When I was 5 years old, my mom told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down "happy". They told me I didn't understand the assignment. I told them they didn't understand life." – John Lennon
I don't know about you, but being happy sounds like a good thing to be when I grow up. As I finish up my last month of middle school, I've been thinking more about "growing up." There has been a lot of pressure lately at school to declare what I want to be when I grow up and what track that means I'm supposed to follow for my high school years that will lead me to this goal. Recently we were required to write our resumes and interview for a "job". We've also planned our "track" for the next 4 years of school. I've been wondering: what if I change my mind? Will that throw me off track and ruin my life? What if I want lots of tracks? What if what I really want to be when I grow up is HAPPY?
A few months ago I wrote about the pressure I was getting from girls at school to wear make up. It was like there was some memo issued that I had missed that stated that in order to be "in" I needed to wear eyeliner and mascara. Then the 8th grade dance came along and there was more pressure about the importance of finding the perfect dress. I almost didn't go because I didn't want to wear a dress. Following all this came the mandatory "Dress for Success" job interview at school. Talk about pressure! Girls must wear dresses or skirts, heels, and make up. Oh, and we must know what we wanted to be when we grew up.
I thought, How can I know what I want to be when I'm being told how to be by others? While I'm being told that to be popular, attractive, and successful I must wear dresses and make up, I'm thinking about who I am, what I want, and how to get it. It most definitely is not to be and look like someone else's idea of success and attractiveness. And so I still don't wear make up to school and I wore pants to the dance and pants to my mock job interview and no make up then either. I wanted to be evaluated on the content of my responses to the interview questions and not on my appearance. At the end of the interview, the interviewer told me what my strengths were: that I made good eye contact and that I was pretty. I wondered if he had heard anything that I had said. I really got it all of the sudden: what will really make me successful and attractive will be self-confidence. If I start wearing make up and dresses because I WANT to and it makes me feel good, then I will be confident. If I don't wear make up and wear pants and feel good about who I am then that will shine through! Real confidence comes from being comfortable in my own skin and listening to my own voice. No one else can tell me how that should look.
So about that track I'm supposed to be on... I want to be happy when I grow up. For me that means that I will have explored the world, met people who inspire me, made a difference in someone's life, and faced life's challenges with confidence-- the kind that comes from the content of who I am and not what I look like. All this pressure we feel to look a certain way and know what career we want to have makes it hard to enjoy the track we're on right now. I am still a kid. A girl. I want to play in the dirt. I want to build things with my own two hands. I want to learn. I want to laugh. I want to help someone else. I want to grow. I want to grow up to be happy.