Childhood Susie and Her Slippery Grasp on Reality

Here’s a fun fact about me: I was a Girl Scout. From something like the ages of 3-17.

I’m taking this opportunity to pause for a moment. Utilize this time however you see fit. Stretch your legs, go get a fudgesicle, meditate, whatever. What I’m trying to say is, if you’re gonna laugh at my 14-year tenure as a Girl Scout, now is the time to do it.

Anyway while I was in Girl Scouts, I was apparently a participant in an ongoing childhood development project. Exactly once a year, we would take a sheet of paper and fill in the blanks for the same series of statements about ourselves. “Some of the things I like best about life are: __________”, “During my free time, I like to: __________”, etc. The idea was that we would later be able to review all our answers from year to year and see how we matured.

Our troop leader, being the fabulous person that she always was, somehow kept all of these and recently mailed them to us individually, with a sticky note saying, “Remember this?”

My eyes were filled with wonder as I opened that envelope. I had a vague memory of this project but no idea what the questions or answers would have been, and I was eager for this nostalgic glimpse into my youth. Would my responses be endearingly naive and innocent, or did I show wisdom beyond my years? Was I totally different than I am now, or did I foreshadow some later prominent personality trait?

As I flipped through my answers from 2001 – 2004, my hope and wonder was replaced by tremendous disappointment. Here is an example of one answer that I gave for THREE CONSECUTIVE YEARS…

I am happiest when: “I’m w/my friends.”

And that’s all she wrote, folks. That was apparently the best summary I had to offer for the key to my happiness from the tender ages of 11-14.

So, just to recap… Childhood Susie was given the rare opportunity to snapshot her personality, immortalize herself in a few words on a piece of paper, and speak to her future self… and for THREE YEARS IN A ROW I decided that the best use of this opportunity was to debut the ground-breaking concept of having friends. And, possibly more earth-shattering, the idea that being among those friends was something that brought me joy. And let’s not overlook the fact that during this time frame of 2001 – 2004, I was apparently too lazy to spell out the word ‘W-I-T-H.’

Ten-plus years later, and knowing my childhood self as I do, I feel I have a unique perspective to offer here. At this crucial preteen-age, Baby Susie was awkward, bookish, and pigeon-toed. Having been an only child for most of my life at this point, I spent a lot of time alone. And my over-hyper personality was such that if I was growing up today, I would likely have been medicated. In other words, one thing I certainly did not have at this stage was an overabundance of friends. This glaringly obvious fact would lead me to believe that answering that I was happiest when I was “w/my friends” was my pathetic attempt to rewrite history… hoping that maybe 24-year-old me would read it and say, “Wow, what a cool girl Past Susie was. I bet she was really popular and awesome.” Which is concerning for a number of reasons… the first of which being that I actually thought I could trickmy future self, assuming I would have no memory of the reality of my childhood.

Needless to say, reading through the rest of my answers was disappointing to say the least. For example:

Complete this statement. When I am 25 years old…

2001 (age 11): “When I am 25 years old, I will be attending college at either SDSU or an acting school.”

Full disclosure, almost allof my responses to this question through the years involve attending college at age 25. Maybe it’s too much to expect an 11-year-old to fully grasp an educational timeline, but being in college at age 25 would require a 7-year college career. Which would logically have to mean that I either a.) was predicting that I would not be capable of graduating in the allotted 4-5 year time span, or b.) planned on becoming a doctor or lawyer or participating in some other profession that requires additional schooling. BUT WAIT! One of my scholastic options was “acting school” so there goes that idea. So, I guess the better explanation is just that I had a fundamentally flawed understanding of the world.

2004 (age 14): “When I am 25 years old, I will be a 9th grade geometry teacher and married / engaged”

Well, at least in the course of a few years I honed in on my life plan a little more. So much so, in fact, that I narrowed down my career choices to ONE profession, ONE grade level, and ONE subject matter. There is no room for negotiation on this one, 9th grade geometry was the only calling for me. I think it’s safe to say that this answer was heavily influenced by the fact that I was in 9thgrade at this point, and presumably very much enjoyed my geometry class. Ipso-facto, career choice made! Let’s also not forget that I also had some pretty specific ideas about the state of my love life. I casually threw in “and married / engaged” almost as an afterthought, barely worth noting because OBVIOUSLY this one is a given. And I offhandedly added the “slash-engaged” as a reluctant Plan B in case my spinster 25-year-old self couldn’t manage to get the deed actually done at this point. Well I got news for you, Past Susie, 25 is just a short 8 months away for us. I apparently lack your passion for 9th grade geometry, and I have no immediate plans to get married and/or engaged. So cool your jets.

Complete this statement. I could help make the world a better place by…

2001 (age 11): “I could help make the world a better place by making smoking, drugs, and littering illegal.”

Hey, 11-year-old Susie! Guess what! Drugs and littering are already illegal. So you’re off the hook with that prophetic obligation. And even if they weren’t, by what authority do you plan on enacting new legislation? Do you feel that the only means by which you could “make the world a better place” is by being in a position of power? Strange, because you make no mention of an interest in political science – You went to acting school, after all.

2004 (age 14): “I could help make the world a better place by curing cancer or making homework illegal”

Again with these delusions of grandeur – Apparently this year, in addition to being a 9th grade geometry teacher, I also figured I’d dabble a little in politics and molecular biology. I guess curing cancer is admirable enough, but my first order of business as new world leader was going to be making homeworkillegal. Oh, Past Susie, you cheeky little comedian, you!

Taking this trip down memory lane has been quite an adventure in self-reflection, particularly on this 2014 version of myself. I would like to believe that in the last decade I’ve become established as a logical-thinking adult, but I have a hunch that ten years from now I’m going to be looking back on this exact paragraph thinking What a silly little dork!

…Whatever though. I’m just gonna go hang w/my friends.

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