Happy Friday, friends! This week I asked a very smart friend of mine to write a post on anything she wanted! Well, she certainly delivered. You want to read this one.
Claire Child is nineteen years old and living in Chicago, Illinois. She attends DePaul University and is studying Secondary Education English. She loves Johnny Cash, Habitat for Humanity, pizza, and old dogs.
On Being Yourself:
“My advice to my adolescent self:
You know who you are,
So let yourself be her now.
It’s okay to be smart and ambitious
and curious and not terribly cool.
Don’t wast all those years trying
to get the boys to want you and
the girls to like you. Don’t starve
yourself skinny. Don’t be a pretty
cheerleader. Don’t lose your virginity
to the captain of the football team.
Don’t lose anything to him.
Be the captain.
You are the captain.
Take the ball and run.”
The above quote is from the book “Brave Enough” by the incomparable Cheryl Strayed. This quote struck a cord inside of me when I first came across it and I often find myself going back to it. I’ve always known who I am (I think we all know) but we oftentimes struggle to be that person for a multitude of reasons. If I could talk to my adolescent self I’d read her this exact quote.
In high school I wanted people to like me more than anything and this had the net effect of making me dislike myself. I had “friends” who only tore others down; I was in a relationship that made me feel like I was insignificant; I was quiet and polite to everyone I met–even those who were unworthy of it; I told everyone I wanted to be a lawyer because I’d make a lot of money and I pretended to like horrible music and shitty books because that’s what everyone else liked.
After high school I moved out of my small town and came to Chicago because I thought that would be an easy transition for me. After all, I wasn’t really that far from home and I knew I could always escape. Upon starting school in Chicago, surrounded by this amazing welter of crazy-assed, hyper-individualized, rainbow cacophony of people who were very busy being themselves, I realized that I could be anything I wanted to be. From that point on, I chose to be myself. This was a process that turns out to be very isolating and difficult at first. I had no idea who I was supposed to be friends with, what I was supposed to talk about or even what I was supposed to be studying at school. But no matter. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, don’t give up. Just keep your feet moving. The answers come.
Since I had no friends at this point, I just started doing whatever the hell I wanted to do. I changed my major to Secondary Education with a concentration in English because I wanted to be a teacher despite everyone and their brother telling me I would be poor for the rest of my life. I got out of that shit-dog relationship that made me feel small. I started standing up for myself when people would tear me or others down and swore like a sailor because a) my dad taught me and b) it fit who I was becoming. I started listening to Elton John, Johnny Cash and Prince all the time. I stopped gossiping. I freely expressed how nerdy and uncool I was by using the word “swag” as a modifier for everything in every conversation I had: “Swag blueberries there, Fiona.” “That First Aid Kit album is so swag.” etc. I talked to people about politics and outer space rather than the boring useless drama I used to discuss daily.
Soon enough I found myself finding myself and along with that, I found the people I wanted to surround myself with. I joined an organization of 100+ women who are badass, weird, smart and who always build each other up. I started a relationship with someone who appreciates me for who I am. I helped build a house with my best friend. I began teaching CPS students and found that being a teacher is without a doubt what I want to do for the rest of my life. The experiences I have had have shaped me into the person I am now. I think this is true for each of us. We all have a seed that’s planted in us from the day we are born. As we get older and gather more life experience that seed is allowed to grow but also to change. Whoever you might be in 20 or 50 years is started right here, right now. We have the ability to shape ourselves into whatever we want to be in this world.
Moving to Chicago was not the easy transition I thought it would be, but it was a wake-up call that showed me I wasn’t living the life I wanted to be living. I think this moment comes for all of us (if we’re lucky), but we have to decide what to do in that moment. We either continue on with our shitty ways or we wake up and start being the bold, badass, weird person we have always wanted to be. We all know who we are deep down. So why not be just that? We need to stop worrying about how other people view us and instead worry about how we view ourselves. The thing is, when you do this you will find the people who are worthy of your time and of your love.
While none of us can go back in time and give advice to our adolescent selves, let’s take that advice now: “Be the captain. You are the captain. Take the ball and run.”