About a month ago, when I was going through my own mini internal crisis, my mom showed me an article from which Katie Couric posted some of her favorite advice. It was all really good advice, but the one that got me thinking the most was a comment made by Anna Quindlen:
“Remember Pinocchio? There is a Jiminy Cricket on your shoulder, giving the very best advice. It is you, your authentic self, the one you were in first grade, before you learned to massage your personality into a form that would suit others. Sometimes it’s hard to hear its message because all the external voices are so loud, so shrill, so adamant. Voices that loud are always meant to bully. Do not be bullied. Acts of bravery don’t always take place on battlefields. They can take place in your heart, when you have the courage to honor your character, your intellect, your inclinations, and, yes, your soul by listening to its clean, clear voice of direction instead of following the muddied messages of a timid world. So carry your courage in an easily accessible place, the way you do your cell phone or your wallet. You may still falter or fail, but you will always know that you pushed hard and aimed high.”
One day when I was walking my parents’ dogs I started thinking about this and I asked myself: “Who was I in 1st grade?”
Well, I was 6-years-old. Having just gotten over a 4-year seizure disorder, I was a bit behind the other kids, but I was incredibly kind, loved animals, loved music (particularly Disney music), and started referring to myself as Ana. I certainly wasn’t a popular kid- I had a couple of girlfriends who always ended up being mean to me, my first “boyfriend” who I played wild games of make believe with and was genuinely best friends with my family- particularly my mom and my now 19-year-old brother. I liked to play dress up and play out in the barn with our goats and cows. I woke up singing every day (according to my mom) and I told wild, crazy stories.
I smiled when I reflected upon that. For a couple years of my late teens and early twenties, and maybe even my adolescence, I tried to put a stop to that authentic self. I thought I wasn’t good enough or lovable enough or popular enough by just being myself. I genuinely wanted to be a part of the popular crowd and so I thought that by not singing anymore or riding horses or writing would give me the life I thought I wanted.
A couple years of sliding down the hill of a quarter- life crisis of dating bad guys and being friends with people who really weren’t my friends, I realized that that wasn’t who I wanted to be. I’m not really into parties or bars or drinking to get wasted nor am I really up with the latest fashions. A good night for me involves playing with some animals, hanging out with kids and being with my loved ones watching a movie. I also love to sing- my favorites are still Disney songs.
It feels good, albeit a little shaky coming back to myself, but I’ve learned it’s the only way to be in the world. It is the only way to attract what is really meant for you and the people you’re meant to be with (friends, family and lovers included). So, if you’re in a similar self-reflective place, think about who you were in first grade and then ask yourself if you’re still listening to this part of yourself. Maybe it won’t look exactly the same- after all, you’re not six anymore- but the same elements should be there.
So go ahead and play with your inner first grader… Who knows what you’ll find and how it’ll set you free.
Anastasia Strgar, a recent graduate from the University of Oregon with a B.A in journalism, has been writing about love and relationships for several years. She has written short stories and romance novels, penned the love and sex column in the school newspaper and wrote several blogs. As the eldest of founder Wendy Strgar’s four children, she has been inspired by watching her parents’ marriage and strives to put those lessons to use in her own relationship. She believes that teaching her peers early on about how to maintain healthy relationships is essential to creating a future generation of loving partnerships. She currently works as the Director of Public Relations and Magazine Editor at Good Clean Love.