Thursday, October 27, 2011

I can be....myself

I hated elementary school. I liked high school even less. I had a hard time fitting in. I was too short. Too skinny. Too smart. I belonged to the "geek brigade", the name they gave to the kids in the weekly enrichment program, those of us who were ahead of the others in our classes. People called me "rich girl" because my parents owned their own business.  We were comfortable but far from rich.

All I wanted was to fit in. Instead I was the target of endless teasing, nitpicking from mean girls, many of whom I considered my friends at one point. I didn't have any friends I could really trust, because eventually they would betray that trust and hurt my feelings.  The few times that I stood up for myself, things got worse, so I tried to just ignore the teasing (advice from my mom) and take each day as it came.  I remember lying in bed at night, praying that the next day would go smoothly and that my friends wouldn't get into a "fight" with me.  Remember those "fights"?  When girls decided they wouldn't like you for a day or a week because of something really stupid?  Then they would move onto someone else and you were back "in" until you became the target again?  I tried to be careful and not draw unnecessary attention to myself, thinking that was the best way to stay "in".  It wasn't.  I tried to get bad grades, thinking that people wouldn't call me a nerd anymore, but it didn't help and ended up hurting me more.  Girls were girls and there was no rational reason for why we behaved the way we did.  All I wanted was to be like everyone else and fit in.

In high school, I found a few close friends, but eventually things fell apart with most of them too. I know I was partially to blame, because I was cautious and untrusting.  I never really let my guard down, except with a few key people, because I figured I would get burned yet again.  I struggled to find myself in high school.  I wasn't a cool kid, I definitely wasn't a jock, so where did that leave me?  I continued to try to "lay low" and not draw too much attention to myself.  I counted down the days until I could move away and start fresh.

After graduation, I was beyond excited leave my small town and to go to university to start with a clean slate. It was there that I met so many wonderful women, all bringing diverse backgrounds and experiences I could learn from. I met women who showed me the true meaning of friendship, many of whom I still connect with today.

In those 4 years I learned to embrace who I am, and embrace the endless options ahead of me. I wasn't trying to please anyone but myself, and I finally felt free to be myself - not the person everyone else around me thought I should be.

I discovered a lot about myself, namely that I was a stronger person than I gave myself credit for. I moved five hours away from my family and friends to start fresh and find myself. I discovered that I actually loved being around people, being social and helping people. I also discovered I had a sense of humour that drew people to me. At the end of those four years, I met a wonderful man who eventually became my husband. And I've now gone from wife to mother with the addition of Noah earlier this year. I couldn't feel more complete.  I have a number of close female friends who support me every day.  I value their friendship more than anything.

I've had so many positive female influences in my life, on "I Can Be Day", I'd like to acknowledge these wonderful women and what I learned from them:

  • My Mom - She taught me that family is important, and it's ok to put your children before your own dreams.  She gave up a great job when my sister was born and didn't go back to work for 16 years.  She was always there when we needed her, and even when we didn't think we needed her.  She always told me to be strong and not let others get to me.  That advice is what helped me survive all those years of unnecessary drama.
  • My Sister - She was always there to stand up for me, pick me up when I stumbled, and kick my butt when I needed a jolt of reality.  She was like a mirror that helped me discover the best and worst things about myself, and wasn't afraid to tell me the truth, whether I wanted to hear it or not.
  • Diana - She was one of my bosses early in my PR career, and my first career role model.  She was pretty, smart and successful, and showed me that all three were possible at the same time.  She pushed me to become better in my career, and to tackle challenges well outside my comfort zone.  She was a mentor and friend.  I will always be thankful for her support.
  • Jane Goodall - I discovered her work in high school, and she was a total inspiration.  She chased her dreams despite what everyone around her told her she could do.  I decided to pursue a career in marine biology (which ended up shifting to psychology after some bad grades and self reflection early in university).  I met her once, years ago, and was surprised a woman so seemingly delicate could be so strong and have a huge impact on the world.  Click here to find out more about Jane and her work.
  • Dixie Chicks - After their criticism of Bush many years ago, they received a lot of death threats and were told to "shut up and sing".  They never apologized for their opinions and speaking their mind.  When their song, "Not Ready To Make Nice", came out, it felt like an anthem to anyone who ever spoke their mind and felt the consequences, but didn't feel the need to apologize for it.  That song reminds me of all the mean spirits I've encountered throughout the years, and my belief that I don't have to apologize for who I am.  They showed me that you don't have to make everyone else happy, as long as you are happy with yourself, that's all that matters.  As they say in the song, "forgive - sounds good, forget - I'm not sure I could.  They say time heals everything, but I'm still waiting...."
  • Twitter #zombiemoms - This informal group sprung up around the time Noah was born.  It was a group of women all facing the challenges of caring for infants and young children.  Since then, it's exploded and become an international network of moms (and some dads) who provide 24/7 support to each other.  It's still hard to believe that you can be having a really bad day (or morning) and you have a huge group of women who are ready to boost your spirits and make you feel better.  I've never encountered such selflessness.  This group has really renewed my faith in friendship (even if most of us have and will never meet IRL).  Click here to check out the #zombiemoms twitter stream.
  • Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope - After we lost Olivia last year, I was searching for people who would understand what we were going through.  And I found this group.  There are unfortunately thousands of couples who have lost babies, all to different circumstances.  But the one common thread is the pain of losing a child, and the challenge of moving on afterward.  I've met a number of amazing women through this network, all who have picked me up on my bad days, and have let me do the same for them.  I couldn't have made it through the last year without their support.  Click here to find out more.
Thank you to everyone on this list, and to those who I didn't mention but play a role in my life every day.  I wouldn't be who I am without you all, and for that I'm eternally grateful.

    3 comments:

    1. WOW Sheri,
      This is powerful stuff, so glad that you found your voice, your inspirational group of women is amazing! Each have contributed and touched so many lives!! You go and be yourself and kick some butt with the authentic you that knows whats what and sticks with it!! You are my new inspiration xOxO

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    2. I loved reading this. Thanks so much for sharing!

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    3. I love this post & can totally relate! I had a horrible time in elementary school due to a group of very mean girls. My mom and sisters helped me through those tough years. It's great to have the support of family and friends!

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