People need to learn how to laugh at themselves.
It's as simple as that. Let's face it, life is funny. People are funny, and when people do something hilarious, you have to laugh. I learned this the hard way.
Our youth leaders drove our teen group up to a lake during the summer. We reached our destination, and took in the beautiful sight of trees, flowers and duct tape. At least 15 rolls of the sticky stuff sat next to a huge pile of cardboard. We were given the task of building a boat out of only cardboard and duct tape. Easy enough. The girls grabbed their supply and headed off to build their masterpiece while the boys set off to reconstruct a cardboard box.
After hours of painful labor, we met together. The girls, of course, had constructed a sleek and elegant vessel. The boys had taken the cardboard pieces and put the box back together, while adding some wings and a tail. How creative.
Our next challenge was to pick one member of our team to "bravely go where no teen had gone before" and paddle his or her boat to a stump in the middle of the lake and paddle back.
I was nominated.
Our ships were placed in the water, ripples fleeing from the disastrous scene. On the leader's "go!," the boys gingerly helped their nominee into their box and cheered him on as he paddled away.
I had great team members. However, I wouldn't give them an award for "best-group-of-people-to-help-their-teammate-into-a-cardboard-boat." They left me to climb in the boat by myself while they wandered off to laugh at me.
I paddled frantically, water splashing everywhere. I put my back into it, chanted a rowing song, and even kicked my feet out behind the boat and began madly spinning them like a propeller. I even made an engine noise to motivate my feet to spin faster.
The captain of the other ship had already maneuvered his vessel halfway to the stump. I looked back to see how much progress I had made. Not two inches away, my supportive group laughed and pointed. I looked down. My boat had sunk before it even left the shore. Nice.
In one cunning move, I began hopping, holding the boat under my feet. I got pretty far. About 11 inches.
Then the ground beneath my feet became an endless pit of fish eggs and slime. I held my scream behind my teeth and pulled my feet on top of my already sunk ship.
I then proceeded to walk, holding on to the back of the boat all the way. I turned around to find every eye, video camera and satellite trained on me.
Even the other team had stopped cheering its member on and had doubled over in laughter.
My opponent was already on his way back. I sighed and turned around to hop back. It was a disgusting journey to the shore. Slime, fish eggs and who knows what else squeezed between my toes.
I learned that day that it's OK to make mistakes or do something stupid. We all do. We just get up, brush ourselves off, and laugh. After all, laughter is the best medicine.
Miriam A. Thurber is a freshman at Unatego Central School. 'Teen Talk' columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/teentalk.