Hello, readers! My name is Caitlin McLaughlin, and I am Heather’s daughter. I asked her if I could do a guest blog this week because I had a story that I wanted to tell.

A little while ago Ashley Ryan did a special guest blog here about an incident in which she cut up her boyfriend’s clothes with her scissors. I remember reading it and thinking that it was such a great example of the things we do as a result of the decisions we made as a result of the things in our past. Ashley’s story was a story of the results of our past – now I’d like to tell you about the origins of my own story about men.

I’d like to tell you about The Pencil Case Incident. And yes, I capitalized that. Because it was so important to me for years that that’s how I thought about it – The Pencil Case Incident! My mother couldn’t understand why I remembered it so vividly – why I brought it up every time she referred to my high school years. But I did. I thought about it every time I thought about high school and the boys I went to high school with.

So now let’s get to it –what was The Pencil Case Incident? Well, in the 10th grade I lost the lock to my locker one morning, and I was in a hurry to get to an appointment before class. I knew the boys who spent the pre-class hours near my locker and they were already congregating there – so I decided to go to my appointment and buy a new lock for my locker before going to my first class but after my appointment. I had helped every single one of those boys with their homework on a fairly regular basis and talked to all of them whenever I saw them, so I thought that it would be fine – they knew which locker was mine and they were friendly with me, so why should I worry? I got back to my locker with my new lock only to find that my pencil case was missing. What better way to annoy a nerd, right? Steal her pencil case, the secret to her nerdy power! Obviously, one of the boys had taken it to bother me – and the other boys had watched it happen. I knew that they had all been in on it to a certain extent, and it bothered me.

Do you know the funny thing? I was most angry at the boys that I was the friendliest with. You’d think I’d give them the benefit of the doubt. But to me, it was a larger violation of my trust. The more I liked them before The Pencil Case Incident, the more I disliked them now.

So why did this stay with me? Why do I capitalize it in my mind? After all, it seems silly to me now. It’s important because a part of my subconscious made some decisions about men that day. It decided that, no matter how trustworthy a man seems, he will ultimately betray you. It decided that it doesn’t matter what you do for others – they will never put you first. It decided that men were ultimately weak. Why are they weak? Because I knew that the boys I was friendly with weren’t entirely comfortable with The Pencil Case Incident – but they did nothing about it.

So from that day forward a piece of me operated according to this program. Men always had to prove themselves to me – they were untrustworthy and weak until they proved otherwise and, truthfully, I was still on the lookout for untrustworthy behaviour. As a result, I had a difficult time building a healthy relationship with a man.

A few years ago I realized that I had a problem on my hands – I needed to rewrite the way I thought about men. I worked with my mother and she finally figured out why The Pencil Case Incident was so important to me, and I finally let it go. I replaced it with a healthier script about men and forgave these boys for their lack of maturity. After all, they were high school boys – they’ve grown up since then (we hope).

The thing is, it’s surprising to most of the people around me that I ever held these opinions. My behaviour towards men was always quite normal, and I had a very healthy upbringing – my parents loved me and protected me, I never got jammed into a locker for being a nerd, and I always had everything I needed. But this program resided within me and guided at least a part of my behaviour. It’s amazing what’s inside our minds when we take a closer look, no matter how healthy our mindsets and behaviours are on the surface.

What is your Pencil Case Incident? What memories do you have that are much more vivid than you think they should be? Once we understand these incidents and the decisions we’ve made because of them we can begin to unravel the mindsets and behaviours we formed in response and become a healthier, happier version of ourselves. If you can do that consciously then that’s wonderful and I encourage you to do so. As strong as my conscious mind is, I couldn’t manage it – which is why I’m grateful my mother is a Mindful Change specialist!