Every day this week - one full week before the official school year begins - we’ve watched our daughter head off to her new high school (!!!), backpack and high ponytail bouncing off behind her.
Her new school has offered what they call “transition week." We haven’t really known what that was, so have been calling it “boozeless frosh week." But we’ve discovered it’s largely a settling in of taking subways, finding lockers, getting student ID pics, and getting the kids acclimatized for what they keep threatening will be the fast pace of grade 9. And if I’m guessing, I’d say also designed to settle the butterflies of overprotective parents (ahem).
She’s been asking me a ton about high school. We’ve been sharing our highs and lows. Mostly the highs for me. I came ALIVE in high school.
At some point in an epic basement cleanout over the summer, I came across alllllll of my yearbooks. Every last one that I thought I had lost over several moves. Starting from grade 8 all the way through to grade 13 (and if you didn’t know how old I was before and you live in Ontario, NOW you have a sense.)
Stay with me for this next boring point about Ontario’s public school system. Some middle schools went from grade 7-9 and the corresponding high school started in grade 10. That was the track I was on. Other high schools started in grade 9... like my kid’s school.
My middle school years were unpleasant. And so I left the stream after grade 9 and made a fresh start at a new and different high school where I knew no one but two cool guys I coached tennis with. (Which was my version of cool back in the day. Yep.)
But when asked why I left years later, I couldn’t ever really put my finger on it. It wasn’t like I was BULLIED in middle school. I wasn’t in TROUBLE. History is a funny thing and time can either harden or soften the edges. All I recall in my retelling of why I chose to leave the track I was on was that “I just didn’t feel myself.”
My daughter has been curious about that language: “I just didn’t feel like myself.”
And then we opened up my grade 9 yearbook. And she SAW. And I SAW.
That was the picture my peers chose of me. That was the pose they put me in. They said I looked like Micky Dolenz from the Monkees (never mind the misspelling on my t-shirt). And something about having smelly feet. Okay. Ouch, but okay.
And I, of course, was not the only one poked fun of. The kid who struggled with her weight was put in a sumo suit. The boy who, well... I won’t say more. Let’s just say each of our insecurities were amplified and caricaturized. And far worse. Homophobic, ableist, and racist visual “jokes” on every page. “Hey, lighten up”,right? “It’s just kid’s stuff back in the mid-80’s!”
My daughter was horrified to see the drawings. Wondered who the staff advisor was who allowed for such cruelty.
And thennnnnnnnn we got to the yearbook comments and signatures. Yikes. All but a few were mean-spirited, snarky, thinly-veiled insults. I kept seeing her watch me out of the corner of her eye, wondering how I turned out so well. Feeling her 14-year-old self wanting to reach my 14-year-old self.
We couldn’t get through them all together, my daughter and I. She even proposed we burn the book.
I said: “I told you I didn’t feel like myself there."
Because you know what I see in those eyes of mine? Not a kid who didn’t like herself. Naw. She liked herself juuuuuust fine. But a kid who wasn’t liked. Who wasn’t celebrated. And she couldn’t quite figure out why.
So she decided to leave and go where she might find her people.
And she did.
She started fresh at an entirely new high school. It meant leaving the classmates that she had been with for ten years and going to an entirely different area of the city. It meant disobeying her parents in her first real act of rebellion by sneaking out of the house to enrol herself in said out-of-district school. It meant big fights and lots of tears. It meant uncertainty and lonely lunches for the first month. But she needed to do it.
And she found her people. Many of whom are in her inner circle to this day. Her greatest champions, advocates, and challengers. Her chosen extended family.
It’s not easy to make another choice.
They are often not celebrated.
They are often uncertain and unsure.
But if you have choices available and staying the course is threatening to cause harm to your spirit, you must make it. You must take it.
Especially if on this current track, you don’t feel like yourself.
What is the BEST choice you ever made?
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Speaking of changing what must be changed, we are juuuuuuuuuust about ready to share with you the NEW DIRECTION of my podcast “In the Spotlight Live w/ Tanya Geisler." I am madly in love with all the conversations we had last year (you can find those conversations here), and am ready to go even DEEPER into my exploration of the Impostor Complex... uncollapsing when the barriers to leadership are INTERNAL... and when they are EXTERNAL. It’s TIME for these conversations. They may not be easy. They may be uncertain. They may be messy. And they are ESSENTIAL.
The business world (especially online) is constantly evolving and this can lead to excitement, opportunity, and at times, overwhelm. We’re told to work longer hours, hustle harder, follow blueprints, "crush it," and "reach six figures" at all costs.
But what if that’s leaving us exhausted, burnt out, disillusioned, and lonely?
Jo Casey is a coach for meaningful business owners and specialises in helping women overcome their feminine conditioning (the messages society gives about how to be a "good" woman) and build businesses that allow us all to thrive.
She’s put together a online, 5-day event focused on conversations about how we can create businesses and lives that are TRULY sustainable. Businesses that are sustainable ethically, emotionally, energetically, and financially.
She’s brought together some of the wisest, funniest, warmest, and most insightful women she knows to share their experiences and expertise in building their own meaningful businesses. And I’m one of them.
Savouring this exquisitely bittersweet moment of the year. The space between summer and fall here in the northern hemisphere. I’m savouring these last sips of summer. The last of the peaches and the tomatoes and the hot days and thinking of apples and sweaters and fires.
One of our end-of-summer traditions, 40-some years in the making, is to go to the end of summer fair called the CNE. I’ve been taking my daughter and her bestie every year. This may be the last year they’ll let me tag along and buy them crap, but this was the first year my kid got on THAT crazy-assed ride.