Recently I was looking at old photographs of my childhood, digging up pics to show my boyfriend.
I remember this one. It was taken when I was 18 years old. I had just graduated from high school. It was May 1999.
In general, I was not very happy with my world. (What else was new?) “Smile for the camera,” they said. I remember thinking, “What the hell is there to smile about?”
That year, I had quit playing volleyball…because I couldn’t stand my bitchy teammates. I was still playing tennis, which was fun… but my team wasn’t very good and we lost most of our matches.
Plus, the Columbine High school shootings had just happened (April 20, 1999). That was still fresh on my mind. As a senior in high school, I was supposed to be getting ready for college.
But Columbine was gripping my attention.
I’d been inside that school many times for volleyball games and tennis matches. It was eerie to think of kids getting shot up there. My intrigue, however, was mostly with the two killers and what drove them to do it. At 18, I was clipping all the Columbine-related news articles I could find in an effort to “understand” why it happened.
Little did I know… years later I’d be working as a research assistant and proofreader for the book Columbine by Dave Cullen.
That was my first gig back when I started my business in 2006. (I started as a “freelance writer” — a term I don’t use anymore.) I saw his job posting on Craigslist and went for it.
At first, I was thrilled to be working with a “real” journalist who got paid to write. I was thrilled to be working on a subject matter that had once deeply intrigued me (and still did). My task was to research articles on the killers’ lives, pore through their journals, track down people’s contact info, and do meticulous fact-checking.
I did a great job, according to the author. Columbine eventually became a New York Times Bestselling book. My name was added to the acknowledgements section (strangely, next to the word “terrorist”).
But truthfully, I hated the work.
Studying two disturbed personalities — two killers — had drained me emotionally and mentally. Being involved with dark subject matter was rough on the soul.
Probably like the author, I had erroneously believed that in order to prevent bad things from happening in the world, we had to deeply understand disturbed minds. That’s simply not accurate.
(That was long before I began studying success principles.)
Fact is, if we give mental attention to people and things that “disturb” us, we create MORE things to be disturbed by.
Perhaps that was the lesson I was meant to learn from Columbine — that when somebody chooses to completely fuck up their own life, and the lives of those around them, I don’t necessarily need to be “bothered” by it.
I don’t need to save those who are involved, and I don’t need to study in-depth the perpetrators.
Because doing so doesn’t lead to an awesome, happy, or healthy life.
What leads to a happy, productive life? The answer is simple — study only happy, healthy, productive, functional individuals, ideas, and principles.
Abandon the rest.
Eventually I knew I had to abandon the study of dark subject matter and disturbed personalities altogether — and shift my focus to HEALTHY personalities and healthy topics.
It took several years to fully train my mind. The disturbances kept coming back to me, like an alcoholic reaching for another drink.
I had to learn how to protect my mind and guard my focus.
It was worth the effort.
Today, at 36 years young, I have a life that’s full of things to smile about. I’ve chosen to create an awesome reality… traveling, learning from the best minds, pouring myself into hip hop dance, writing and editing content for healthy businesses… and of course, expressing love towards my boyfriend!
I look back upon my 18-year-old self, with love and compassion…knowing that back then, I was making myself miserable by focusing on everything that was “wrong” in the world.
Can a simple change in focus really change everything in your world?!
Damn straight it can. I am living proof of that!