Last week, someone asked how I chose I Pick Me as the name of this blog. The answer should be simple, but it's actually part of a larger story of personal evolution. It's worth sharing, I think, because it illustrates some of the lessons that are central to personal development and growth that are so important to me. As well, this story demonstrates how essential it is to teach these concepts to young children and adolescents. So if you'll indulge me, I'll take you back to sixth grade:
I changed schools in sixth grade having spent kindergarten through fifth grade at another school. Sixth grade would be one year of being the new girl until going to another district's junior high the following year. I'm sure you can imagine the desire to fit in at that age; perhaps you experienced this yourself. In those pre-teen years, the importance of belonging can not be understated. However, I did not belong.
The cohort, as I recall, had few girls. In my class, I was one of six girls and a dozen or so boys. I was also less "cool" than the other kids. My class picture reveals teeth I hadn't grown into, called "horse teeth" by classmates, waist length hair, a floral dress and bifocal glasses. The other girls wore ripped, acid washed jeans and makeup on the weekends that the Math teacher would make them wash off on Mondays using the bottle of cleanser she kept in a top desk drawer for that purpose. I was prim and proper; they were decidedly not. I was also a faculty kid, and often heard "I'll tell your mother about that when I see her."
Early in the fall, the Music teacher made us all try out for chorus. Lining up in front of the piano and attempting to sing the scales when I had not been taught how to sing the scales was one of those typical humiliating childhood experiences. The awkwardness was made all the worse with the exasperated "Try it again" sigh after faltering through do-re-mi. As you will likely guess, I did not make the chorus.
When the list was posted the following week, I wasn't on it. What was really devastating, though, is that I was the ONLY girl in the grade who didn't make the chorus. And while I'd like to say that I shrugged it off and marched forward with the "you can do anything you set your mind to" spirit that my parents taught, I didn't. Instead, I sat in church every Sunday morning (and Sunday night and Wednesday night) from seventh to twelfth grades looking at the organist thinking, "Why didn't you pick me?"
That Music class was required in sixth grade. In junior high and high school, there was no such requirement. I never again crossed the threshold of a chorus room. I graduated, to my recollection, without taking a single Music or Art credit. And while I was at church almost every time the doors were open, you wouldn't have been able to strong arm me into the youth choir room. I listened to young people with voices like angels and wondered why that wasn't in the cards for me. Why had no one taught me to sing?
After years of Sundays, sitting in the front pews, and wondering "Why didn't you pick me?" it hit me one day: "Wait a second. Weren't you the one who should've taught me to sing? Isn't that what an elementary Music class is for?" That epiphany shifted my thinking somewhat and helped me define my path as an educator. It still guides me to remember that teachers should be opening up pathways for children, not shutting them down.
Nonetheless, for the next thirty years, I can assure you that I didn't sing the first bar of anything in front of anyone. Not even Happy Birthday. And you can bet your a** that even after two years of living in Japan, you will NOT find me singing karaoke. Karaoke is a hard pass.
In graduate school, I wrote an essay for an assignment called "Pick Me." Asked to explore the virtual backpack theory (Thomson, 2004) which looks at resources individuals bring to learning experiences, I insisted that the teacher's role is to cultivate opportunities. It was clear to me that on a subconscious level I had been closing off the creative side of my being because of that early experience in sixth grade Music. However, years later, what strikes me about that essay is the imploring tone of the title, Pick Me.
Now, almost fifteen years past graduate school and thirty-five past sixth grade, I know that I don't need someone to "pick me." I need to pick myself. We all do. And that is what this blog is about: acknowledging that I pick me. I decide to prioritize my own well-being and growth. I do the work to shape my mindset, and develop strength and resilience. I choose to create the life of my dreams. I am no longer the child imploring someone to pick me. I Pick Me. That's what this blog is about, and I hope you'll pick you, too.
Photo Credit: Tasha Kamrowski for Pexels