A week ago, during church, the boy scout troop was honored. During a part of the service the minister asked anyone who had ever been a scout of any kind- boy, girl, brownie, anything, to please stand. As I sat there, my son leaned over and said, “Stand up! You were a girl scout, weren’t you?”
I said, “Yes, for 3 years” and continued to sit there.
I started thinking back on that and it made me realize some things about myself.
I was a Brownie scout for two years and then a girl scout for one more. When we were given the information during school to join the Brownie troop that met in the small house on campus, it sounded like a dream come true for me.
Living in the middle of the zoo made me different and meant I had no neighborhood friends to hang out with. When I went home at the end of the day, I was separated from my friends and classmates until I returned to school the next day.
I was always introduced as the girl that lived in the zoo, usually before my name was even uttered. There was no way I could escape the fact that I was “different” and no one would let me forget it for a moment.
Being a scout would mean dressing like everyone else, being with my friends longer and maybe give me a different identity. I begged my parents to let me sign up and eventually they agreed.
Brownie Scouts was pretty fun. We ate a snack, did an art project and fellowshipped. It only lasted an hour or so, just long enough to make some new friends and experience some new things before heading home to what I always felt was isolation.
After two years as a Brownie, I was ready to become a for real, grown up Girl Scout. I was so proud and excited to get rid of the brown uniform and replace it with the green one. I worked hard to earn as many badges for my sash as quickly as I could. I was still enjoying the craft projects and the extra time with friends.
At Christmas, for the first and only time that I can remember, my father surprised me with a ring that had the girl scout emblem on the sides of a large green center stone. Not being one for jewelry and absolutely not one to think of a surprise, it was a totally unexpected gift that I remember to this day.
As winter turned to spring, we were given the news that we were now old enough to go to camp and sent home with the paper work to register. Again, I had to beg to get to go. My mother really didn’t like me to spend the night away from home and her supervision. Eventually, they agreed that I could go for the long weekend of camp.
Camp is where this all went downhill and it became the end of my scouting.
For those of you who know me or who read this blog regularly, you know that I am a rule follower. As a child I was even more so! As I have aged, I have learned that sometimes rules are meant to be broken and some rules are just stupid. I am old and wise enough to figure that out now. As a child, I was raised to do as I was told, to be seen and not heard, and to respect my elders, so that is precisely what I did in all circumstances.
Upon arrival at camp, we were assigned cabins and bunks. Since I grew up going hiking and camping pretty much every weekend and every vacation, I figured this would be cushy in comparison. It was because we had a bed and a roof over our heads. I was used to a sleeping bag on the ground and maybe, if the weather warranted, a tent.
Right off the bat, girls were squealing that there were little lizards in the cabins. I assured them that they were harmless and even caught a couple to prove my point. Most of these girls were from other troops and didn’t know me at all. The strange looks were only beginning.
As time went on and some of the girls found scorpions in their beds, I told them to be careful and helped them get the scary insects out of the cabin as some of them ran to get an adult to help. When the adults arrived and I was transporting the scorpions off of the premises, I was reprimanded for taking matters into my own hands and told to call them if anything else happened.
I was confused. If something happens that you know how to handle, why wouldn’t you just handle it?
I went on about my business until the campfire that night. As part of the “fun” around the campfire we had hot chocolate and “s’mores.” I had never heard of s’mores, but knew that I was not a hot chocolate fan. (I am not a chocolate fan of any type- wasn’t then and still am not today!)
When the leader came around with hot chocolate, I said no thank you and got the look that I have come to expect when I say no to chocolate. Then I saw what a s’more was and decided that since I do love graham crackers and roasted marshmallows, I would just leave off the chocolate bar and be good to go.
Well, you would have thought I wanted to smear the marshmallow on my belly and wear the graham cracker as a hat from the looks I got when I said I would make my own without the chocolate. At this point the troop leader said she had her eye on me and I better not do anything else.
I was not sure what she meant. I did, however, understand that I was in trouble when I got no s’more of any kind!
The next morning was a beautiful Sunday and the group gathered up on a hill overlooking the valley below. It didn’t take long for me to realize that what was about to happen was a worship service of some sort.
I had not grown up in a church and knew how my father felt about such things, so although I was interested, I was unsure what to do in order to fit in and yet do as my father would have preferred. I was also afraid that I wouldn’t know exactly what to say or do as church was unfamiliar to me.
My solution was to step away from the group and sit over to the side, by a tree overlooking the gorgeous view. Almost immediately the leader, who had been on my case the whole weekend, came barreling towards me in a rage. Since I was a straight A student who followed every rule, I was unsure what was happening as the woman grabbed me by the arm and pulled me to sit with her in the front of the group.
After the service, as we packed to head home, I realized that as much as I had wanted to fit in and be a part of this organization, another part of me felt more comfortable not fitting the mold.
Although I was the kid who would color within the lines, the elephant I was coloring might be green and purple and yellow. When we did craft projects I followed the instructions, but always added that extra something to make in mine, even when the teacher complained.
I realized then that maybe I wasn’t a joiner. Maybe I didn’t really want to be a part of the group. Maybe I could have my friends without having to dress like them, eat like them, live like them.
I have spent most of my life trying to conform to a mold that I would eventually realize just didn’t fit. I couldn’t be the average student, the typical wife or mom, the expected old lady. I have tried. I have put on the look and the feel of those roles, but always felt like something was wrong, off somehow.
When asked to stand if we had ever been a scout of any kind, I remained seated because I had pretended to be a scout for a few years, but somewhere, somehow, I had never really fit. Standing up seemed like a hoax, like I was lying.
We tell kids that they are all different and yet we expect them to all do the same thing. Being truly different will get you glared at. For me, it meant trying to be what was expected. To not only follow the rules, but follow the crowd. But somewhere inside, I always feel like I want to be true to the weird person that I was meant to be.
I saw a something the other day that kind of says it all. THE WORLD NEEDS WHO YOU WERE MADE TO BE. I sometimes have a hard time being sure who I was made to be. But I feel much better when I am authentic in trying to figure it out, than when I just follow the path of least resistance.
Who were you made to be?