This I Believe

Vivienne - Seattle, Washington
Entered on October 23, 2006

Checking in with my ten-year-old self

I believe in checking in with my ten-year-old self. When important decisions are to be made, I ask, “What would I have wanted me to do?”

My ten-year-old self is a wise child. She is an idealist: she’s untarnished by cynicism that often comes with age and time. She’s a feminist: she cares deeply about fairness and equality; and not at all about traditional gender roles. She is open-minded and brave. Most importantly, she has a specific idea of the kind of person she wants to grow up to be. Here are three examples of how she guides me.

Example One:

I decided to become a teacher, and when I graduated from my teacher education program, I applied for jobs all over the city. Interviews were rare at the time and offers even more so. I was offered a position at an affluent school in a homogenous, affluent neighborhood. I was relieved to have gotten an offer and happy to get my career under way.

My ten-year-old self was unhappy. She said, “These are not the children you planned to serve.” She said, “These are not the children who need you.” She was right. I had always imagined teaching in an under-served school with children of many cultures. We turned down the job and eventually found another position at the school of our dreams, a school that serves a very diverse population, a school that really needs us.

Example Two:

As an adult, I was in a romantic relationship for several years. I started to become distressed because my partner seemed to have no intention of suggesting that we officially join our lives together, while I was definitely ready to say vows to him. Frustrated, I confided in a friend of mine who said to me, “Why don’t you propose to him?” My adult self was apprehensive. My ten-year-old self cried, “Hey! That makes sense! Good idea!” And so we bought a ring and asked him to marry me. (He said yes!)

Example Three:

During public radio pledge drives, I would listen in my car and think about making a contribution. But I never did. There were good reasons of course: I’m living on a teacher’s salary; I’m in my car and it’s dangerous to drive and dial; my refrigerator just broke; etc. And so I never participated… until my ten-year-old self finally spoke up. She said, “Remember how you used to love watching Red Dwarf marathons on PBS during pledge drives? Remember how you used to wish that Mom or Dad would call in and pledge something, anything? Now you can do it. And you know you should.” And so this year, for the first time, I am pledging to public radio. Because my ten-year-old self is right.

And I want her to be proud of me.

I want her to be proud of the woman she became.