A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


Carla was a superstar in junior high last year. But the first week of high school was tough.

"I feel like such a geek!" my young friend wailed as we chatted at the grocery store. "Nobody knows who I am! Nobody cares! And I still can't remember where all my classes are!"

"Last week we had an assembly and I couldn't find the gym," she continued. "I finally asked some guy where it was and he laughed and told me to turn around. It was right behind me! I was, like, TOTALLY humiliated!"

I laughed. I know, I probably shouldn't have done that under the circumstances. But I couldn't help it. Her frustration was striking too many familiar chords that tickled fond - and not-so-fond - memories. Like the time those seniors on the basketball team convinced me that the coach really admired players who had the spunk to talk back to him during practice. Or the time those older girls breathlessly advised me to ask out the school's reigning beauty queen because she had a secret crush on me but was too embarrassed to say anything about it.

It turned out to be such an incredible secret even SHE didn't know about it.

Talk about rejection. Talk about humiliation.

Talk about life.

It's amazing how often the sun comes up the morning after we are absolutely sure our world is going to come crashing to an end. Hurts and frustrations come and go, but somehow we survive. Sometimes we even benefit from the lessons learned through pain and embarrassment. None of which makes the suffering less insufferable. But it may help Carla and other newcomers to life's ups and downs if we point out a few realities they can expect to confront on the bumpy road to maturity. For example:

1. Bad things happen. They just do. Nobody's going to make it out of here without first experiencing adversity. Expect it. Then when it comes, deal with it - and move on. Good and bad is life's ultimate tag team. You

can't really have one without the other - eventually.

2. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. That's a law of physics - and of life. There are consequences, both good and bad, for every choice we make. Our ability to anticipate those consequences will have a lot to do with our happiness - now and forever.

3. There's more to life than fun. Believe it or not, life isn't really a game - no matter what Milton Bradley says. So it's OK if every moment of your life isn't exciting. As far as I know, no one has every actually died of boredom.

4. Working works when wishy-washy wishing won't. I don't remember where I read that, but it's true. There is no shortcut to success. It's a simple, time-worn formula consisting of hard work, talent, work, faith, work, discipline - and more work.

5. People are more important than things. While it's great to have nice stuff, none of that means much if its been acquired at the expense of the important people in your life. Broken things can always be replaced; with broken relationships, the damage can last a lifetime.

But then, you already knew that, didn't you? That's because you've probably experienced a good share of life's realities first-hand. But to Carla and her generation, a lot of these concepts are revelations. Which means we still have a chance to give them the benefit of our experience.

Otherwise, they'll end up doing some of the same dumb things we did, and social progress will have to wait for another generation to live and learn.

And that may be the harshest reality of all.

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--- © Joseph Walker


Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through and