We all have a few things we wish we could have told our younger self to make things easier. (My number 1? Slow down and appreciate the simple joy of being a kid!) River Valleys Board Member, and former Girl Scout herself, Pam Stewart, shared some words of wisdom with our 2016 Gold and Silver Award Girl Scouts at our Saint Paul ceremony this spring—and I wanted to pass them on to all of you. Although this was written with middle and high school-aged girls in mind, I have a feeling that these gems will resonate not just with your girls of any age, but with us ‘adults’ (whatever that means), too!
Top 10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Was A Girl Scout
- The best way to overcome your fears is to not over-think things and, like Nike says, JUST DO IT. Even if you fail or wind up looking foolish, it’s a proven scientific fact that no human being has ever died of embarrassment.
- Speaking of trying and failing, if you try something and FAIL, I encourage you to re-define what you characterize as a failure. At a minimum, failure teaches us what we shouldn’t do, or what we don’t want to do—and there is great value in that. Failure is often proof that you are trying some new things and crossing some lines rather than always playing it safe. And that’s a good thing. The only thing that constitutes failure is giving up and not trying one more time to reach for something that you really want.
- It’s important to find your own path in life. You are all, no doubt, high achievers in other aspects of your lives beyond Girl Scouts, and as you move on further in your schooling and make choices about college and a career, you will, no doubt, have many adult voices in your life attempting to steer you in a particular direction. (Some of those unnamed adults might be here with you today.) I can remember being in high school and telling my family that I wanted to be a pharmacist. They overwhelmingly responded, “Why would you want to be a pharmacist when you can become a doctor?” I thought to myself, Really??? Do these people understand that I could barely dissect a dead frog in my biology class, much less cut into a person?!?!? Well, as you’ve heard today, I eventually chose engineering and law, and my life turned out fine—but things probably wouldn’t have been so fine if I had tried to go into medicine. So, when the adults in your life attempt to steer you in a direction that you know are wrong for you…politely smile, thank them, and then go do what your heart and instincts compel you to.
- Key elements of life are people and time—so choose people and spend time wisely. On people—don’t hang out with anyone who doesn’t understand why you are so wonderful—or who needs to be told that you are wonderful—or who doesn’t tell you at regular intervals that you’re wonderful when you forget. On time—time is a limited commodity, and how you choose to spend it will determine your outcomes in life. And while you don’t have to spend every moment of every day in pursuit of some major endeavor, you should aim to spend most moments of most days doing something of value.
- You too will be old and somewhat unhip one day. When I was young, I thought that I’d never grow up to be as unhip and clueless as I thought my parents sometimes were. SPOILER ALERT: You too will be old and unhip one day. God willing, you will live long enough to be awkward and embarrassing to your own children one day. But, if there is one thing I could go back and do, I would have been more helpful and appreciative to my parents when I was young. I’m lucky enough to still have them around, and it has taken me a lifetime to realize just how cool and awesome they really are.
- Never forget the importance of giving back. As Girl Scouts, you have all learned the importance of giving back to the community. I encourage you to keep up the good work. As you leave Girl Scouts and move into different stages of your life, serving others may become less of a priority as different and new demands are placed on your time. Well, if it’s any motivation, research has shown that people who help others are happier and healthier and live longer than those who don’t. Try to always stay connected to at least some small endeavor that makes the world a better place for someone else.
- Learn to say “no.” Sometimes, an unintended side-effect of being as talented and awesome as you all are is that you will get asked to participate in more things than one human being can possibly do. Sometimes you might find yourself saying yes to things because you don’t want to hurt other people’s feelings or let people down. But saying yes to everything will likely lead to burn-out, stress, and overall unhappiness. So always remember that when you say “no” to something that is unimportant, you say yes to something that is.
- Learning is a lifetime endeavor. It is often said that the most successful and fulfilled people never stop learning. That has certainly been true in my life. But, if you have a choice, complete any formal education at the youngest age that you possibly can. As you get old, your memory will fail you.
- Forgive yourself; you are not perfect. Show yourself grace; you are still learning. Show yourself patience; you are on a journey. And the number one thing I wish I had known at your age…
- Once a Girl Scout—Always a Girl Scout! Stay committed to keeping Girl Scouts a thriving organization that will empower girls for generations to come.
Natasha Brownlee – Natasha is a Program Specialist at River Valleys, where she develops and leads awesome Girl Scout programming – and runs the In the Loop blog! Her background is in curriculum development, programming, and creative writing. She has BA’s in Peace Studies and French and a MSc in Gender, Development & Globalization and has worked with various girl-centered organizations in the US and abroad. Natasha loves traveling around the world, practicing yoga, and hanging out with her dog, Rooney!