On Bad Decisions


Here’s the scene:

             The night was winding down, but I was still energized, which meant trouble, as nothing good happens on a Saturday at 2 AM.

            “What time is it?” Shannon asked, squinting for a clock.

            “It’s time to go,” Carrie said, and around the table, everyone else agreed. I stayed quiet, because I was trying to think.

            We grabbed our coats and my brain mapped out my next move.

            “This way?” Bryan asked and I followed him out the front door. The girls headed toward the back, for the exit there.

            I passed from the warmth into the cold night and sparks kicked up inside my head, an idea was crackling. Bryan said something to me, but I wasn’t paying attention any longer. The cold air had given my vision a chance to ignite, and my focus was all inside my head.

            There was no need to run, but I ran, trying to keep pace with my scheme, trying to get that one last laugh at 2 AM, on a Saturday night, when I’d had plenty already.

            The girls’ conversation was muffled on the other side of the steel door, and I watched it, waiting for the pop of the handle. And when it came, I kicked, and the door flew back. When it popped back open I tried to kick again, but Shannon came flying out.

            “Look what you did!”

            I looked at her, and she was fine, and so I was confused. Until Carrie stepped out from behind, holding a bloody hand and a fingertip that explained the tears.

            My mind stopped racing. The night crystallized into that one image, and I felt all of my stupidity. Shannon reeled on me, and I braced for the punch.


While not the greatest scene I have ever turned in, it’s a jumping off point for this post. You see, it’s more fact than fiction. Some of the details are 100% inaccurate, but the major ones are.

On Saturday night, I broke my wife’s finger, because I was behaving like an idiot. Sadly, this is not a first for me.

I have spent a lot of time making bad choices and then cleaning up after my mistakes, as a child, as a teen, and as an adult. Yes, I’d love to have learned from them all, and not have had to repeat, but that doesn’t seem to be the way my life plays out.

People get quite upset with me when this happens. As did my sister-in-law, Shannon. As did my mother-in-law, who might have been happy had Shannon thrown that punch. And I don’t blame them.

From that moment––when I realized my error––and all throughout the rest of the weekend, I have felt terrible. I still do, and deserve to.

And this is why I think I write Young Adult literature. My life mirrors the idiocy of so many of the fictional teens I create. Trust me, I know that Adult literature contains adults behaving badly, but the kinds of failures there are more often of the moral fiber, and ensuing commentary on such. Young Adult lit is rife with teens testing boundaries, making dumb decisions and then dealing with the aftermath. Certainly there are moral failings, too, but the bulk is about teens lost in the moment, having no foresight for the last step of their plan.

And that describes me, at times, to a T. As Bryan said, after, “For all your smarts, writing books and everything, you sure are stupid sometimes.”

I’ve tried to mature all of myself, past the insane 16-year-old I was. But I realize that may never happen. And I’m not comfortable with that, but also don’t want to spend my life hating myself for my failures––also a hallmark of Young Adult lit.

I will do my best to improve, to see the error of my ways, and will do the same with my characters. But in the end, there are no guarantees, because my characters and I, we have a lot to learn.

*That is, indeed, a picture of my wife’s hand. Still sorry, Carrie. For all of my mishaps.

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