I don’t really remember much about my childhood. I mean, that’s not to say I don’t remember anything at all, but I have a very small collection of worthwhile, meaningful, insightful memories. Of course, there are a few special moments that will forever stick in my mind – most of which were really inconsequential, insignificant, and not very revealing. Not sure how playing marbles in the dirt made the list? Or that time I drank perfume? I try to think about what I used to play with, my interests and passions, my favorite colors and songs (okay, I do remember a few songs, but I don’t want to admit I listened to Mariah Carey’s Musicbox album at nauseam)… It’s kind of scary to think back and not really feel any sort of connection with my younger self. What I would give to have video footage of myself! I’d love to be a fly on the wall, back in the late 80s and early 90s, to watch my huge bangs wandering around. Who was I? What did I do?
It’s funny (sad, really) the moments that I do actually remember, with HD clarity… Crying one morning before grade 3 when my hair wouldn’t get as high as I wanted, despite relentless back-combing and toxic amounts of hairspray. I remember crying on my Mom’s knee that same year, spilling my guts about how I really felt about myself – ugly, nobody likes me, I’m a loser. I will never forget my third grade Christmas when my best friend of all time went to Hawaii and I had to spend two whole weeks without her. I cried every night and wrote to her in my diary. She was the world to me and I truly believed that BFF really meant ‘Forever’.
In fourth grade, I didn’t know how I’d ever survive when I found out we had to switch schools. I didn’t know if I’d ever fit in and find that sacred connection with another girl, especially after investing the entirety of my primary years developing that Bestie bond. It sounds so dramatic now, but that was my reality! I knew (or, at least, I thought I knew), from the deepest part of my heart, that nobody would ever replace my BFF. Of course, a few weeks in at my new school and I didn’t waste any time finding my comfort zone – establishing new friendships with as many girls as possible to increase my odds of filling that empty space in my heart. I tried to stay in contact with my old friend, but as time does, our friendship faded. She formed new friends, I formed new friends, and we drifted apart like nothing ever happened.
The final years of elementary were a rollercoaster ride, or at least, what I remember. I was chased, spit on, and attacked by a group of girls who didn’t like me for a reason I still do not know today. It was moments like that the ‘made the list’ – the very short list of detailed memories from my childhood. How sad is that? If I could only go back in time…
The legendary Oprah often asks in her interviews, “What would you tell your younger self?” This question always gets me thinking. It forces me to skim through my past and I always end up in the same spot…remembering these sorts of sad moments in my life and feeling sorry for the sensitive, anxious, insecure little girl I was. I feel a sense of relief that I’m passed all that and in a much better place now, as an adult. But, I’m left again feeling profoundly disconnected with the girl I used to be. So, Opes, what would I tell that girl? I would tell her this:
- It doesn’t matter how high your bangs are, or how expensive your clothes are, or how quasi-uni-browish your eyebrows are… That stuff doesn’t define you or make you “cool”. Being “cool” means being confident and embracing the unique qualities that make you YOU!
- Your sensitive nature is a gift – it’s what makes you passionate and compassionate. Your life is rich because you’re connected and feel things deeply. Stop feeling like you’re crazy!
- Focus on what you love and find comfort in knowing you’re a good person.
- You’re worth a lot more than you give yourself credit for. Reach higher!
- And, finally, don’t worry… You’ll travel the world and love every second of it! You’ll be places you never dreamed and you’ll live your Fairytale. You will find the love of your life and be happier than you ever imagined!! Pull in the oars and let the current take you…
If we could only go back and tell ourselves what’s really important… What a difference our experiences and memories would be if we stopped taking life so seriously. If we could truly cherish the good times and not allow the bad stuff to dwell. If we knew then what we know now, there’s no doubt our ‘lists’ would be more reflective of who we really are!
I’m on a mission to change the ‘lists’ of young girls today… I want them to remember how beautiful and wonderful they are, even through the awkward tween years, even when they thought a perm was a good idea, and even through the ups and downs of tween friendship. I want them to focus on the good. Always.
This article was originally published on urstrong.com.
About Dana Kerford
Dana Kerford is a teacher, friendship expert, author and the founder of URSTRONG, an internationally recognized social-emotional wellbeing program for children. With extensive research on relational aggression and conflict resolution, Dana developed a skills-based friendship curriculum for girls, GirlPower, in 2009 and launched the brother program, GoodGuys, in June 2014. In 2016, after attending a special invitation to the White House to participate in a conference on gender equality, she designed and launched URSTRONG’s co-educational curriculum. Dana and her team of Licensed Presenters have worked with over fifty thousand tweens, parents and educators across North America and Australia and have been featured in magazines, newspapers and on television programs. Dana's passion to empower children with the skills, language, and self-confidence to be better friends and develop healthier friendships is the heart and soul of URSTRONG.