I sat in the passenger seat sulking. My mom was grilling me.
She found chewing tobacco in my bedroom and wanted answers.
Where did I get it? When did I start chewing? What was going on?
Questions and more questions. I did not want to say anything other than — how did you find my stash? It was supposed to be hidden well.
I was 13 years old, and I was in trouble.
I tested my mother’s patience on a regular basis
Getting into trouble as a teenager was nothing new. I was not a bad kid. I did well in school and played sports to stay busy.
But, like many of us, I made some poor choices growing up.
The funny thing about the smokeless tobacco that my mom found was that I forgot I still had it.
I tried chewing along with some of my buddies but ended up not liking it. Tasted bad and made my stomach sick. It usually gave me a headache.
I decided to stop chewing awhile ago but forgot to get rid of the evidence — rookie mistake. That fact did not seem to matter much to my mom, so the interrogation continued.
Why I wrote this billboard
Today is Mother’s Day. I was thinking about all the lessons that Oma taught me over the years. There are many.
This one stuck with me. It was something she said while grilling me about chewing tobacco. At the time I did not want to hear it.
Of course, I would never jump off a bridge. That is stupid.
But, she was making a larger point. Did I have the strength to say no when it mattered most? Could I hold up to peer pressure? Was I willing to stand alone?
The answer became yes as I grew older because my mom taught me this lesson when I was young.
My mom understood that you have to make your own decisions
The older you get the more decisions you will make. I urge you to be strong enough to make your own decisions.
That is the point Oma was making with me many years ago. Don’t do something just because everyone else is doing it.
The more you know what you believe in the more confidence you will have to make your own decisions rather than deferring to others.
I am glad she taught me this important lesson at an early age. It helped me a lot over the years, especially when making decisions that were not popular.
Mom was right — it is tough to stand alone
The reality we all face is that it is tough to stand alone. To go against the crowd. We all want to be liked. It is part of our human nature.
If you are in a group and they all want to do something, it is difficult to say no. I know because I have done both multiple times.
I went along with the crowd on occasion and it usually did not end well.
In other situations, I stood my ground and took the higher road.
Hard to do — better results.
True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.
Brene Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone
How I incorporated this billboard into my life
When faced with peer pressure I would hear my mom’s voice in my head asking if I was going to jump off the bridge.
The good news is that I listened to that voice.
I responded hell no I am not jumping. In fact, standing alone has saved me from many bad situations.
For example, I have never done drugs. I do not trust putting any substance in my body that I have no idea what is really in it. You should not either.
I know friends who jumped and paid the price. Don’t jump off of that bridge, no matter how popular drugs are these days. It will come back to haunt you.
We face more uncharted waters ahead — my mom included
It is the year 2020. We are in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis.
I keep this lesson that my mother taught me at the top of my mind as I make decisions moving forward. We face more uncharted waters ahead.
When will the crisis be over? Will it ever end? Is there going to be a wave 2? Wave 3?
The reality is that none of us know what lies ahead.
I am starting to notice some people letting others decide for them how they will handle the situation. My advice is to stay strong and make the best decisions you can, given what you know.
Don’t make them based solely on what others are telling you.
I am here to help you. Trust me — I am not going to be jumping off any bridges anytime soon.
What about you?
Are you standing on a bridge with your buddies wondering whether or not you should jump?
If you are — think of Oma’s words of wisdom.
Are you strong enough to stand alone? If not, then learn from my mom, your grandmother. Be willing to disappoint your friends and take the higher road.
You will thank me later, just like I am thanking my mom now for something she said years ago. Happy Mother’s Day. I love you!
If all your friends jump off a bridge — what are you going to do? Jump??
Oma, my mom
Like this article — find more like it
I write a blog for my sons called Doug Keating Letter to Sons. I am sharing content from my blog here. I hope you enjoyed it. All feedback is welcome. Thanks for reading it.