I sat down to write a blog post and up on my screen popped an essay that my daughter, Billie needed me to print out for her. I gave it a read and realized I not only needed to print it but post it. Turns out she’s a pretty wise soul. Leave her a post to encourage her!

Change The Script

By Billie Schaub

The day after my twelfth birthday, which is probably not as symbolic as I interpreted it at the time, my parents packed up my life into a 1999 Toyota Sienna and started the three day drive from Los Angeles to Chicago, the foreign land where we had no friends, no family, no jobs, and no home. A few years earlier, my parents had decided a total renovation of our modest one story house was needed to match the glamorous lifestyle we were living in the Valley of Los Angeles, but after the housing market collapsed and we were slowly losing our house each month, my parents decided our life needed a total renovation. I had already practically perfected the art of conscious distain for Chicago before I had even arrived. I spent the next several years wallowing in my own self-pity, sure that my parents would understand the pain and suffering they were inflicting upon me, and swiftly return me to my native land. Two years later, I came to terms with the fact that this approach was not only lacking effective results, but also consumed a large sum of my time and energy.

A bit apprehensively, I started to realize I had to retire my old outlook entering my high school career. Slowly but surely, I started to actively not hate life. I very quickly realized that I had been the source of my own suffering for so long; my parents, or anyone else for that matter, had nothing to do with it, and in the end I felt a little stupid for letting my self-victimization stand in the way of finding happiness in my new home.

Junior year, though, I did something that my 12-year-old self never thought I would. I moved again. But this time, I moved alone; without my family or a program, or really anyone I knew. And this time, I moved to Italy. I had briefly studied the language, but was nowhere remotely close to fluent. After to applying to a few programs, and reading the about the rules and safety regulations that would prohibit me from traveling to other countries or allow me to choose where I wanted to go, I decided I would go on my own. I was living with family friends whom I’d briefly met once as a young child. Even today, I’m not quite sure exactly why I went. Maybe it was because I had an opportunity, or saw an opening for an opportunity, and didn’t want to see it pass. Or maybe it was that I wanted to prove to my childish, naïve self that I was capable of successfully moving without throwing a two-year long pity party. Either way, I went, and I came back a very different person. I guess it’s pretty easy to really understand yourself when you can’t understand anything else, and for a while there, I certainly didn’t understand anything else. But in time, I learned. I learned to speak Italian and I learned to understand French. I learned to ski. I learned Celsius to Fahrenheit conversions. I learned what to do if you get stuck in a Paris airport alone. I learned to be comfortable being uncomfortable. And maybe most importantly, I learned that as a high school student, you’re more or less given a script in which they predict how the next four years of your life will go. You’ll wake up and shower and go to school and come home and do your homework and maybe work at a minimum-wage job, and then you’ll go to bed and do it again the next day. I learned that if you want to, you can change that script.