Friday, December 16, 2011

Déjà Vu Blogfest! Why Teens Inspire Me

DL Hammons, Katie Mills, Lydia Kang, and Nicole Ducleroir are hosting the Déjà vu Blog fest today! How does it work? All of those taking part will re-post their favorite blog offering, or one that never received the exposure it should have. Then as the day unfolds and everyone hops from one blog to another, what they will be reading is the best of the best (as determined by you).

It was definitely a challenge to narrow my choices, but I decided to go with a post I wrote just a few weeks ago over at YA Confidential. If you’ve not yet discovered this tiny heaven of fabulosity, I suggest you go there NOW. Seven of us blog six days a week about everything teen, all the time. Teen interviews, teen issues, teen book giveaways...we even have our own teen SPIES. Check it all out here.

Oh, and the post I chose for today - totally true, totally an inner pep talk. And definitely written from the heart. Enjoy.

Why Teens Inspire Me

I’ve been battling the self-doubt bug lately. I hit a massive wall with my writing, wonder if I’m ever going to get through this round of revisions, wonder if my stories will ever even be good enough to see a bookshelf other than my own. That feeling can be rather overwhelming, a sickness that festers, that perpetuates until it fogs your mind, affects your decisions, eats away at your soul.

It’s easy to let the self-doubt bug become a parasite. And last week, I was kind of there with it.

But then I was at my husband’s soccer game this past Tuesday. It was the Eastern finals, one game away from State Championship, and you could tell both sides wanted the win BAD. Our team goes up 1-0. Then, they come back and tie it up. Then right before the end of the first half, they take the lead 2-1. They have momentum, they have the edge, but my husband’s boys never stopped fighting. Even when a freakish call in the box ejects our goalie for two seconds, and one penalty kick later, we're down two goals. Even when the clock went to fifteen, then ten, then five minutes left. Even when some of the fans gave up and left the stadium, my husband’s boys never relented. They fought until the last second.

They lost, and yeah, I cried for like, two days. But reflecting back on it, I just thought about those boys and was just in utter AWE of their unbridled passion, their heart, their unwillingness to give up without a fight.

And I see this teen tenacity A LOT. And it inspires ME to keep going.

Let me tell you about the teens who inspire me.

I’m inspired by my football players, my soccer players, all of my athletes, who play with SO MUCH HEART and win games they probably shouldn’t.

I’m inspired by teens who set out to right wrongs. At my school, just over ten years ago, a group of teens was bothered by the second-hand smoke at athletic events. In fact, one girl’s asthma was so bad that she couldn’t even attend games and support her classmates. Andbutso, they did something about it. Several petitions, speeches, and presentations to school board members later, smoking was banned on school campuses across the county.

I’m inspired by that student in my classroom, the one who always struggles with math, but perseveres despite that. The one who, when I say, “You guys ready to go over this problem,” shouts, “NO!” And begs for one more minute so she can finish it herself.

I’m inspired by all these teens doing NaNo. I know of one teen who’s already finished her NaNo novel. That’s 50K in less than a month!

I’m inspired by my teens in the musicals, the ones who have to sing but contract laryngitis two days before opening night. They continue to rehearse what they can. And suck lemons and drink insane quantities of tea and honey so that the show can go on.

I’m inspired by the Jeanines of So You Think You Can Dance and the Scotty McHottys McCreerys of American Idol. Pursuing dreams AND achieving them as teens. Whoa.

I’m inspired by that student who DOES NOT want to take exams, who comes to school pale and sweating off a (probably contagious) flu bug so he doesn’t have to miss days. (Of course, I strap on the white mask and stick him in a corner so my students and I can keep our distance.)

I’m inspired by that student with the worst home life, who could easily be sucked into dealing drugs or a life of crime, but doesn’t. And instead, sticks out high school for a diploma. For something BETTER.

I love it when teens stand up for what they believe in, when they fight injustice, when they feel they have a voice because THEY DO. When it’s something they care about, something that’s important to them, something they BELIEVE in, a passion that extends beyond thirty seconds, there are some teens, many teens who will go for the win, or die trying.

Now you might be wondering, are ALL teens like this? No. But it’s like I’ve always done in any aspect of teaching. I can choose to focus on that one student who cusses like an upset coach and rolls her eyes twenty times in twenty minutes, or I can focus on the thirty other students who say thank you and are nice to each other and who are truly genuine caring human beings.

Likewise, I can choose to focus on student apathy or I can choose to focus on their passions. I teach a lot of students who are apathetic to math, but they are typically passionate about something. Skateboarding, body art, sports, books, dance, their jobs, their pets, their family. I love to hear what gets them going, what lights their fire. What they’re passionate about. Why?

Because their passion ignites my own.

It’s why I read so much YA. AND why I write it. And some of my favorite stories are those with the most tenacious characters. The ones who, when all is really, really lost, look adversity in the eye—and spit in it. Even when things are their WORST, these characters do not. Give. Up.


It’s these same characters that don’t leave me for a long, long time. Adam Wilde (Where She Went), Katniss and Peeta(Hunger Games) Lexi (Ripple), Tris and Four (Divergent), Max (Maximum Ride),... For me, this list goes on and on.

And as for my teens, those students who are the most passionate, the most tenacious, the most “heart-minded,” those are the students I typically remember long after they graduate.


Believe in yourself, believe in each other. Believe in your dreams.

It’s been my husband’s team’s motto for several years. It plasters their walls, their clothes. My husband even has Believe tattooed on his arm (He has a mermaid on the other one that Special K would LOVE) Not a game, not a practice goes by where they don’t finish a huddle with “Believe.” And all their friends get into it too, chanting “Believe” songs to pump up the crowd at games.

Believe in yourself, believe in each other. Believe in your dreams.

At some point, just about everyone contracts the virus of self-doubt. Sometimes we beast the sickness as quickly as it arrives, sometimes the self-doubt lingers for weeks. And I know we all have our own ways of battling bouts with self-doubt.

Me? I look to my teens.

And I’ll tell you what I believe. I believe my teens impact me as much as I do them, if not more so.

They inspire me to persevere in the ugliest face of adversity, to fight for what I believe in (or die trying), to never lose that unrelenting, unwavering, unmitigated passion.

Teen tenacity. It’s what keeps me going. And inspires me to persevere with dreams of my own.

So, how about YOU? What helps you battle the self-doubt bug? What inspires you to keep going?


  1. Found you from DL's blogfest today and followed you! What a great post! Beautiful and inspiring. And so true. These teens are our future. If they're in charge, what a beautiful future it will be!

  2. What a great post. I love that you get inspiration from the teens you work with. Great choice to repost.

  3. Your post reminds me of something Hayao Miyazaki has said about his own movies. He prefers to write stories about young people (in his case young female protagonists) because he admires the strength and resolve they show in ordinary things. When dealt with adversity they rise up to the challenge.

    It is so awesome that you have these influences in your life and you can give back a little of what you have gotten from them.

  4. I love this beautiful post. I envy the fact that you get to spend time with such wonderful, and inspiring, teens.

  5. Well, now I'm inspired by this fabulous post! You almost make me want to teach high school so I can be around these inspiring teens too! Thanks for sharing, Alison. :)

  6. My teen stepdaughter decided to live with us this year, and your post has inspired to me to focus MORE on what she's passionate about, that I can be proud about, and stop sweating the small stuff!!!

    Such a great post! (new follower)

  7. My kids inspire me and also blog posts like yours! Thanks for the reminder :)

  8. Yes, there are some inspiring teens out there. As a fellow (ex) teacher, I can totally relate. There are some kids who were completely averse to Science, yet they are passionate about drama, sports, music, etc. and it is so inspiring to watch them pursue their passions and to succeed at them.

    Thank you for reposting this!

  9. A wonderful inspirational post,it made wonderful reading.
    You ask what helps keeping you going? For me it's the memory of my late husband I often wondered if he would be proud of me today.

    Thanks for coming by , much appreciated.


  10. Fantastic post!

    I teach 5th graders, who amaze me all the time. Odd that I haven't written anything for that grade level, because that would make more sense.

    But I guess I turn to teens for my inspiration because I write historical. And historical teens were caught between childhood and the full responsibilities of adulthood. There were no "teenage years" in historical times.

    I write for the teens today, so they can see their own potential in the past.

  11. SO inspiring! I love this post. Perseverance is the key thing a writer should have, but ironically, it's also one of the most difficult things to learn to acquire. I'm always struggling with self-doubt. I don't understand the writers who are all "My work is AWESOME, my stories ROCK" because I'm always saying, "Is this good? Will someone else like to read it? Does it suck too much?" But what keeps me going is how much I love to do it - and I feel that if I love to do it, maybe someone, somewhere out there, will find that they love to read it.

  12. Great and inspiring (well, it is!) post!

    Thanks so much for joining the Blogfest!

  13. Soo glad you're inspired by your teen students! Too often we focus on their negative qualities (you know what they are) and forget to celebrate that illusion of immortality and innocence that makes them think they can conquer the world. I'll take some of that, as well as a double helping of their energy. :)
    Great post!

  14. I love teens! I work with them right at the end of high school and they're so cute and bright-eyed and eager and not totally jaded yet (at least the ones I work with) and SMART.

  15. I love how you focus on the positive and let it inspire you. And in turn your post is inspiring. Thanks for the heads up on your other blog site that focuses on teens. Very cool! I'll have to check it out once I make it through this wonderful blogfest!

  16. Wow, what an excellent choice for a re-post! It's wonderful to draw your inspiration from young people that way. I often look at kids from risky environments and am amazed when they rise above it. I think people underestimate how hard that can be, and the kind of strength it takes. Nice to connect with you, Alison!

  17. Great post. I'm a counsellor at a middle school and these teens inspire me on a daily basis. Truth be told they also drive me crazy on a daily basis. Thanks for a repost that was a perfect read for me!

  18. YES! That's what I'm talking about and why I envisioned this blogfest. I missed this original post, and it was my loss. Now I have the chance to revel in your optimism and celebrate the possibilities of our youth! This was such an awesome post, one that touched me on numerous levels! Thank you SO MUCH for choosing this as your repost. :)

  19. That's what is awesome about team sports - the kids can feed on one another's faith. And young people still believe they can accomplish anything.

  20. DEFINITELY worth reading a second time.

  21. So true. There's so much talent, tenacity and creativity in the teen population. If only they knew how inspiring they are and can be.

    Nice to meet you through the blogfest.


  22. A very inspirational post! I don't self doubt and sometimes that's a problem. But in the long run good things happen. All too often I see people quit, then someone else comes along and takes what the first person worked so hard for.

  23. Yea for Deja Vu. I love this post because I hate when the self doubt bug bites me. I'm going to tape BELIEVE to my monitor.

    Nice to meet you.

  24. It is wonderful to hear someone praise the good things about teens instead of focusing on the negative. I love the passion in teens myself and I think they are interesting people to talk with.

  25. Lovely post! I really think kids are an inspiration! And I'm sorry those kids lost the game too, I was rooting for them as I read the post, lol. But I get what you mean--you have to believe! And you know what? You helped me battle self-doubt by re-reading my ms after your comments erased! I mean, wow. Thanks!! And I mean it--I'm so thankful you helped me sign with Lauren!! <333

  26. Oh boy, do I ever get the self-doubt bug. But what you say here is really all a person can do... draw on the strength of others who persevere thru the worst. I have to remind myself how far I've come when I get the gloomies.
    I love teen spirit for this same reason. :)
    Thanks for sharing this. I think your hubby's tattoo rocks!!

  27. Sounds to me like the teens you work with also get a healthy dose of inspiration having you as a teacher!

    I'm inspired by my brother's three teenaged kids; their energy, attitude and outlook is very positive.

    Great post!


  28. Challenging myself gets me moving again, usually. If I set a goal/deadline, I'll often do everything I can to meet it--I hate missing targets.

  29. You have such a fabulous belief in and concern for your students. I am totally impressed!

  30. Oh my gosh! This is a great post!!! I agree that being around teens is inspiring!!! That's one of the reasons I love judging HS Speech and Debate competitions. Teens are amazing.

    And, I love writing about their world ... and reflecting back to when I was one of those teens!!

  31. I think my writing buddies help me the most when I'm dealing with the self-doubt bug. My family and friends inspire me every day, especially the littlest ones. Great re-post! <3

  32. Wow, this is such an inspiring post!! I have a terrible time with self-doubt, and I'm going to try and keep this in mind the next time that pesky bug shows up. Thanks for coming by my blog, so glad to meet you as well!

  33. Incredible post. Self-doubt hits me a lot in life, and the solutions depend on what specifically brought it on. Sometimes reading a few blogs will knock it out of me. Sometimes I give myself pep talks. Sometimes I get angry and tell myself that there is something better for me, that everyone who's ever doubted me will someday eat their words and wish they'd been more decent. One thing I do know is that this world is full of the exact inspiration you discussed, so I am never worried about sinking too far into that self-doubt hole. :)

  34. I get my funniest material from my teen...

  35. This is a heck of great blog post. Glad this one came back. Also, do you know of Katie Hnida? If you don't, you should. First girl to score points in a division 1 college football game. Formidable activist. Very inspiring.

  36. My dad always encouraged me with the words of Churchill: "Never, ever, give up."

    I remind myself of the value of this phrase whenever I'm tempted to throw in the towel.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  37. Many of us are plagued with self-doubt, and that's why this story rings so true. Thanks for re-posting this, and I'm glad to have met you through the blogfest. Sorry this is so late, as I've had trouble with Internet access. Julie


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