Lessons Learned From Getting in Over My Head – Part 1 of 2

When you’re 13 years old, dying is not an option. Everything is open for discussion and possibilities. So, when your best friend (and expert swimmer) says you need to go with him to check out the 20 foot waves crashing down on the shores of your beach, you grab your bike and ride! And, when you’re half way there and notice two sets of swim fins on his handlebars, again, you think nothing of it and you keep riding. This was my best friend. He wouldn’t put my life in jeopardy, right? – Wrong.

You see, Jim (the name has been changed to protect the guilty) had no intention of just looking at the behemoth walls of water that were pounding the shores of Huntington Beach that day. He wanted to experience them. Or, more accurately, wanted us to experience them.

When I first caught sight of the huge waves that were slamming against and, once again, putting the Huntington Beach pier in peril (damaged by high surf in 1914 and again later in 1983) , I was amazed. When I got closer and could feel their magnitude in full force, I was terrified! But, none more terrified than when Jim handed me a set a fins and calmly said, “We need to bodysurf one of these bad boys.”

What? Was he kidding? There’s no way I’m going near…I tried every excuse in the book.

“I haven’t waited thirty minutes after eating yet!”
“I heard there’s a shark warning today!”
“I have to go to the bathroom and I never pee in the ocean!” Ha!

Jim just stared me with that, “Am I going to have to tell everyone in the neighborhood tomorrow what a wussy you are?” look, and the next thing I knew I was sitting on the sand, pulling on a pair of fins and praying under my quivering breath. Talk about peer, or should I say, pier pressure!

We both flopped in fins to the edge of the water. Jim looked over at me with surprising confidence and said, “Follow me,” then dove in. So, since at 13 dying wasn’t an option, I dove in after him.

To be continued…


  1. Saying, “Be Safe!” Doesn’t Mean They Will.

I’m pretty sure, getting my mom’s okay to go out and try and kill myself that day went something like, “Mom, I’m going to the beach with Jim.” Followed by, “Okay, be safe!” from my mom.

That incident on the beach that day, and many like them in my youth, reminded me to always get all the necessary info every time my kids, even as teenagers, asked (or told) me where they were going or what they were planning on doing and with who. Details needed to be discussed before I gave them the thumbs up. You’re never “over parenting” when it comes to safety. Even if your shores are being pounded with, “But, Johnny’s mom lets us do it!” Don’t give in to peer (pier) pressure.

  1. Peer Pressure is STILL Alive and Real!

I was not much of a leader-type growing up. I was very much a follower, and followers want to please. So, I would do things or get involved in situations that would make my parents pull their hair out (See photos of my dad at 40 for reference). I wasn’t a bad kid I just got caught up in moments where fitting in or being cool completely outweighed judgment and common sense.

You might think you have one of the special ones, and you might, but for every leader on the campus there are tons of followers being pressured to please the crowd – even more than pleasing you sometimes. Take time to have those parent-kid talks about what’s being expected of them by so-called friends at school. Talk about how to lead when it comes to right and wrong. It’s never too soon to train them to question everything.

Oh, and make sure you’re policing yourself, or have an accountability person in place as well. Feeling the pressure to fit in or be cool doesn’t stop at adolescence does it!