“He did it.” I don’t know about you, but when I was little, this was a go-to if I was trying to get out of the blame for something. Like eating the entire roll of refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough or leaving my dirty mac and cheese bowl in the living room or not putting the hay out for the horses by 6 pm. It must have been somebody else. Except, as an only child, this got kind of tricky. So a lot of times I had to blame it on my dad; luckily for me, Mom believed me. A LOT of the time. And he would get into way less trouble than me.
Now, the “he did it, she did it, somebody else did it” tactic is often taken to the next level. This is when we tack on a two-little-word caboose to the end of the blame train.
“He did it, ON PURPOSE.”
Recently, while standing at the checkout counter at our local natural foods store, where everyone is supposed to act like they love the planet—and each other, my middle-schoolers started bickering. I looked at the cashier and said loud enough that my kids could hear (and probably loud enough all those healthy, planet-loving, and happy people, along with those who love dogs and rocks and trees and margaritas, could hear, too), “If they say one more word while we are checking out, don’t check out the licorice. Just put it to the side.”
You know what happened, right?
Let’s just say that instead of happily passing those little delicious chewy red ropes back and forth in the car, we had a whole lot of grumbling.
And then came the kicker from my son as we cruised unhappily down the road, “She provoked me. ON PURPOSE! She did it ON PURPOSE. And this, this is not fair.”
“Really?” I wanted to say, which is code for “No, sh*it. And you fell for it! You fell for it! You couldn’t keep yourself together for 45 seconds. Oh my lordy, we are 13 and 11 days from age 11 and we’ve endured the annual well check-up and only have one more fun stop on the way home—the orthodontist (I know, licorice is not on the foods-you-eat-with-braces-list, but it was natural licorice). Aren’t you looking forward to having those wires cranked on your teeth?! Yippee. And instead of just walking away, playing that good ole silence game, you fell for it.”
Instead, I kept my eyes on the road. And turned up the volume on Train in Vain.
Over the volume of The Clash, my son exclaimed with all due anguish, “And you actually did it. You didn’t buy the licorice.”
Once I’d collected myself (the music had worked its mood magic), I said, “I didn’t buy the licorice, ON PURPOSE. And next time, just maybe you guys behave politely in the store. Look! We are here! At the orthodontist.”
What on God’s green earth does surviving a day of errands and appointments in the middle of the summer with two middle-schoolers have to do with college admissions?
Well, this anecdote has everything to with doing things ON PURPOSE. And there is a productive way and a destructive way. The destructive way, yes, you guessed it, is when we give away our culpability—and in turn our power, by blaming others. Making excuses. Making choices based in fear. Hiding from our potential. Parents, teens, adolescents, kindergartners, CEOs, rock stars, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, great grandparents—okay—people, human beings do all sorts of things, and whether we are conscious of what we do or not, everything, at some level, is ON PURPOSE.
Admissions ONPURPOSE is about waking up to what is really going on around here and helping our teens make choices productively, constructively, and once-in-a-while joyfully ONPURPOSE.
The game of college search and college interviews and college admission and worrying and fretting (oh, and the paying for that degree!) has pushed us into a fear-based college admissions frenzy.
I don’t know about you, but my best self doesn’t like to show up when petrified and anxiety ridden. I will say that productively doing something on purpose is not easy and never, ever starts with looking outside ourselves. (That’s the destructive version, the blame game, the finger pointing; it must have been somebody else that left the car on empty.) It starts with a willingness to know ourselves, and nudging our teens to know themselves: mindfully, consciously, wholeheartedly, fully.
Then, they can begin building a life on purpose, which has a lot do with how we go about helping them choose schools, apply to them, tackle challenges and navigate the college admissions game.