Are You a Prisoner of Your Own Life? by Fern Weis


All I Wanna Do is a relatively unknown 1990s film. On the surface, this movie about an all-girls boarding school in the early 1960s is fluff. But as it develops, we learn that some of the girls are there because they are rebels, hard to handle, there because their parents didn’t know what else to do. Fluff, fluff, fluff… And then they learn that, because of financial difficulties, the school will merge with a boy’s prep school. Our rebels become leaders of a movement to preserve their school’s single-sex status.

The headmistress has told our heroines that with the merger, the girls will slowly but surely become second-class citizens and fade into the shadows. All their hard work, both academic and in learning to think, speak up and be heard, will be lost in the new, blended school. (Remember, this is the early ‘60s, and even though more women were going to college, many had no intention of using their education. They were getting married, having children, and supporting their husbands in their careers. It was still, truly, a man’s world.)

These girls who have been labeled “troubled” in some way, instinctively know that this place where they’ve been ‘warehoused’ has been a blessing in disguise. They will not go down without a fight. They organize the student body and insist that the board of directors hear what they have to say, in the form of a vote on the merger. The leader first says to the headmistress, “You gave us a voice. You can’t take it away.” Then she says to all the students (paraphrased):

“Some of you think this place is a prison, and being with boys is a good thing. You will vote for the merger. Some of you realize that this hasn’t been a prison… it’s the place you found your freedom. You will vote against it.”

Sorry to spoil it for you, but the majority vote against the merger, the girls give their own spending money to the school, and a movement is born.

Prison isn’t just a place… it’s a state of mind.

When we sent our son to Hyde School, he saw it as a prison. Even so, he acknowledges that he needed to be there. He was out of control and couldn’t live in our home any more. And yet, this very place, full of demands and restrictions, was also a place of high expectations and exploration of his potential. Hyde gave him back to himself, and ultimately his freedom to make productive choices about his life. (He graduated from Hyde, and college, and is working in the field of his choice… and he is so darn good at it! He’s kind and generous, and also a nice guy to hang out with.)

The parent program at Hyde was challenging for me, to say the least. And it changed my life, and gave me freedom, too. I won’t say that I never get stuck in a negative mindset, or have doubts. I still struggle… and who doesn’t? But I’m way ahead of where I was.

Where in your life are you ‘in prison’? What’s keeping you there? Is it work, or worry about your children? Is it in relationships or health?

Whatever it is, what are you going to do about it? This isn’t about finding a silver lining, or feeling better by comparing yourself to someone who is worse off. It’s about busting out of prison! It’s about doing something to change the unpleasant, or even downright nightmarish, status quo! It. Is. About. Doing.

Don’t know where to start?

1) Baby step or giant step? I usually suggest that people start small, so they’re not overwhelmed. Small steps are often the way; however, depending upon the situation, you might have to start really big. Only you will know for sure. Your situation may require you to take a life-altering step for you or someone you love. Sometimes it’s the only way.

2) Be patient. Your problem took years to develop. It will take time to resolve. And you will resolve it.

3) Ask for help. You are not meant to solve all your problems by yourself. And when it comes to problems with kids, I have seen firsthand and with clients how difficult it is to admit to others that your child is off-track. (Let me assure you: you are not alone. More parents than you can imagine are going through the same thing.) Find someone you trust and tell them about it. If they can’t help you with a next step, then get help from a professional: therapist, coach, clergy, and more. There are many resources out there for you.

You have to decide what your bottom line is. Will you tolerate what makes you miserable and be silent, or will you find your voice and do something about it?

The choice is yours.

~Fern Weis, Certified Coach and Middle School Teacher, helps parents break down the walls their teens put up, so they can have a great relationship and better prepare their kids for success in college and beyond. Learn how Fern can help you with your parenting concerns through coaching, classes and workshops at Your Family Matters.

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