Losing Ourselves

It’s been a while since my last pajama party.

Our all-female community development team (we’re working hard to change that) needed some intense planning time. As a result, one of our staff offered up their family cottage. At virtually no cost, it would allow the nine of us two days of uninterrupted work as well as some fun bonding time.

Although it seemed like a good idea at the time, I learned I’m much too old for sleepovers.

It took me another two days to fully recover from the aftereffects of too little sleep and too much good food. And, in the interest of full disclosure, probably just a little too much wine.

Regardless, it was an atmosphere that facilitated deep productivity as well as deep reflections.

In the wee hours of the morning, as several of us shared more details of our lives, we learned that despite very different personalities, there was a common denominator in our backgrounds. 

In our respective childhoods each of us recounted stories that reflected us as being energetic, confident and ready to take on the world.

In my case, I told them how it was me who would organize all the kids on our block to produce major theatrical productions.  I recounted how we would hike, bike, build rafts, race and play together. I kept up with the boys as we climbed trees and dove from the high diving board at the local swimming pool. I was fearless.

And yet, as we talked about our exploits we also realized that as we hit adolescence, we lost our feisty true selves along the way. I still grieve that loss.

While I can’t speak for the others I can tell you that it feels I am only now beginning to reconnect with that wild and wacky ten year old who was read to change the world.

In hindsight, much of it was simply the result of the distorted thinking of female adolescence….thinking everyone else is watching, being categorized by my peers (in my case landing in the uncool category), egocentric thought, feeling vulnerable, being too focused on the present, and being preoccupied with right and wrong.

Perhaps though of greater influence was being part of a dysfunctional family. But even that would have been less serious if we hadn’t also moved when I was eleven. That meant that in addition to losing my posse of friends, I lost my community. 

Eventually though, as do many others, I did manage to find my way back to myself.  Discovering something I was good at – in my case sports - was a key factor. In fact, sports and recreation provide much of what is needed if we are to protect and strengthen our kids, especially females, against the increasing pressures – much of it media-driven – to which kids are exposed.

In addition to encouraging our kids to find something they love, we need to protect, connect, and be purveyors of hope. We can promote authenticity, humour, creativity, empathy, good character, and do more to reduce consumption.

We also need to help our kids develop a wellness program that includes nutrition, exercise and stress management.

If there’s any doubt as to whether or not strategies involving hope and protection of adolescents are worth our time and energy, just do as we did and take a trip down your own memory lane. Chances are there’s some pain there for each of us that we could have done more to avoid.

Posted on 08-18-08

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