Taking My First Breath… at Age 17

How one teen learned to deal with anxiety by coming home to the breath with kindness
By Jared Watson

You never think about it when you’re struggling to just get by every day.

There isn’t an owner’s manual for your body that tells you this can help you LIVE. But just like coming home to an old friend, it’s always there, waiting for you. Breathe in, breathe out. Hello friend.

I’m a 17-year-old that thinks like I’m 47. As with most of the 40 million estimated people affected with it, anxiety wasn’t a choice for me, it was just a reality. The type of reality in which you know something is wrong, but can’t grasp it quite enough to fix it.

*High Alert!* *High Alert!*
“Nothing in particular is wrong, but we need to fix that!!!”

That was my big mantra in life: “How can I fix it?” I wanted to fix everything, from myself, to the uneven number of times I tapped my pencil to my ear. This went on day after day, week after week, until suddenly— the cycle was interrupted. Until suddenly, I took a breath.

This wasn’t my first breath. Me being 17, I had taken many breaths, but this one was different. It was the first one of its kind because I paid attention to it. It awoke something inside of me, an awareness I wasn’t told I possessed. It felt kind and warm. It was forgiving.

It was the kind of breath that says “you are special, keep going, keep trying!”

It helped me become aware of all the things in my life I thought I needed to “fix.” It’s funny how when you breathe and accept those things in life, they begin to disappear.

A year has come and gone since I first took a breath, but every time I find myself getting caught up in life, I breathe. And that changes everything all over again. Mindfulness can’t fix your life for you, but it can help you help yourself. A lot of the help I have received in my life has come from self-awareness; I discovered the worries and insecurities I assumed were mandatory day-to-day, actually weren’t. I could go on for days and weeks about the impact mindfulness has had on my life, and the community of genuine and wonderful people I have come to know and care about through this practice, but that wouldn’t be as impactful. Everyone has their own journey, and so I hope this can help you on yours. Breathe in, Breathe out. Welcome home.

About the writer: Jared has attended the Pacific Northwest Teen retreat. He says, “My name is Jared Watson, I’m a senior at Cleveland High School. I love spreading the positive energy this world needs, and playing with my band!!”