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INTERVIEW / At 17, college-bound Cady’s got life covered.

Let’s rewind the clock a bit, shall we? When I was 17, AT SEVENTEEN by Janis Ian was the #1 hit song on U.S. radio. The coolest people then had it “goin’ on” and disco was just about to be born. Tons of vivid memories flood my mind when I look back to my senior year at (San Francisco) East Bay’s Dublin High: losing 70 pounds, gaining a newly-acquired sense of self-confidence and, more than all else, an eagerness to be free, on my own and away from home. At 17, I was fearless.

Great while it lasted. At 17, star-gazing gregariousness and a desire to fit in took over while reality was pushed to the back burner. As a hotel/restaurant-majoring freshman at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, my studies and classroom visits soon became few and far between. Chatting up Shirley MacLaine at the Riviera gift shop, telling Cindy Williams (Laverne & Shirley) at the MGM Grand lobby that she “looks a lot like Linda Ronstadt,” and sharing quiet time on a Caesars Palace balcony with an un-made up Raquel Welch, took precedence. (At 18), being kicked out of UNLV and a day in jail shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone.

At 17, I wish I’d been more like Cady. She’s got it all figured out. Cady Nutt, a high school senior from New Port Richey, Florida is my first in a series of interviews having to do with STORIES ABOUT FACING FEAR. I’m thrilled and grateful to have met her. Cady’d commented on a guest blog I’d done on a teen reader website and she impressed me on the spot. Going off to college/university is HUGE for a teen, for anyone at any age, but I’m certain Cady’ll do it all effortlessly. I wish her the best.

Everyone experiences fear from time to time, some people all the time. I think Cady’s answers speak for themselves. During the process of our correspondence regarding this interview, Cady’s shown me nothing but respect and dignity and it’s MUCH appreciated. She’s a winner. If you happen to be a teen, have a child who’s a teenager or know a teen, please share this interview with them. I hope so much that Cady’s words will inspire you/them as much as they did me.

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First off, why don’t you tell everyone why/how you were selected for this interview.

I won through Jen Wardip’s Teens Read Too online blog with interviews from authors! There was a prize (this and a one-of-a-kind signed book from Mr. Adams) offered at random and I just happened to be so lucky to win.

I know only a few things about you; you’re a teen in high school, you like to read, you’re now preparing to go to university and your grandmother’s Irish. What else would you like folks to know about you?

I’ve coined myself as the “walking paradox.” I’m not a wishy-washy kind of person and I definitely take a dedicated stand on every opinion I have, but there are a lot of contradictions in my views/actions. I tend to see each situation/belief as completely separate from anything else which is how I’m able to believe, for example, that the world is way too overpopulated and needs to have less people in general and yet be a firm advocate for human rights in every sense. It’s a bit confusing to explain how my mind works to other people, but as long as I keep my own head straight, I’m in good shape. I also use my face too much – I tease that I’ll have the wrinkled face of a 60 year old by the time I’m 30. I like to put my emotions right on my face and it always reflects whatever I’m feeling which means it’s always twisted into a grimace, stretched for a smile or scrunched in confusion.

It’s rare to meet anyone who’s COMPLETELY fearless. Do you feel you are? Why?/Why not?

I’d say I’m in the opposite of someone who completely fearless - my life is filled with fears. I think it’s a positive kind of fear though, and it keeps me analytical and pragmatic so I don’t impulsively jump into things. My fear doesn’t debilitate me from important decisions; it gives that perfect amount of hesitation that I think a lot of people lack today. It’s looked down on in today’s society to be nervous or wary when doing anything, but I think acting impulsively is even worse than acting in a more skeptical manner.

What are some of the things you’re feeling right now as you prepare for your brand new life in college?

I think every day about how the decisions in these next couple of years could very well define the rest of my life. People tell me all the time to not think about it in such an intimidating manner, but how could I not? These decisions carry weight in my life and are so vitally important that it’s only reasonable to put significant thought and effort into making them. The scariest thing about the future right now is deciding what I want to study and make my career out of - I have an abundance of options laid out in front of me and I have to sift through them to pick just one. They all look so appealing to learn about, but each time I try to make a definitive decision about an area of study, my stomach drops and I panic. I think to myself, what if I like the subject but it doesn’t offer an interesting career? I mean, I would love to study psychology because the subject is just so fascinating, but I couldn’t listen to people with problems all day long or diagnose anyone (it would be too heartbreaking for me). I’ve decided to just jump head first into college and learn to swim along the way

I’ve met many teens that have experienced huge stress as they take placement exams, strive for high GPA’s and apply to colleges. It seems like a difficult time for them. Some have support systems, some don’t. Do you? If so, how do they make this time better for you? Do they help take your fears away (if you have any)?

Right now, my life is consumed with wrapping up my high school years while setting up my college years to come. It’s extremely difficult at this point to keep everything together and stay on the right time schedule so that everything is accomplished when it’s supposed to be (like this interview!). However, I would not be able to continue so assiduously without the help of my family and friends. They honestly just keep me sane while I deal with stressful situations; while my family gives me unconditional love and constructive criticism, my friends keep me grounded and cheerful. My wonderful friends are a constant reminder that I’m not the only one struggling to keep up and that my problems shouldn’t be overdramatized because there’s always a way to get through it. With all the headache of keeping up my GPA, finishing homework every night, studying for exams, and keeping my parent’s happy, I can get pretty frustrated or depressed with the work load I have. I have people in every area of my life who are more than willing to help me and I love them all so dearly.

I really appreciated it when you told me that you can relate to my “quirky” sense of humor. Why is that? (Do you have one as well? Know someone else who does?)

My entire family (hopefully including myself) has the oddest sense of humor I can think of; I mean that as a complete compliment too. Many people have no idea that we’re making jokes sometimes, even when we laugh at our own silliness. We always joke that you couldn’t find a serious bone in our bodies, but that we wouldn’t be surprised if there we more than a couple “humerus” ones in there. I tease with my friends that I’m going to have multiple wrinkles smothering my face by the time I’m 30 because I poke fun at nearly everything. Humor is one of the most important aspects that people never mention on their “life lists;” most people simply search for love and strong family as a way to fulfill their lives. I, on the other hand, need humor to keep me going; otherwise, the world is just too cynical to be of any benefit to me.

When I was a teen, I felt lots of pressure to fit in. Do you think this still exists today? Do any of your friends in school feel this way? If so, what advice would give them?

It’s still hard to fit in no matter what age you’re age; but people don’t acknowledge the struggle anymore, even when it’s about themselves. People ignore it because we feel that we’re “better” than those kinds of behaviors. What I mean is that, it’s not so much about “fitting in,” it never really has been; it’s always been about people excluding others or making it more difficult to be a part of groups or cliques. When someone is shy, they can still have friends around them because there are always people who will make the effort to include them. Then there are the types of people who will pick out an individual who may not be as socially fluent as they are; it then becomes their hobby to “rally the troops” against that person and before you know it, no one wants to caught dead hanging out with that person. Sometimes, I must admit, the kid who is ostracized in class brings it upon themselves; it’s not hard to understand why people don’t want to hang around someone who is constantly rude, ignorant or exceedingly loud. I’m lucky enough to have never had a problem with making and keeping my friends; I grew up in a family where respect was always something that I applied to every situation, no matter whether I liked the person or not; surprisingly enough, people respond when you treat them kindly and they’ll reflect it in their own actions. My advice to people who think that they don’t fit in or feel that they don’t have any friends is this: find that balance within your life that allows you to prosper and people will come to you; be happy and confident within yourself – people will recognize this and they’ll want to know you; recognize when someone is trying to reach out and be your friend. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen or heard people say that nobody likes them or that they’re just too weird to be around people when it’s perfectly not true! People want to be your friend, but nobody is going to come right out and say it, so be ready when those subtle signs start popping up.

Who do you feel is more fearless? Adults or teens? Please explain.

Teens for two reasons: one, I am a teen, how could I not root for my own team? And two (to tear us down now) because teens don’t think about reasons or consequences most of the time and I think that adds to fearlessness (in the more negative connotation). They’re rash and spontaneous as compared to adults who, with more experiences and time to understand the importance of forethought, generally act with more caution (which I honestly equate with fear). Fear is helpful and necessary; if it overpowers you then, obviously, it’s not something to be desired. Moderation is the key to everything in life which is exactly why fear exists: to battle out instant gratification and impetuous actions that can lead to hurtful consequences.

When I used to conduct my NO TIME FOR FEAR workshops in schools, I’d ask students, “Do you think you can do anything?” What’s your answer to this question?

It’s hard to not be cynical when I think about this question. In the “grand scheme of things,” what can I really do that’s going to accomplish much more than personal satisfaction or some minor effect? For example, if I vote in some election, will my one vote really change the outcome? The retort to this is always “well, what if everyone felt this way?” But that’s just the point: not everyone feels this way; there will always be someone to vote, to rebel, to donate, to speak out and to “make a difference.” The lingering fact about this overpopulated humanity is that it truly robs individual characteristics that we strive to believe in; we push the thought of ’uniqueness’ into everyone’s mind when in reality, we can’t really achieve any sense of it. Of course, there are people who have huge influences and honestly change the world that we live in, but these people are rare so what are the chances of me being one of them in all actuality?

Over the years I’ve heard many different antonyms for the word ‘fear.’ What’s yours? Why’d you pick that one?

The opposite of fear is simple apathy. I think that every emotion finds its antonym in apathy because apathy is the lack of any feeling at all. When you have the right amount of fear, you take things cautiously and with more forethought; when you have too much, you become stagnant and immovable; too little and you’ll do anything regardless of logic or reason. However, when you’re not afraid at all, then you must not feel anything at all; fear is so natural to the human psyche that when people fail to recognize it or believe they don’t have it, they become callous and irrational. To be honest, I couldn’t think of a better way to describe the opposite of fear; dictionaries describe the antonym as being either “bravery, courage, or heroism.” but just because you’re afraid doesn’t mean you can’t be a hero or save the day.

It’s my belief that ALL fear is learned; none of it is natural and no one was born fearful of anything. What’s your opinion about this? Do you agree? Disagree?

I agree with that statement completely; fear is just an idea that man has created (without thought nothing exists to begin with). Perhaps overtime, we’ve adapted to the idea and our survival instincts have kicked in which is why we’ve become accustomed to fearing certain things – snakes, spiders, etc. Overall, all intangible concepts are just products of man’s own imagination.

What if it was your absolute dream/ambition in life to become an actress, dancer or writer, but your parents didn’t want you to follow this path. Would you pursue it anyway? Why?/Why not?

This is a hard one to answer for me. I have very strong family ties and I think it would be difficult to disobey my parents in such a great respect; yet, at the same time, I’m a very independent person and I’ve very fond of making my own decisions and pursuing them regardless of other people’s complaints. In the end, I think I would have to follow my own heart in this instance; my parents would eventually understand just how much my decision meant to me and they would grow custom to it over time.

What if you wanted to become an actress, dancer or writer and no one else believed in you, your dreams or your abilities but you. Would that matter? Why/Why not?

It would matter to me because I’m the type of person who needs encouragement to really succeed. No matter how virtuous I may want to make myself sound, I’m still just a slightly insecure, teenage girl who needs people to tell her that she means something. I get so distraught sometimes when I feel like nobody understands me; it must be a hundred times worse to have nobody support you. I’d like to believe that I’d always pursue my dreams even if no one else believed in me – in fact, it would make me work harder not only to accept their challenge, but to prove them wrong. I’ve always been a very stubborn person, so, all in all, I think I would be headstrong and refuse to let anyone change my mind.

In fiction, the words ‘protagonist’ and ‘hero/heroine’ are often times interchangeable. Who’s the hero in your favorite novel? Did they begin their journey (in the book) fearlessly? Did they change as the story progressed? How were they different on the very last page?

My favorite book is George Orwell’s 1984, which means the “hero” is Winston. Winston is not necessarily my favorite character and he certainly doesn’t start out fearless – in fact if you’ve read the book, then you know that this entire book is a satire about fear. I guess you could say that Winston is brave as he does defy the Party by writing his dangerous thoughts in the diary, but his life is still racked with fear at every step. By the end of the novel, which has a one of the most depressing endings I’ve read, Winston has become (not really by choice) the anti-hero as he is conformed to what the Party and Big Brother want him to be; he no longer loves his Julia anymore, he no longer thinks the way he used to. The very last lines are as follows: “He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.” These lines have always stuck with me mostly because I think they resemble the conflict within everyone; the need for someone else to pick the winning side sometimes becomes a palpable desire and forces us into a state of completely unguarded thought patterns.

Tell us about your favorite teacher in school. Did/do they believe in you? Encourage you to do your best and aim high? How did their behavior toward you influence the way you view life?

My favorite teacher is definitely my AP Psychology teacher from last year, Mr. Burnes. I’m his Teacher’s Assistant this year through my Exploratory Teaching class so I have the opportunity to spend more time in his classroom. Mr. Burnes is honestly one of the most intelligent and personable teacher I’ve ever met, even though he thinks he’s unsociable. He always encourages me to try my hardest and he frequently asks about my classes, test, future plans, and stress load. He went to the same college that I’ll be attending next year so he gives me inside tips on how to stay focused, where the best places to study are, etc. He treats all his students as respectable people and he has a very comfortable personality. I think what has inspired me the most about learning from Mr. Burnes is his amazing versatility and flexibility I would show up after school or during lunch to go over a test and he’d have no problem taking it out and going over it with me to help me understand where I messed up and where I could improve. I sincerely hope that I’ll be able to encompass some of his wonderful attributes into my life.

What do you feel is your best quality? The one you are most confident about? (Feel free to share the quality you are least confident about, if you’d like to share that one as well).

My best quality is my adaptability; it’s very easy for me to take each new situation and quickly analyze it to see what needs to be done. I work independently and often get things done without any delay because of my ability to understand what an assignment is asking me to do and what it’s not. I suppose my worst quality is my overemotional nature whether it’s getting too angry, too passionate or too excited. I overdramatize my own emotions frequently because I express myself so openly – my friends always say that they know whatever I’m feeling the moment I feel it because it’s right on my face. Even mid-conversation, you can follow my fluctuating emotions because my face will shift with every shift in topic.

What are your dreams, Cady?

I want to live a meaningful life; I haven’t quite figured out whether that involves making a name for myself somehow or just living out my life the way I want to. I want to be loved and live life boldly, whether that’s through a challenging and high pace career or through an exciting lifestyle in my free-time. The only way I can think of myself in the future is as ambiguously as possible; I don’t want to plan out specifics and micro-manage my life. I think that I’ll take one decision at a time and just plan out the things that need to be taken care of – like finances. I’m not very relaxed in the sense that I don’t enjoy organization or structure; I just don’t like making definite decisions until they’re ready to be carried out.

How long do you think it will take to achieve them?

Because my previous answer is so vague, I guess this one will have to be too. I don’t know how long it’ll take to make my dreams a reality because I don’t really know what I’m looking for. Whether I can equate my indecision with lack of experience or youthful naivety is debatable, but I’ll know it when I’m there I suppose.

What if you encounter a few obstacles along the way? Will you continue?

Absolutely. There’s nothing I loathe more than giving up and I’ll work as hard as I can to make sure that I keep living my life however I feel like living it. Now, my life’s direction may change a million times along the way, but that doesn’t mean I’m “giving up” that one part of my life; no, all that symbolizes is me progressing and moving forward to a new and exciting chapter.

After having answered these questions, what advice would you give to a friend or peer who only knows fear and is virtually paralyzed by it?

Fear is just something you have to learn to live with. Everyone is scared or nervous when they approach something new or attempt something they’re uncomfortable with, but if we let fear hold us back, then where would we be? We can’t progress unless we learn to push aside our fears sometimes and just try. Whether we succeed or fail isn’t really important; the important part is that we keep trying and creating. So take a ‘leap of faith’ and go for it!

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Yes, Cady's got it goin' on. Don't you think? She's on the path to great things, I can just tell.

Please come back when someone else takes their turn. There's a million stories out there about facing fear and there's something to be learned from each and every one. Until next time...

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This is syndicated from CLINT ADAMS BOOKS blog.

To learn more about Clint's recently-released occult crime novel for adults, THE SEVENTH RITUAL, his upcoming non-fiction book, STORIES ABOUT FACING FEAR: THE INTERVIEWS and his series of teen novels, please visit his website: Stories About Facing Fear.
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