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The Test I Wish All Teenagers Could Take

Check here if:

___ I’ve had something unexpected happen in my life

___I’ve had to go a different route because life had other plans for my plans

___I’m not sure where my path is going

If life didn’t go as you expected, that’s a detour.

And if you’re a teenager, there’s plenty of those. According to a 2015 NHANES study, 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 experiences a severe mental health crisis at some point during their life.

Well, my stomach exploded in high school and I guess that did cause a few crises of sorts. I didn’t expect that.

That’s why I was extremely excited to present at the Youth to Youth International Conference in Rhode Island this week.

“Nationally, Youth to Youth is the recognized leader for engaging youth in positive change. Each summer, Youth to Youth offers tremendous leadership opportunities for high school students and the adults who work with them.”

Students get to “meet and befriend drug-free teens from all over the country, develop skills to make positive choices, attend interactive and informative workshops, hear nationally known speakers, develop action plans to create change back home in their schools and communities, learn vital leadership qualities and skills they can use for a lifetime, and most importantly, HAVE FUN!”

My job was teaching them all about my four favorite life skills. Trauma, mental illness, and devastating losses are huge detours in life. But life is filled with many detours — like a flat tire, a lost job, a breakup, or a breakdown. We all need to learn how to cope with things in life we don’t expect.

Because even when your plans get “unplanned.” you’re still on the road.

Sometimes, that road doesn’t go in a straight line. We can’t learn to love ourdetour until we spend a bit of time traveling it — we need to give that detourenough time to form a story of its own.

Why should you love that twisted line of a detour?

  • Detours lead to endless discoveries.
  • Detours give us ways out.
  • Detours connect us.
  • Detours make our stories.
  • Detours make our meaning.

Detours are definitely scary.

But Detours allow us to find the exotic flowers along the unexpected path. ADetourist doesn’t just take the detour, they embrace it — bumps and all — and keep traveling.

We might need to travel in a roundabout route, but it’s not a waste of time.

It’s a chance to catch those other flowers you never would have spotted otherwise.

The most rewarding part was the fact that I got teenagers to actually like when things don’t go as they plan!

Especially “gratitude” — a hard-core survival skill that helps us make decisions in a realm of uncertainty.


Imagine if there were only four words you ever needed to fall back on, in any crises in life — big or small?

Then, we’d be able to soothe ourselves through stressful exams, a fight with a friend, a disappointment, a loss, an anger, a frustration…

And high school is filled with those!

But if we’re willing to think a bit creatively…

Then we can approach problem solving from a whole new angle.

And see that (as this teenage Detourist wrote) “everything is not necessarily bad!”

And “to be open to detours in your plan.”

And to “never give up!”

Oh, and this was my favorite feedback…

It’s true — you CAN live without a stomach!

So follow your detour, find your flower. You can find flowers everywhere — even in a high school hallway! Everything became possible once I was willing to wander from my teenaged fantasies and take this new life on proudly. I can’t be a teenager again but lucky for me I can be the best 29 I can.

And in the meantime, I’m really enjoying sharing my love of detours with teenagers.


See Amy’s program for high school students here.

All artwork was created by Amy on her detour. Learn about her speaking, or catch her touring Gutless & Grateful, her one woman musical, to theatres, colleges, conferences and organizations nationwide. Learn about hermental health advocacy programs for students, and find out how to take part in the#LoveMyDetour movement, and learn about her upcoming book, My Beautiful Detour at

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