Confessions of a Frightened 12-Year-Old

I spent most of my pre-teen childhood afraid of almost everything. Afraid of the Cold War. Afraid of rock musicians and their drug-addled fans. Afraid of being eaten by sharks, even in swimming pools. Afraid of being hit by cars (which I was once). Afraid of the song "Hotel California," the beast they couldn't kill, and the ghost of the guy's wife who hadn't been around since 1969.

One thing that scared me were the drug scare films they showed us in 6th grade to keep us from using drugs. These had been made in the early 1970s to show kids what would happen if they took drugs.

You would die.

Drugs, said the films, would make you freak out and have horrible screaming fits about psychedelic monsters trying to steal your face. Or they would make you think you could fly, and you'd climb on top of a building to try it, only to realize halfway down that things weren't going according to plan.

These films filled me with a sense of dread that stayed with me for weeks after watching them, and I spent a lot my 6th grade year worrying that I was going to die from accidentally injecting myself with heroin, and becoming another statistic for drug film makers to use in their next round of scare films.

Or being eaten by sharks.

You can imagine my terror when I was 12 years old, and I found out my best friend, Doug, who was 13, had started smoking pot. I was convinced he would be dead soon.

After all, that's what the drug films said would happen. Take drugs, think you can fly, and jump off a building.

This was not really a problem in Muncie, Indiana, because the tallest building in my part of town was my elementary school. There was the Muncie Mall, which is 30 feet high, but it's nearly impossible to climb.

However, as the drug films taught us, if kids even smoked pot, they would ride their bike the five miles to the mall, find a way to climb on the roof, and jump, much to the horror of their classmates who had all gathered to watch what would happen.

And yet, there was my friend, Doug, smoking pot with his druggie friends, completely oblivious to what awaited him. We called anyone who smoked pot "druggies," convinced they were dirty hippies who wanted to get kids to try drugs so they could be turned into Communist sympathizers and undermine the American way of life.

I'm proud to say I refused all marijuana that was presented to me, turning down any offers of bongs, joints, pipes, or other paraphernalia. (I didn't try pot until much later, when I was in college. Unless my parents are reading this. Then I never tried it in college either.)

For one thing, it smelled awful, like someone had stuffed a dead skunk into a tire, and set the entire thing on fire.

Not that his parents would notice the smell. His mom drank and smoked a lot, and never even smelled when the family dog had crapped on the floor. And I was convinced his dad was crazy and out of touch with reality, based that on the fact that the only time he ever smelled anything we did was when we tried to set a chemistry experiment on fire in his basement.

All I knew was that I had to be hyper-vigilant, ready to wrestle my friend to the ground if he showed any signs of wanting to fly.

His disreputable, druggie friends could go jump in front of a bus for all I cared. I just didn't want my best friend's last words to be, "No, really! I can do it!" before he leapt off his ranch house into the muddy back yard, yet another victim of the pot that had cut short or ruined so many young lives, like the drug films said would happen if I ever smoked it.

After a couple of years of Doug and his pot-smoking friends not trying to kill themselves, I began to wonder if the drug films had exaggerated just a little bit. I still wasn't trying it, but I began to relax and decided to let down my guard against anyone trying to fly.

I also decided that many of my other fears were probably unfounded as well, and that the things that had frightened me before were nothing but the product of a kid's overactive imagination.

And then Friday the 13th came out.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.

You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.


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