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Opinion & Essays - December, 2001 Issue #88 

What happened to them?!
By Kristie Vollar – Referral Assistant
Woodbury Reports, Inc.

Bonners Ferry is a very small town. The kids here graduate high school, get in their cars and drive as fast as they can to get away from the drone of isolation that this town offers to their teens. Years later, however, the adolescent, who has generally transitioned into adulthood, returns to this sleepy little town, to settle and raise a family. So what causes them to return? Is it that the “big city” is really no different from the little town except for the aspect of security in a small town? Could it be that the city moves too fast, or that they went to college, got their degree and are ready for life to slow down to a walking pace? Whatever the reason, many of the people who were in such a hurry, screeching to the edge of town during the summer after graduation, have returned to Bonners Ferry, to settle and raise a family in the same environment that they endured from their parents during their childhood.

For two years, since my return to Bonners, I wondered, “What happens if I run into so-and-so?” I wonder if they ever decided to change, or even grow up?” Except for two, who turned their lives around, were raising healthy families, and working successfully, I began to believe I wouldn’t have to answer the question of running into the rest. Those who had chosen the destructive patterns of degradation and destruction, had clearly been hiding somewhere. Lately, however, I have had the misfortune of running into some of the other peers I had chosen during my adolescent years. During those years, where boredom and loneliness were unacceptable, I had given up on my morality and interests, and had begun my decline into poor and destructive choices and behaviors.

I wasn’t falling into negative patterns by looking up old friends, but to be perfectly honest, sometimes I did wonder how they’d be if they ever got the kind of help I did. While I didn’t seek them out, given the size of Bonners Ferry, our paths were certain to cross at some point. Lately, they have begun to surface from the gutters in which they had been hiding for so many years, and I am reminded how truly blessed I am that my parents intervened when they did.

I want to point out that I have never intended in my articles, to describe any of my emotional growth experiences as easy, or even enjoyable at all times. My intensions are always to express the growth that occurs and the tools learned while in a school or program that enable continued growth years later. I am very thankful and lucky that there are schools and programs available to teach the lessons that these adolescents have missed, for whatever reasons, along the way.

It was a struggle for me, at that time, to understand why I was being placed or taken away from my so called friends. It was also very difficult for me to understand why, when I returned home, I couldn’t go back to those friends and try to help them to change. They didn’t understand, or even care about why changing was so important to me.

From what I have seen, the peers who I had associated with during adolescence, haven’t changed, except for the worst.

What happened to them?!

Didn’t they see where they were or where they were headed? No one ever helped them grow up or taught them morality. No one ever helped them to work through their issues. Most of them have been in and out of jail, and are heavily into drugs right now. It’s a difficult concept for me to realize that that this IS where I would have been, too.

In the past, when I’ve written an article, I have always referred to “where I probably would have been” without the intervention of the wilderness followed by long-term residential placement that helped me change my direction. After my recent views of my former peers, however, I know where I would have been, and that’s sad, not really for me, but for them.

So, as I continue on with my life, I look back at the glorified image of my adolescent years, which doesn’t seem so great anymore, and realize how positive my life has turned out. I am thankful for life’s lessons and the blessings that I have been given. I appreciate the tools that continue to make me stronger, and the knowledge and security that “what happened to them” will not happen to me.

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