McLinden '97 (MBA '98) is showing an entire generation of teenage girls
a better way to think -- and to live.
McLinden is on the phone again. No matter that it's 2 a.m., she knows
it's already tomorrow for this overseas client.
doesn't mind; this dynamic 24-year-old thrives on this pace. This month
she will hire 10 new employees, lease and furnish office space in Dallas
and, thanks to new venture capital, launch her two-year-old Wow Media
Group in a big way.
wow-some, though, is that this is the same Shannon McLinden who was snatched
from death by a bystander after purposefully stepping in front of a speeding
car more than a decade ago. The same one who later stopped eating, and
nearly stopped living.
was 14 and weighed 87 pounds when she wrote in her journal . . . When
I looked in the mirror, I just bawled. If I was a guy, and I didn't know
me, I'd say I am butt-ugly. My thighs touch; my arms bulge; my hips are
huge. I should be the "before" picture on a Weight Watchers commercial.
added that passage to her book The Me Nobody Knew, a self-revealing
autobiography about her teen years published in 1998.
is about McLinden, but the same story could have been written about millions
of young girls in American society.
a night of smokes and drinks, I woke up to see the sun slipping through
the tear in the window shade, the woozy effects of Bud Dry still pooling
in my head. Stale, smoke-saturated air coated my throat like liquid cough
syrup. UUUhhpfftgguuughstfmoh. I surveyed the room. A boy was crouched
in a corner, snoring with his mouth open. Crushed beer cans were piled
like a pillow behind him. Kim and Rena lay in sleeping bags on the floor,
the heads of two boys propped on their legs. The stereo was scratching
some Iron Maiden song -- something about killing the dead. I sighed with
complete mental exhaustion. Lord, I hate that obnoxious rattle.
that day, Shannon climbed out the depression she had buried herself in.
Several years later, when she was a happy freshman at TCU, a boy she befriended
in middle school committed suicide. A childhood lisp had united the two,
but unlike McLinden's, Phil's never left.
shocked me," she said. "I realized I could have been that depressed if
I had not climbed out of it, it really is that bad."
into her seventh-grade English teacher's office the day after the funeral:
Let me talk to the students. I have something to say.
"I just was
so overcome with emotion and knew these kids needed help," she said. "There's
such a stigma behind depression, and young girls can't talk about it."
was overwhelming. Parents began asking about the person who changed their
daughters' lives. The other middle schools in the district invited McLinden
to speak that year, and every year since.
mission was clear: Show the girls they wouldn't always feel awkward and
out of place in the world.
a TCU class inspired her to write The Me Nobody Knew. Its startling
honesty stung parents but inspired thousands of teens.
many girls have talked to me and written me and said, 'This is my life,'
" McLinden said. "But it's not me; they connect because they
see themselves in my story."
The Me Nobody
Knew is in bookstores and school libraries across the nation and is being
distributed now in Thailand and Denmark. It is on the accelerated reader
list throughout the states. Border's bookstore in Plano selected it last
year as a top back-to-school book, which landed her on Good Morning Texas,
and she appeared on a NBC affiliate along with the popular band *NSYNC
in her home state of Minnesota.
speaks regularly in her hometown and at local bookstores in Texas. Despite
thousands of fan letters from girls, her book still frightens parents.
want to believe their kids don't know about such things, but they already
know," McLinden said. "They know about drugs and drinking and
wanting to be popular. They know about hating themselves and their lives."
married and nursing a thriving new business, Shannon still personally
answers every letter, every e-mail.
this milk commercial I used to see," McLinden said. "I wished
so much that I could look in the mirror and see what I would look like
in five or 10 years. I knew I would get happy, but I needed someone to
show me that my life would change, that I could have control over it.
what I want to provide, this mirror to the girls: This is how you get
through it, and there are others out there."