Dear Carol | Teen Ink

Dear Carol

January 13, 2008
By Anonymous

My year’s most exciting moments arrive in the mailbox with Girl’s Life magazine, embellished with a fresh “Dear Carol” column. Carol Weston, a Yale graduate, teens’ author, and family friend, has had an immeasurable influence on me. My parents and I have spent hours around the kitchen table deliberating over the questions agonizing “Boy Problems,” “Feels Sorry,” or “My parents won’t leave me alone!” and offering our own words of wisdom. After years of experience, although I’m no “Dear Carol,” I can usually predict, not only what she says, but also which phrases she uses. Her signature tidbits of advice, such as, “saying no to someone else can mean saying yes to yourself” or “be yourself--your best self” have followed me through my teenage dilemmas.

Her suggestions have contributed to my position as Friends Academy’s “Ask Annie,” advising high school students based on my research. As I respond to “uncomfortable,” “fearful freshman,” or “stressed about school,” my readings’ legacy consumes my keyboard, and buried beneath each paragraph lie the knowledge and compassion of the writers whose works I have read.

Now, I have also graduated to psychology books like Dancing with Fear, Odd Girl Out, and The Voice of Knowledge. As I face the toils and trials of adolescence, my life jumps out of my mind and onto my self-help dominated bookshelf, and then to my journal, for future use. I suppose that, like Blanche from A Streetcar Named Desire, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Self-help authors and advice columnists are strangers who save people the trouble of learning lessons the hard way, or at least give them a leg up when they do. The more we understand others’ needs, the more we can help them, and the more we understand our own needs, the more we can help ourselves.

I’ll give you an example. Over the summer, I read Freud’s The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, which explains how our neurotransmitters forge pathways leading from one thought to another. This led me to wonder if I could train myself to think positively. Indeed, once I got in the habit of thinking encouraging thoughts, my actions reflected a bolder and more confident attitude. I could convince myself that I did have time to get everything done and go to bed by ten o’clock, and that I could enjoy play rehearsal no matter how small a part I got. Thanks to Freud, my newfound knowledge of the human mind once again helped me get the most out of my life.

If I come to Yale, I will study cognitive science to understand the human mind, psychology to identify how it affects our daily interactions, and English to put what I learn on paper and help people the way my readings have helped me. I want to be not only a psychologist, but also a resource who doesn’t require an appointment, who can be heard over and over without even speaking, and who can accompany readers to their pillows when they are up late worrying and assure them that they’ll get through every hardship because I have and we all have and they can do it. My ultimate goal, although ambitious, is to help save the world one distraught reader at a time.

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