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Own Your Actions...& Your Accidents

Updated: Sep 8, 2019


Dear Fellow Students,

Wow. High School. What a time. We learn a lot. Like, a lot a lot. From calculations to grammar, our brains are stuffed with information from the day we arrive at WHS to the day we walk away with a shiny diploma. However, I feel like the two most important lessons I’ve gained since I started school didn’t come from sitting in class. They came from one of the wisest men I know: my dad.

There are two phrases my sister and I have ingrained in our memories. These life rules are so widely known throughout our family that even my close friends could recognize my father’s mantras. These are the two great tidbits of wisdom that my dad has learned throughout his 50 years as a student, father, employee, and general human being.

The first is the small but mighty: “Avoidable Accidents”. Home videos show that my dad started saying this to me when I was as young as 4. (I had been running and tripped on my face). In response, my dad lovingly bandaged my scraped knee while lecturing me on how this whole thing was an “avoidable accident”. If I hadn’t been running, if I had taken the time to think smart and walk, the incident wouldn’t have occurred in the first place. As my sister and I got older, and made bigger and bigger accidents, these were two powerful words that caused us to roll our eyes. Eventually, the message made its way into my subconscious, and it sits in wait for my next decision, helping me choose the...safer path of life.

The one other life rule my dad repeated over and over again was “take accountability for your actions”. This one was particularly hard for me. It’s difficult to own up to your own mistakes and face the consequences with grace. It’s so much easier to push the blame on someone else. For example:

“I didn’t pass the test because the teacher sucks” No. You didn’t study properly.
“I’m grounded because my parents are so unfair” Or, you were, you know, rude.
“I had the right of way, and the other car came out of nowhere! I was following the rules!” Okay, so this one can be true, but it’s really more likely that you were a distracted/unsafe driver. As much as you don’t want to hear it, “More than anyone else, leaders(or future leaders) should welcome being held accountable.”(former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani)

The moral of the story is, people-- teens especially-- tend to struggle with accepting responsibility for their actions. Luckily for me, my dad was adamant in getting my sister and I to the point where we could begrudgingly accept accountability without being prompted to by an adult. This has served us well. Like any human being, I mess up. A lot. Just since the start of this school year, I’ve had a minor accident with another vehicle. I’ve bombed tests. I’ve budgeted my time poorly. I’ve gotten into pointless arguments with my friends. However, due to my father’s constant preaching, I’ve been able to handle these conflicts a little easier because I understand I know when I’m in the wrong, and the need to handle my mess-ups.

More importantly, it’s me owning up to the mistakes, not a third party mediator. My parents don’t come in and argue for me when they see an injustice. They don’t fight my battles for me. Because, really, what’s the point? In two years, I’ll be gone.

Are my parents going to drive to my college any time I feel wronged? No. So I thank my lucky stars that my parents gave me the resources to confidently manage my own conflicts. They have given me the opportunity to mature in high school, rather than college, or even grad school. Now, it’s always important to have someone in your corner, and if that’s your parents/guardians, more power to you. But you don’t start JV at Sectionals (unless you’re Carmel). Learn to fight your own fights. Stop hiding behind someone else.

So what’s the whole point of this long, long letter? I’m asking you, my classmates/friends/peers, to act a little differently. Speak up. Avoid accidents that are silly, and, well, avoidable. And, when you inevitably do something you regret (we all will it’s just facts), don’t transfer blame to someone else. Accept it, and more importantly, do it with independence. For all the time we spend trying to convince people we’re ready to face the real world, I would hope that we would manage to speak without the supervision of a parent. But, then again, I’m not responsible for anyone’s actions but my own.


Natalie Penry

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