room. They probably asked us some questions, but I don’t really remember. But I do remember them walking the three of us to their police car. It was humiliating walking with the cops through the store, out the door and in to the back of a police car. At least we weren’t handcuffed.
At the police station, a juvenile office talked to us about what we had done and the consequences. We were all scared and on the verge of tears. Soon our parents showed up. The store decided not to press charges, so our parents were free to take us home.
As we were walking out of the police station my dad turned to look at me and said, “I’m so disappointed in you.” I started to sob. I didn’t care that I had been arrested, or that I was at the police station or that I was grounded for three weeks or whatever it was. I was upset that my dad was disappointed in me and he could no longer trust me. It’s been seventeen years and I can remember the look on his face and the exact words he said like it was yesterday.
In fact, a few months ago, when I was writing my 32 things I’ve accomplished in 32 years post, I was talking to my dad on the phone. I said, “Do you remember that one time when you told me you were disappointed in me?” And he said, “Oh yes.” We both remember it well. Unfortunately.
I’m happy to report that I have never stolen anything else since. And now when I do something questionable, I like to think about how my parents and children will feel if they knew I was doing this thing or not doing something. Of course, I don’t always do that [because nobody's perfect], but I try. So that event had to happen so I could be a better person today. I don’t regret it. I wish I hadn’t done it. I wish I could have learned that lesson some other way. But I refuse to be ashamed of my past.